September 28, 2008
A Korean Wedding
Ok, sorry about the wait, but my usual day of writing (Sunday) last week got eaten up by a special event: a Korean wedding!
The third-grade teacher at my school got married last weekend, and because it’s a small school, all the staff was invited to the wedding, including me. So now I get to tell you about a Korean wedding. It was actually a fairly Western-style wedding, with a touch of Korea and a touch of, well, “not-quite-getting-it”.
The wedding was in Wonju, a city about a hour away. The teachers all met ahead of time and drove together in three cars. We drove with Mr. Shin, who played Korean pop music on the way there… I have to do a special post about the Korean music. Suffice to say we listened to the Wondergirls, and their hit song is “I’m So Hot.”
Unfortunately, I don’t have many pictures of the wedding because I wasn’t sure if it would be appropriate or not. Then everyone else was taking pictures with their cell phones. If I knew how to turn my flash off I may have taken more. Sorry!
Koreans get married in wedding halls, the outside of which look like office buildings. Our wedding hall had two “chapels”. Here’s a picture of the one Mr. Choi’s wedding was in:
It was the white themed room, I guess. The other room had green fake trees and bright colors. Ours only had fake white trees with ornaments.
Before the wedding, everyone gets to eat upstairs in the big banquet hall. It was a mix of Korean and Western food. I didn’t take any pictures of the food. Sorry. I know everyone enjoys food pictures. After that we went back to the wedding room.
Most of the guests were dressed in semi-formal. The most interesting exceptions are the women from the families of the bride and groom. They wear the traditional hanbok (han-bock) of the Koreans (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanbok)
Before the weddings, brides get dressed up (Western style) and sit on a bench in a little alcove off the side. People can come and look/talk/take pictures with her, and she just sits and smiles. I thought it was a little creepy. I didn’t think to ask if the groom can see her. He was just standing outside the wedding room talking to people.
Then the wedding was starting so we sat down. It’s… fairly informal. The other wedding ended as our was starting so there was loud talking from the hallway. Lots of people were standing up in the back and crowding the doorways when there were plenty of places to sit. I’m not sure why.
First the mothers (or nearest older female relative) go and light candles in the front of the room. I wish I could explain why everything happens, but my co-teacher abandoned me part-way through the ceremony. I probably looked a little strange because I was the strange foreigner sitting all by myself in a row of chairs (the other teachers sat in the row ahead of us).
So the ceremony took place, which included the bride being walked down the aisle by her father. There wasn’t a priest, but an “officiator” who talk a lot in Korean. The officiator happened to be the principal of my school. It’s a little weird, but totally something that would happen in Korean. He spoke for a long time in Korean.
Then the bride and groom had to go and bow to each set of parents, who sat up front on couches. The groom actually prostrated himself on the ground, the bride just did a formal bow to them. I assume they were asking permission to be married.
Then… they were married. A cake was rolled out and they cut it together, which elicited a big cheer from the crowd. Some goofy stuff happened, involving them saying stuff in Korean and people laughing (the groom is a funny guy, so I guess they were making jokes, but it was all completely over my head). Then it was picture time! Just about everyone got to be in a picture with them, including me. We did a picture with all of his co-workers. There was a picture with all of the bride’s co-workers and friends, and then she threw the bouquet. Except in Korea, they designate one person to catch the bouquet. There’s no competition involved.
And that was it. The ceremony was only a little over an hour. Then, of course, I had to go out to dinner with all the teachers from our school AND the superintendent of the Yeoju school district (he was previously the vice-principal of our school), and I had to sit in the honored position between him and the principal. Except they barely spoke any English. So it was a little long and boring, but the mountains were nice. We have raw fish for the main course and fairly standard side courses All things considered it was a tame dinner.
So, in essence, Korean weddings aren’t really all that different from Western weddings.
Oh, but the weirdest part: so the couple cut the cake together. You would think the cake would be brought out and enjoyed by people afterwards. Nope! They don’t eat the cake! What. I guess they just bake them and cut them. I’m a little surprised at the waste.
So that was the wedding! It was fun and a chance to see a part of Korean culture I didn’t expect to be invited into. Next time, I hope to finally post a large post about my city, Yeoju. Complete with a ton of pictures.