Korean Wedding

The Korean Wedding

Welcome to our latest segment on Wedding cultures! This time, I’ll be taking you to the Asian side of affairs and telling you all about how Koreans like to tie the knot – if you’re looking for some diversity in experience, that is.

Like all cultures, the Korean wedding may be subjected to stereotypes and misconceptions. K-dramas may lead you to think that things are way more over the top than they normally are. With South Korea also getting quite culturally influenced by American and yet other western cultures, there are also going to be some overlaps, but the Korean wedding has its own style, and its own charm and appeal.

Even if there aren’t overtly grand romantic gestures, or people dropping to their knees to serenade their lovers right left and center, the Korean wedding may give you some inspiration if you ever think of being culturally diverse with your own wedding.

The Proposal

TV shows and movies have contributed to many misconceptions here, naturally. Not every proposal involves a song and dance, or an elaborate staging, or even a ring! In fact, many older Koreans don’t wear any signs and symbols to indicate that they’re married. The bride and groom can skip the entire ‘put the ring around it’ affair if they wish it. In recent times, however, rings are making an appearance as cultural influences combine.

the proposal

What does happen in a typical proposal is the fated meeting of the two families in question. In Korea, families are way more important than the individuals in question – no jokes, even if it sounds like some archaic soap opera! Families do intensive research on the other party, and before the families can even meet, the girl and boy have to separately meet each other’s families for the first degree of approval.

Then, the families agree to meet in a private setting, typically a restaurant where they can discuss affairs and the plan on how to move forward. In Korea, the meeting with your partner’s family is an indication that things are going to be serious and permanent from now on.

Efficiency over Extravaganza

Korean weddings also tend to be on the practical side of things. Once the engagement is announced, the wedding will typically follow as soon as 2-3 months later, leading people to think that the bride may be pregnant. The reality is simple: they love efficiency over extravaganza, and weddings don’t take that much planning in Korea. Quite a few cultures have a year-long period in between the engagement and the wedding, so this may just seem too sudden – and even like a shotgun-style wedding, but that’s just the way things are done.

The wedding industry in Korea also accommodates for all the efficient needs of the population. Wedding halls that are built for speedy weddings and the owners of the space will also act as your wedding planners, executing each thing down to the last detail from the food, flowers, music, furniture, and what-have-you. Basically, it’s an efficient package deal.

efficiency over extravaganza

If you’re rich, you can afford more private and fancy locations to carry out your wedding at your own pace and luxury. Since wedding halls have more than one booking, you might just be duking it out with other couples when it’s time for your ceremony to wrap up, so that’s one drawback.

Despite Christianity being big in Korea, church weddings aren’t really that common – in fact, setups that are different from the standard wedding hall thematic are one-of-a-kind.

Another thing to note here is the gifting aspect with titles for every type of gift-giving involved: gifts of household goods (Honsu); gifts of clothing and jewelry between the bride and groom (Yemul); gifts given to the significant kin of the groom (Yedan); gifts of cash from the groom’s kin to the bride (Ggoomimbi), and from the bride’s family to the groom’s friends (Ham); and exchanges of food and wine between the two families (Ibaji). Fairly complex, isn’t it?

Dressing Up

Dressing up for a Korean wedding is also mostly hassle-free for everybody. Typically, there’s the ‘seu-deu-meh’ package, which stands for the ‘studio-dressing-makeup’ package. This takes care of all your photography sessions with high-quality backdrops and cameramen to boot, and there are options ranging from cheesily romantic photos to real, candid style photography according to your preferences.

dressing up

Dress and tuxedo rentals are common here, as opposed to purchasing your wedding attire. Brides typically rent 2-4 outfits at the cost of buying one, and these last them for all the ceremonies involved. Makeup and hair sessions, as you may have guessed, are also included, where both the bride and groom are adequately styled for their big day, and consequent ceremonies.

Ceremonies and the lack of a Reception

In some cultures, it is bad luck for the bride to ‘see’ the groom before the wedding, or an unveiling ceremony that takes place. Koreans don’t believe that though, and the couple will usually travel together to the wedding venue. The groom and bride will then separate, where the groom goes to the lobby to greet guests and the bride retreats to her own special room for further preparation.

Before you freak out, let us tell you this: There isn’t a reception. Yes! The guest’s preferences come before lavishing attention on the bride and groom in Korea, and the guest’s time is of utmost importance. The wedding ceremony typically does not take more than half an hour, and it will be overseen by an officiant and an MC (it’s entirely possible that they’re connected to the families in question), who will take it upon themselves to execute the rituals with speed and precision.

There are no bridesmaids, no ring bearers, flower girls etc. Instead, there will be the universal speech, or a performance, the kiss, and the deal is sealed. Guests who wish to leave can leave, or attend the post-ceremonial meal. If you attend an upscale Korean wedding, expect the rest of these frills, performances, and whatnot – but we’re here to tell you about how it’s generally done.

ceremony

What should you wear, and what should you gift? Well, that’s easy in Korea, too! People can dress in all kinds of formal attire if they wish to – there are even reports of people coming in their sneakers and jeans, but just have some class – and pick up that tux or that beautiful red dress.

As for gifting things, just go with the money. Yes, you heard us right. In Korea, it’s not unusual for guests to carry crisp notes of money with them in a manila envelope (crisp and new notes only). The amount you carry should ideally be proportional to your relationship with the couple and their family, so use your judgment wisely.

The Pyebaek

Now, this is something you may perhaps not see because this involves you being a part of a Korean family. Here, the bride and the groom abandon their modern efficient attires and attitudes and get down to an intensely traditional ceremony called the Pyebaek. This typically happens a few days after the official wedding ceremony and shows you why the family is still more important than anything else in a Korean wedding.

The bride and the groom dress up in Korean ceremonial clothing termed the ‘Hanbok’, and will bow to their parents who will be sitting behind a low table that will typically be full of wedding foods like dried persimmons, Korean dates (jujubes) and chestnuts. The ceremony takes place at the groom’s house, where the bride and groom will receive some advice on marital matters, as the bride and groom perform a deep bow which ends with their heads touching the floor.

the pyebaek

After this begins a ritualistic game, where the in-laws throw the wedding foods at the bride, who has to catch them with her wedding skirt. The more she catches, the more children she will be blessed with – or so the tradition states. Fun times!

All in all, the Korean wedding is one of the most non-stressful experiences for the couple, as well as the guests involved. If you’re of the school of thought that prefers efficiency and ease over pomp and ceremony, perhaps the Korean wedding is for you!  

About the Author

Monica

Monica is a moniker for our relationship expert. She's been working as a relationship counselor for over 10 years, and over time, has sharpened her personality. Unlike typical counselors, Monica is not afraid to use a harsher method to resolve certain issues that demand it. Even if she's a virtual entity now, she can still see into your soul.

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