Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Preparing for a Korean Wedding

-->As I prepare to marry in September, here in Korea, I thought I would share some of the planning process with my readers. Perhaps some of you out there may be curious about Korean weddings and perhaps others of you are thinking about your own wedding here in Korea. If so, this will hopefully give you some insight into the process of planning a Korean wedding.

 Western wedding or traditional Korean wedding?

Type of ceremony:
The trend these days in Korea is towards having western style ceremonies wearing your typical white dress and tuxedo. Interestingly, however, many multicultural marriages here opt for the traditional Korean ceremony. I, personally, opted for this choice as the lesser of two evils. The western style wedding here felt too contrived for me (cutting a cake without eating it and pouring a champagne fountain that no one gets to drink). That’s not to say that the traditional Korean ceremonies are any less contrived, but as I don’t know how they were conducted in the past, I can’t see their shortcomings. Plus, I look terrible in white ^^.

White weddings take place both in churches and in wedding halls. There is no dearth of wedding halls in Korea, so shop around and find the one that suits your taste best. Hotels tend to be pricier offering meals served individually to your guests during the ceremony. Wedding halls tend to be the more affordable option of the two, generally offering buffets where your guests will eat in a separate eating area, possibly with guests from other weddings as well as yours. Be sure to check out public facilities such as courthouses and even Seoul City Hall. These places tend to have very affordable rates for weddings (however, your guests may be eating in a cafeteria or you may need to find a restaurant to host your meal after the service).

Traditional weddings are offered in a number of places. In Seoul, Korea House, Namsangol Hanok Village and the War Museum of Korea tend to be popular locations, but do your research as you will find many others. Meal offerings will vary greatly between locations.

As for price, you will find that the sky is the limit for both types, however there tend to be a lot of affordable options for traditional marriages. If you are willing to hold your wedding in a public place, you could even have your ceremony conducted for free!

Perhaps you have seen some spectacular Korean wedding photos and wondered how anyone could take the time to take those photos on their wedding day. That is because they don’t take them on their wedding day! While weddings here will always have a photographer snapping photos, the majority of wedding photos that get shown off at house parties and on Facebook are actually taken before the wedding. Visiting a photo studio can be a full day affair which includes make-up and hair stylists and a variety of costume changes. Why settle for one wedding dress when you could get your photo wearing five different ones? 

For the photos of the wedding day, many wedding venues are able to provide their own photographer if you wish. The price may be reasonable, however the photo packages may be fixed. If you aren’t happy with your venue’s offerings, most photography studios also offer wedding day photography as well. Shopping around for different photographer’s styles and prices will help you get a better idea of what to expect.

For those who don’t like the idea of spending huge amounts of money on a dress that you will only wear once, there is good news. Women rarely buy wedding dresses/hanbok but rather rent them. Same goes for men as well. The bad news is that often times the rental price is often as much as purchasing a new one (albeit, the quality would be much higher).

Another option is buying a used hanbok. Hanbok, like wedding dresses and prom dresses, rarely are worn more than once, meaning that any used hanbok you purchase is like new.  I chose to go this route meaning that I could get a nice hanbok for half the price I would have paid for a new one.

The wedding attire is often supplied by the venue for traditional weddings. For my own wedding, the clothes for the ceremony are completely provided except for the skirt and shoes.

What’s paebek, you ask? Paebek is the formal Confucian portion of the wedding ceremony where the bride and groom formally greet their parents and parents-in-law. During this portion of the ceremony, hanbok is worn by the bride and groom, and often the parents will also dress in hanbok as well. There are several traditions which take place during the paebek including bowing to the parents representing fielel piety, carrying the bride on the groom’s back, demonstrating both his physical strength and parents tossing chestnuts and dates and the bride and groom catching as many as they can, as chestnuts and dates represent the number of children the bride would later bear.

This ceremony is viewed to be quite important in Korean culture; however these days some people choose to opt out of this tradition. It is an added expense and not all couples view it to be important. Most Korean parents, however, will probably expect to have a paebek.
More information here: http://www.mybridestory.com/paebaek/

Korean weddings do not typically have a reception as you may be used to in the west with music, dancing eating and drinking. Korean weddings tend to be short and sweet with just a ceremony and a meal. The meal may be served during the ceremony or guests may file into a buffet hall serving several weddings at once. If that isn’t sufficient for you, you may want to look into holding your ‘reception’ after the meal at another venue. Plenty of bars and restaurants are willing to open their space to group reservations and many small bars with low traffic on weekend afternoons will even allow you to book the entire bar without charge, as long as you bring a certain number of people. 

Photos and stories from my own wedding will be coming soon I hope! Just started teaching a new intensive course which will keep me busy for the next 7 weeks! 


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