Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wedding bells and beat-uhl-jeh

Last weekend, I got to attend my first Korean wedding! Hana tells me it was actually very Westernized, but it was still a stark contrast to any wedding I've witnessed in the past. Thus, it's going on the blog.

The wedding was scheduled to begin at 1 PM, but we had to arrive early to take pictures with the bride. We found the hotel with little trouble... okay, so Hana found the hotel while a line of foreigner ducklings trotted along behind her. When we got upstairs, the families of the bride and groom lined the entranceway, all dressed in their hanboks. I wish I could have taken a picture, but my goal is to insult the locals as little as possible, and photo-ops were a strict no-no. They stood in front of giant flower displays, not unlike the ones you see on gravestones on Memorial Day, and the flowers were draped with ribbons that had Korean letters all over them. I like to imagine that the flowers are symbolic of the way marriage kills your soul, and the ribbons were covered with warnings for the bride and groom, encouraging them to run away while they still had the chance. Unfortunately, one of the flower displays said "YBM" on it, which is the company I work for, so my guess is probably a tad off-base.

On the other side of the entranceway there were two tables; one for the bride's family and one for the groom's. At Korean weddings, there are no gifts and no registry. In fact, unless you sneak your card to the bride like you're passing off insider information on Watergate, nothing goes to the newlyweds. You choose the table whose family you more want to financially bless and leave your donation. Hana told me that most people try to figure out how much the dinner will be worth then leave a little more than that amount, but she also said our dinner was worth well over seventy dollars. The school had collected all of our gifts in advance to ensure that Sarah and her new hubby actually got to keep it, and I'm almost positive none of us gave seventy dollars.

We headed to the tiny room where Sarah sat on a stool waiting for people to come in and tell her she was beautiful. She looked insanely gorgeous, and she welcomed the cloud of blond girls graciously. The photographers fluttered around the room, snapping pictures from every direction like paparazzi at the Grammys. Had I been the one sitting on the stool, I'd have gotten annoyed and probably ripped of my dress and stomped out of the room (perhaps I have both commitment and anger issues), but Sarah just smiled and waved at her adoring friends and family as they paraded through the room to see her.

After the pictures, we headed into the reception hall to find a table. Although we were early, we were a little too late to get seats in the main room, so we ended up in the overflow room next door. For some reason, there were very few women in this room, but our table more than made up for the deficiency. We took pictures of the table and tried to sound out all the words in the program - effectively embarrassing the crap out of Hana.

The wedding occurs while you're already seated at the dinner table, and no one really pays attention. The ceremony was projected onto a screen in our room, but very few people actually turned to watch it. Five cell phones went off during the ceremony, and each owner took the call and chatted as though he were just hanging out at home. All the foreigners watched the screen intently, but Hana told us no one ever really cares about that part. People only come to weddings for the food. Once the food was served, I could see why.

I took pictures of each of the courses because they were just so daggone pretty. You should be jealous that you didn't get to eat any of this deliciousness.

Salmon appetizer that looked beautiful when it came out. Then I turned it into this:

Well hello little salmon man! ^^

Mmm, steak and mashed potatoes.

Definitely not wedding cake, but it had a layer of jello on top, which was cool.

While we were eating, the screen displayed fantastically beautiful pictures of Sarah and her new husband. Apparently, they have a photo shoot two weeks before the wedding so they can have a slide show that literally looked like it was taken from the pages of a bridal magazine. I wish I could just steal the powerpoint and upload it for you, but I'm not sure that's kosher. Imagine the prettiest and artsiest wedding pictures you've ever seen and that might be kind of close. It was spectacular.

They also played Korean love songs as the pictures flashed across the screen. My table didn't recognize anything until "All You Need Is Love" came over the speakers. Hana looked a little surprised. "You know this one?" We all nodded and told her The Beatles were very famous in America, but she just looked even more confused. "Who are 'Beatles'? This is Beat-uhl-jeh!" Oh Korea, you would prounounce the name of the best thing to come out of England since Shakespeare as "Beat-uhl-jeh". And I quite love you for it.

Sometime during the meal, we were called up to take pictures with the bride and groom. We were part of the "friends and coworkers" croud, and since we were the last to arrive for the picture, we were all huddled in the corner (because we didn't stand out enough in the picture already). Sarah tossed her bouquet, and the lucky girl who caught it is promised to not only be the next to get married, but she has to achieve it within six months. Before you ask, no, it wasn't me. :) In Korea, the garter is far too risque an object to be tossed about, so the groom flung his boutonniere into the air instead. The guy who caught it made me regret not trying harder for that darn bouquet.

By the time dessert was served (not wedding cake, as that's family-only), people were already flooding out of the room. Sarah and her husband disappeared to a special ceremony where they are formally married, and the guests just finished their food and left. No hugs, no dancing, no shouting "Don't Stop Believin'" into a stolen mic so neighboring continents can hear you. The whole event lasted just two hours, and we were released with an entire afternoon and evening ahead of us. I can say with certainty that I won't be planning a Korean-style wedding for myself, but it was a lot of fun nonetheless. When Sarah gets back on Monday, I'll see if I can get some details on Korean honeymoons for you. ;)


  1. I kinda like the 2 hour wedding. You get to leave and do what you want, and so do the bride and groom. AND you still get great food. no loss for anyone.

    also...just so you know (whether you believe it or not is different) ...marriage does NOT kill your soul.

  2. I agree with Kimi... marriage doesn't kill your soul. <3
    You're so silly.

  3. beat-uhl-jeh ≠ The Beetles
    beat-uhl-jeh = Beetlejuice!