Yesterday I went to a wedding with Ohee at a wedding hall in Gangnam. It was very interesting to see the similarities and differences between Korean and American weddings. (Ohee also just got engaged and will be having weddings in Korea and America – and I get to be her maid of honor in the July 2012 Kentucky wedding!)
When we arrived at the wedding hall, the groom and his family were outside the ceremony room greeting guests in hanboks, the traditional Korean attire worn during holidays and celebrations. The bride was in her wedding dress greeting friends and family in a separate room.
After you greet the groom and bride, you give your money to the person at the front desk and sign the guestbook. There are no gifts or cards, just money you place in an envelope. Apparently there are set amounts of money you are supposed to give, depending on how close you are to the couple. And the money typically goes to the parents, not the couple.
We took our seats at one of the round tables on the groom’s side and waited for the ceremony to begin. The mothers walked down the aisle first and lit candles. Then the groom came down, then the bride with her father. The officiant went on for awhile (I obviously don’t know what he was saying), then there were two songs, one performed by a wedding singer and one by the groom’s friends. There were also some unique Korean traditions during the ceremony. The bride got on the groom’s back and he had to pick her up and down three times (this is to make sure he is strong enough to deal with her family, or something like that). Then the bride had to shout something three times (roughly translated to “We will be happy!”). After the bride and groom bowed to their parents, they walked down the aisle and the ceremony was over. (I should also mention that the wedding seemed like a casual affair, it was not too quiet and guests were talking during the ceremony. One ajumma even loudly answered her cell phone and carried on a conversation!)
Korean weddings don’t include typical receptions. Instead you get a meal ticket and go to the basement cafeteria of the wedding hall to eat with the other guests.
After we ate we were able to see the bride and groom again in a small room where they were performing more traditional rituals in their hanboks. We witnessed them interlocking their arms to drink, him eating a date out of her mouth, him picking her up and carrying her piggyback around the table three times, and him presenting her with several envelopes. Unfortunately I am unaware of what all these things symbolize and Google isn’t helping me much. Clue me in if you know!