A few weekends ago, Dean and I attended the wedding of one of my colleagues. I didn't ever expect to go to a wedding while living in Korea for a year, but I am so pleased I got to have the really interesting cultural experience. Korean weddings are completely different from western weddings and I think I was constantly surprised. Here are some key differences and observances about Korean weddings:
1. Weddings take place in a Wedding Hall (or palace)
These "halls" are large multistory buildings where the wedding ceremony and reception take place. There isn't just one wedding taking place, in fact there are many. There are many ceremony rooms for the different wedding parties. When we walked into the building there were hundreds and hundreds of people. You have to check the reception to see where the wedding you are attending is taking place. There are 7 of these "halls" in Jeonju, doesn't offer much choice then.
2. The Bride's Room
Before you enter the ceremony room, you go via the Bride's Room. Here, the bride is waiting to greet the guests and take a photo. Obviously this is really different to western weddings where no one sees the bride before the ceremony.
3. Wedding gifts
It is customary to give money as a gift. The money should be in a white envelope and it is given to cover the cost of food at the reception. After you give your envelope you are given a meal voucher for the buffet reception.
4. The ceremony
The actual ceremony was so interesting. It was set in a dark room with many multi-color lights and flashing screen pictures. Depending on whether you are a guest of the bride or groom, you sit on a different side of the room. I can't say exactly what went on in the ceremony as I can't understand Korean. There was a lady who kept ushering the bride and groom around telling them what to do. The groom and the groom's friend also sang which was cool because they had good voices. The most bizarre thing is that most people don't even sit but hover around at the back. Guests didn't seem to even listen to the ceremony, rather talking loudly and even making phone calls!! After the ceremony (and even during it), guests leave and head to the reception.
5. The reception
At the reception, there is a huge buffet and the guests from all the weddings (so hundreds of people). It is so crowded and you have to try find an empty table. You obviously end up sitting next to random guests from other weddings. The food though is unlimited and was really delicious. There was even unlimited beer and soju.
6. Wedding attire
The bride doesn't have a custom dress designed but rather rents a dress and shoes too. The dress for the ceremony is a typical looking white dress. During the reception, the bride and groom change into Hanbok (Korean traditional clothes), and walk around and greet their guests. As far as the guest attire goes, the range was huge. Some of the older people wore Hanbok, while others were smartly dressed and a few really casual. The guests dress code is definitely not as fancy as for a western wedding.
So there you have it. Korean weddings are definitely an interesting experience and I am glad I got to have this cultural experience.