Springtime makes me think about romance. And romance makes me think about wedding season which is just around the corner. If you do get an invitation to a wedding during the pandemic, you should feel honored. There are a lot of restrictions and YOU made the cut. Here’s what you need to know before attending a Korean Wedding. The first thing you need to know is to make sure you stop by the ATM.
What You Need to Know Before Attending a Korean Wedding
I don’t speak or understand much Korean. So suffice to say, I didn’t always know what was happening. Luckily love, family, and emotion translate well no matter what language you speak.
Money Table & Pandemic Korean Weddings
Not unsurprisingly, once we arrived we needed to sign in and have our temperatures taken. No problem, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Everyone, except the bridal party during the ceremony, was masked up.
There are mandates on how many people can attend a wedding, so to make the cut means your presence is really wanted. Weddings can have thousands in attendance, but the wedding I attended had a maximum of 59 guests, and Steven (my husband) and I were two of them.
A few steps from that table sits the money table. This is where you would typically see a bunch of beautifully wrapped gifts back in America. But here in Korea, the traditional gift is cash. I learned from the videos I watched that it is also customary to give odd number amounts of money. I bought a pretty money envelope from Daiso and wrote a simple congratulatory message inside.
Meal & Meal Ticket
Once you hand the money envelope to one of the groomsmen, you will receive a meal ticket. The meal ticket entitles you to a plate at the reception dinner. Our meal was buffet-style, but they also have sit-down dinners as well. The bride, groom, and parents will visit each table to say thank you for coming. This was slightly awkward because of the language barrier.
There were no speeches during the meal nor dancing afterward. We were assigned seating and instructed that once we finished eating, we were free to go. This is a great opportunity to wear those heels you can only wear for a few hours, lol.
The wedding venue we attended was outdoors and not in one of the large wedding halls you may have heard about where weddings are back to back to back. And while the venue was small, the ceremony still only lasted one hour.
Modern Korean Weddings
Aspects of a Modern Ceremony
Nowadays, most weddings are modern. In fact, none of my Korean friends have recently attended a traditional wedding ceremony.
Nothing says modern more than a wedding e-vite, which is what we received prior to the wedding. The e-vite was beautiful. Korean couples go to a themed photo studio to create the invitation. Pictures from the elaborate photo sessions and flowers were the only decorations.
Most guests were nicely dressed, while others were very casual. And no one wore traditional clothing (hanboks). Some people even showed up in sneakers. There is no dress code, wear what feels comfortable to you.
The wedding I attended was so modern, there was no officiant. The couple had an announcer instead, who kept the ceremony flowing. Unsurprisingly, everything was in Korean, so I can’t tell you what was said, but I can tell you it’s still very sentimental. You don’t need to understand every word to feel the love and spirit of the moment.
There were no children. The only children in attendance were members of the wedding party– the flower girl and ring bearer. This may or may not have been because of the limited guest list.
It may surprise you that 52% of the population in South Korea are atheists or non-religious. Of the population that is religious, 18% are Protestant, 16% believe in Buddhism, 13% believe in Catholicism, and 1% belong to other religions or cults. As far as I can tell, religion did not play a part in the service.
The couple did exchange rings, which may be a sign they are probably Christians. In addition, the groom presented the bride with a beautiful necklace too.
I love it when coupled include tradition and symbolism are in weddings. And this wedding was no exception. Both couples were walked down the aisle by their parents. And at the end, the couple bowed to both parents before exiting.
Both mothers-in-law planted a tree to symbolize uniting the families.
Vows & Speeches
The bride and groom created their own vows. And, both the bride and groom introduced their mother-in-law to make a speech. However, this is not always the case, particularly for wedding hall ceremonies. During many Korean wedding ceremonies, the only one to speak is the professional MC.
Much like other aspects of Korean culture, Korean weddings are very bbali balli. In sum, everything is sped along. There isn’t really glitz or glam, it’s just a very straightforward and efficient way to legalize a union. You won’t really find a ceremony that lasts over an hour and it’s very unusual to have a party afterward. While it’s nice not to have to sit through awkward interactions, I can’t help but miss the jovial atmosphere of American weddings.
Interested in learning more about Korean wedding ceremonies? Click Here to read one writer’s experience attending a more traditional Korean wedding ceremony.