Monday, December 14, 2009

The Most Happy Wedding Day

This Sunday I was invited to a mandatory Wedding of So Yeon, the secretary at my work. She always greets me with a smile and a double wrist wave so I was excited to support her on her wedding day. My boss set out a envelope with all of the teachers names on it which were checked off after we gave 30,000 won. It was nice to have the gift covered stress free but I became wary when I realized everyone was forced to pay. Even those not attending the wedding.

On the big day we arrive at the Wedding Center. It is a six story ugly building in the middle of a nondescript neighborhood. I had seen these buildings before. On Sundays they swarm with men in suits and women in dresses. I walked in wondering how all of these people knew So Yeon. This was my first mistake.

The wedding was on the 5th floor. One of three devoted to ceremonies and the other half dedicated to buffet dining halls, more on that mess later. The floor was crammed, I saw a bride in a voluminous white cupcake walk by but she was not So Yeon. We were reunited with the Korean staff who (as always) were disproportionately shocked to she me dressed up. Unlike many Korean women I have a different wardrobe for weddings then I do teaching eight year old's. It seemed we had almost missed the main event. No not the ceremony, but the chance to take pictures with the Bride. Taking pictures seems to be the most important part of a Korean wedding. People show up a hour early to snap pictures. Also all Koreans have professional wedding photos taken before the wedding to display at the actual event.

Next to the photo-op platform was a small “chapel” with the doors open to the rest of the floor. I put chapel in quotes because I have no idea what to call that place. A discothèque mashed up with a fashion show catwalk would be more appropriate. Their were lights on the ceiling and a white piano in the background. I think George Michael of WHAM might have created more subtle décor. The room had about twelve tables each full of talking guests. We squeezed into a corner next to the open doors. Then the Mothers of the Bride and Groom started to walk down the catwalk in traditional Hanboks and I was shocked by what happened next. Nobody stopped talking. In fact people chatted the entire time. The banal chatter was made worse by the fact that the doors to the main floor remained open allowing all the guests of other weddings (or guests who didn't care to watch) noise to leak in.

The Groom walked down the aisle followed by the Bride and her father. Their was no groomsmen or bridesmaids. They bowed to each other and a man, a prominent friend of the grooms fathers (the perfect tool for business kissup) gave the lecture. He spoke for about 15 minutes and although I didn't understand a word, I was never bored. I was horrified by the videographer shoving the camera into the Bride and Grooms face. The ceremony was also projected on a large screen about ten feet from the real thing and had a distracting amount of camera angles. Before I knew it the speaking was finished and the Grooms friend sang a love ballad to the new couple. After that the sound-track strutters to a stop and everyone climbs on stage to take a group photo. I'm lurking in the back like a freakish tall person. The bride tosses the bouquet to a assigned person (also a photo-op) and we all wander out of the room.

I walk out feeling a bit punked. Do Korean's think they can take all the cute symbols but none of the mean of a western wedding and still create meaning out of it. It took less than 30 minutes. What is the point? Well the couple now changes into their traditional Hanboks and moves to another room. It looks like the inside of a traditional Korean house except for the fact that there are three of these rooms next to each other. I wanted to watch this ceremony but was told by my co-workers it was much too long, about 45 minutes. We then went to downstairs to the reason the majority of guests come. The buffet, I imagine this is what my 30,000 won went to. I hope not because the food was nothing special and didn't include booze or cake. My friends and I ate in silence. What was that? How does that rushed flashy show reflect of Korean marriages and most importantly, why did I spend two hours getting dressed up to spend only a hour watching a show and eating bad food?

In the end this hour/day is nothing about me. So Yeon looked gorgeous and her husband couldn't stop smiling. I, on the other hand will get married in Tunisia. Its much more fun.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. What a great experience. I like how they take pictures before and display them at the event. Great post!

  3. I like taking pictures before also. The whole location seems a bit undesireable for a wedding though. Great insight into another culture. thanks!

  4. That sounds intensely lame! And you know how I feel about dry weddings..

  5. In the end it really is all about that smile on the husband's face - right? I've been to a lot of weddings and still feel my own was the most fun - - - just the way it should be.