Friday, January 3, 2014

Our Korean Wedding at The Korea House (한국의집)

Finally it's the post you've all been waiting for! It's taken me quite some time to get this post up, between honeymoon/ one month in China, and then almost immediately starting to teach a 7 week intensive course in Gangnam after coming back, and applying for jobs during every break time I have, I've had no time for blogging. I miss it so much! After some time, I've finally gotten this post up.

Our Korean Wedding Day:

It's amazing how much build-up there is to a wedding, but when the day arrives, the time just flies by before you know it. Our wedding was scheduled for 12:00pm on a Sunday afternoon, but that meant we needed to arrive at The Korea House by 8:30am to start preparing. As soon as we arrived, with our hanboks in hand, I was whisked away by the stylists and they immediately went to work on me.

The hair went quite quickly, actually. For a traditional Korean wedding, the hair style is quite simple, just parted down the middle and tied in the back. I had been growing my hair out for over a year in hopes that they would use my real hair for the hair piece, however that probably would have been impossible, so instead they just put my hair in a bun at the back of my neck and put a fake braided bun over it, which was strong enough to support the hair peice that would come later.

Next was the make-up. I must say, while there were some fake eyelashes involved, after they had finished with the make-up, I still looked like myself, which I can't really say about the photo shoot we had had the week earlier.

Getting my make-up done

The make up and hair took some time, but once it was done, it was time to suit me up. First went on my own hanbok. This helper whipped it on in no time. However, since I had bought the hanbok myself, I had not bought shoes (I tried on the nice shoes in the shop, but found that they were all too uncomfortable, so I decided not to buy them). Since I knew that the men were given shoes, I assumed the bride would be, too. I was wrong however, and the woman nearly flipped out when she realized I didn't have any proper shoes to wear with my hanbok. Fortunately, my friend who had rented a hanbok got shoes with hers, so even though they were one size too big, I just wore hers instead.

Getting dressed

After I had gotten my own hanbok on, I was then given the bridal jeogori (top part of the hanbok) to wear over it. Actually, this worked out great since I found that the back of my hanbok sometimes flipped open showing my petticoat, and the bridal jeogori was very long in the back and covered the back of the dress.

Fitting the hair piece

My groom didn't take quite as long to get ready as there wasn't really any make-up for him. Once I was done, I headed out just in time for my photographer to arrive and take some pre-wedding photos. I should note that this is quite different from the American wedding ritual where the groom can not see the bride before the ceremony. Modern Korean weddings generally do the majority of the photography before the ceremony, unlike American weddings which would do couple photos after the ceremony.

Pre-ceremony photos

Since our wedding was at The Korea House in Chungmuro (which is open to the public and tourists can visit), the traditional hanok setting made for perfect photography. We recently got our wedding album back and we're quite satisfied with the way the photos came out (thanks again to Aand Studio).

Waiting in the 신부대기실

Once photos were done it was nearly 11:00, time to wait in the 신부대기실 or the bride's waiting room. While waiting here, guests can come up and take their photo with the bride (me!) before the ceremony. The groom and the rest of the family members wait by the door and greet guests as they come in.

At 11:45 I still had not received even one word of instruction on what to do for the wedding. I know that the men had run through their part earlier, but no one had explained anything to me. Just before it was time to head down, my two helpers (you can think of them as bridesmaids) came up and "taught" me how to bow. I thought I knew how to bow, I do it all the time in Korea, but this bow was totally different. Rather than getting down on my knees, I was taught to squat down all the way to the ground (being supported on each sides by my two bridesmaids) and then once I had gone down as far as I could, push back so my bottom was on the ground. Then I was told to lean forward and bow my back and head down, keeping my arms in front of my face, the big sleeves would keep my face covered.

We practiced this several times and it felt quite awkward but they assured me that I did a really good job, better than most foreign brides (probably helped by the fact that I could understand them as they couldn't speak English. I imagine most foreign brides must struggle terribly with the language barrier). After practicing bowing down, they whisked me down the stairs and into the house where I would wait for the ceremony to begin.

While waiting in the back, they also brought my mother in from the crowd. No one mentioned to me that she needed to play some role in this all. Suddenly, my helper was firing instructions at me at what my mom needed to do and what I needed to do. In the stress of the moment I was freaking out that I wasn't translating it right. "Ok, one more time... who follows who?" Finally the helpers very slowly explained what we all needed to do and I translated for my mother. Basically, my groom would put a wooden goose on a table in front of us. My mother needed to pick up the table and bring it inside and then we would all march out together in a line. 

The video here shows the rest of the process better than I can explain in words, so take a look! Thanks to Steve the Qi Ranger for our beautiful video.

We concluded the wedding with a little pansori, because, well, you can never have too much of that!

After the wedding was finished, it was photo time. First was photos with family, and then with friends. We were really overwhelmed by the number of friends that came to our wedding. There were even some friends who ducked out of the photo, believe it or not! 

(not) all of our friends

After the official photos were taken, my new husband and I were being pulled on all sides by friends wanting to snap photos with us in our wedding get up. But, way too quickly, we were whisked away by our helpers. I couldn't quite figure out why until we were brought into a room with all our family and we realized that we still had to do our pyebaek.

Pyebaek (폐백) is basically the Korean wedding tradition in which the groom's family welcomes the bride into the family. It is typically done privately with just family watching

There are several Pyebaek traditions. First we had to take the customary family photos. For my family, my friend Megan was a stand-in for my father who could not come to Korea.

Next we served rice wine (cheongju) to our families. I held the cup precariously over my hands covered with several layers of cloth while my groom poured and served it. Then our families took a few bites of the traditional snacks prepared. My mom and friend looked frightened to death of trying them.

Next it was time to toss dates and chestnuts into my cloth. The groom's mother and father each take a turn at throwing a handful of dates and chestnuts while we try to catch them in my cloth. The dates represent the number of girls we will have and the chestnuts represent the number of boys we will have... fortunately his mother completely missed and his father only got five in our cloth, so we're only having five children... don't want to think about what would have happened if they had both had better accuracy...

Getting ready to catch the dates and chestnuts our children

The only thing missing from our pyebaek was when the groom carries the bride on his back around the room. Don't know why we didn't do that, but I'll bet my groom paid them off because I know that was probably the part that he was least looking forward to.... suspicious...

Finally, it was off to eat with the rest of our guests. Actually, it was more like walking around and chatting with everyone we could and then finally when the staff told us that they would be closing up our buffet within the next 5 minutes we grabbed a plate of food for ourselves and scarfed some down before packing up our things and heading out. Then we went on to our after-party in Itaewon... which is a whole other story...

what we were wearing under the wedding garb


  1. You guys look wonderful together. Congratulations!

  2. how beautiful! Thank you for sharing :) Congratulations!


  3. I've enjoyed looking at your pictures and the video. My son (American from MA) lives in Ilsan and will be married in a very traditional Korean wedding in October. So it's fun to see what it will be like. Thanks.

  4. i would like to know what happened at the after party :)

  5. Congrats!! You both are looking amazing.And the Photographer you hire for your korea pre wedding photoshoot works at its best

  6. Wow, this Koran wedding was gorgeous and interesting. I loved seeing these photos. Keep sharing such great posts! At one of the best wedding venues Los Angeles we too tied the knot last year. It was an awesome ceremony and everyone completely enjoyed our big day.

  7. hi! thank you very much for posting this. we are getting married, same place, same time - and we are racking our brains on what to do after 2pm. what kind of after-party did you have? we have many international guests... thank you so much!

  8. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with extra information? It is extremely helpful for me. korean prewedding