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! 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Behind the scenes at a Korean studio wedding photo shoot

These days in Korea it is very popular to not just take photos on the day of your wedding, but to shoot some photos, either in a studio and/or outside, and publish them in a big photo album (not to mention all over Facebook, KakaoTalk etc. etc.). Before getting these photos done myself, I never imagined how much work goes into taking these photos, especially as the bride, but last month I learned for myself how much effort it takes to make one little wedding album.

Preparing for the studio wedding photo shoot 

First thing on a Sunday morning, we headed to the photo studio by 9am. I was immediately put in a chair and the hair and make-up artist spent over an hour doing my make-up and hair. I've never had my make-up done professionally like this before. After layers and layers of make-up and fake eyelashes, I couldn't even recognize myself. Then came the hair. She expertly straitened, curled, twisted, braided and hair sprayed my hair until it looked just right.

They also spent a little time on my husband-to-be as well. They quickly brushed his hair and styled it into place and put some make-up on him too, however, they only spent about 15 minutes on him compared with over an hour on me.

A book showing all the dress choices
Then it was time to play dress-up. They had a whole book of dresses and they asked me to go through and pick out four dresses that I wanted to wear throughout the day. It was too hard to choose from the photos, though, and in the end another assistant who was to be my personal attendant for the rest of the day just picked out several dresses she thought would suit me and let me try them on myself.

 Trying on my first long wedding gown
After I had picked out the first long dress, and my husband-to-be had been given a tuxedo to wear, we were set up for our first shoot. The most classic pose, sitting on a sofa with some flowers. But, getting the perfect pose is no easy feat. I had my attendant on one side tugging at my dress here and there to make it perfect, while the photographer continued to give commands, "turn your head left, tilt your head up, point your bouquet this way..." I can't imagine being a famous person who has to have people saying these things to them all day! I realized that all those natural looking poses I had seen in my friends photos were not so natural at all!

Adjusting this way and that for the perfect photo
Sitting on the floor in a dress this big is no easy feat
After more photos with the long dresses, I put on a short dress and we went out to the patio of the studio to shoot some more photos. It's amazing how some simple props can make for such nice looking photos.
Some outdoor photos
I must say, after nearly four hours of shooting photos, I must say that there was no end to the tiny photo studio's creativity in creating scenes for photos. While each scene was quite small, the whole studio fitting into the size of one two-floor house, the photos create an illusion of being taken in a really huge, vast space. Not to mention all the props and scenery they use, everything from giant balloons, to bicycles, to picnic tables to chandeliers, in the end the photos look amazing and as if we really went to many different places.
 Strange, yet interesting props
Got to love the astroturf...
But after hours of shooting photos, we were certainly exhausted and ready change into our street clothes and not having people adjusting  our our clothes, position and make-up every 30 seconds. Now we are looking forward to picking up our albums from the photographer and seeing the final results. While this tradition of dressing up in a wedding gown before the official wedding is quite different from my own American culture, it was quite fun to dress up and have people dote on you for hours on end, and get a book of nice photos after it's all done as well. I recommend getting wedding photo shoot!

We were exhausted by the end of the day

For those interested in the cost,  I think we got a fairly good deal, though I think they can personalize your photo package to fit any budget. We paid 1,500,000 for four albums: One album of studio photos, one album of photos from our wedding day (which they also shot for us), one small album of family shots, wedding shots, and paebaek shots for his parents and one larger album for my mother including some studio photos, wedding photos and paebaek photos. On top of that, they also will give us two framed 8x11 photos for free. Or we could have chosen one giant photo for free (which is usually put at the entrance of the wedding ceremony). We opted not to get that photo since we had no idea what we would do with such a huge photo after the ceremony though! Please visit the studio where we got our photos done:   
85-17 Nonhyun-dong
 Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Tel: 02-511-7350
Email: info@aand.co.kr

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Long time no post

Hello world, it's been a long time, I know. I've graduated with my master's, gotten married, and spent a month in China (where Blogger is blocked)... I've been a bit busy. But now I'm unemployed (hopefully not for long, we'll see) and have a bit of spare time, so I'm hoping to get caught up on all that blogging I've been missing in the past few months. Hope to see you soon. 조안나.