First Time For Everything #1: A Traditional Korean Wedding

Traditional Korean Wedding

Since I’ve been failing at blogging lately, I’ve decided to start a new series of “Firsts” posted once a week, every week (well, we’ll see how well that goes), in obvious tribute to the name of this blog. Week #1:

First Time Attending a Traditional Korean Wedding

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Most weddings in Korea have been Westernized so I was lucky to have been able to go to a traditional Korean wedding. I arrived at the temple in Ulsan’s Old Downtown (성남동) and was greeted by hundreds of Koreans dressed in a range of outfits from shorts and flip flops, to expensive suits, to traditional Korean “Hanboks” (worn by the bride, groom, and their families).

The ceremony commenced while the large, standing audience chatted away noisily, snapped hundreds of pictures on their outlandishly-large smart phones, and came and went as they pleased. The bride was brought down the aisle in a decorative box-like contraption, carried by 4 young men dressed in all white and hats that looked like a cross between a rice hat and a sombrero.

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The groom, my friend Howard, had no idea what he was doing (as he informed us afterwards) and obeyed whatever orders he was given, such as eating a certain dish or carrying his new bride around a table 3 times. Afterwards, we went to a nearby restaurant to eat with the newlyweds and see them off to their honeymoon in Bali.

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I’ve been to a couple more weddings in Korea since and they are more or less the same – or at least it just seems the same since most of the ceremonies are done in Korean and I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference regardless. Most weddings don’t have the bride being carried down in a box – which, personally, would be the main tradition I would demand if I were Korean – but they often change into Hanboks after wearing a white, poofy wedding dress at the ceremony. The ceremony is very much a spectacle with the photographers rearranging the bride’s dress and hair every other minute, so as to get the perfect shot, and people excitedly chatting away as if they were watching Shamu at Sea World.

Wedding pictures are taken before the actual wedding, so a photo shoot of the groom and bride dressed in multiple wedding dresses can be displayed at the actual wedding. A standard wedding gift is around 25,000-50,000 won per person attending so the newlyweds usually end up with a decent chunk of change.

The best – and possibly the worst – part about Korean weddings is the entertainment. The 13-year-old-singing-and-dancing-to-K-pop form of entertainment. I’m not sure why this is a tradition or if it even is at all, but I’ve seen far too many teenage girls dressed in their school uniforms doing body rolls and shaking their hips to “Girls Generation”, “Sistar” or “Wonder Girls” in the middle of a wedding ceremony right before vows are exchanged. I don’t – I can’t – I just…. why?!

Dancing at a Korean Wedding
(Thanks for taking this video, Meg!) At the most recent [westernized] Korean wedding I attended.
I wish I had more thoughtful and cultural things to say about Korean weddings. Unfortunately, I haven’t quit my habit to pregame a little too hard before any and most events, so I don’t actually remember all that much else. Plus, it was a few months ago as well.

Until next time :)

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  1. Ceri says: Reply

    I love traditional Indian weddings. So full of colour and just amazing ceremonies. :) Would love to witness a Korean one too.

  2. I’ve never been to any type of Korean wedding in 2 1/2 years in Korea so I’m so jealous that you got to do this.

  3. ThePenguinGirl says: Reply

    great post, the photos are beautiful, what kind of camera do you use? I would also totally insist on the being carried in tradition! That’s cool. Also, I like K-pop a bit more than J-pop but I couldn’t imagine either at a wedding and did they do dancing before the vows? That’s interesting.

    1. I actually just used my P&S Sony Cybershot for these pictures! Honestly, there was a lot going on in the wedding between a lot of Korean being spoken, the crowd chatting away and the bride and groom doing various rituals – but the dancing was definitely halfway through the ceremony before the “I do” type of vows. It was all very interesting, to the say the least!

  4. Lys says: Reply

    Haha, I like the video you posted on this one. Questions-why do you think their weddings have become more westernized?

    1. Haha thanks! I just learned how to make animated GIFs so I’ve been making them out of any possible video I have haha.

      I think that since the Korean War, South Korea’s culture and economy has been greatly influenced by America and a more western perspective in general. They have grown a tremendous amount in the last 60 years and have become one of the fastest growing economies in the world. They’re still an eastern culture in many respects but they’re not China or Vietnam where they’re living in a communist society and are sheltered from a lot of western thought. They’ve developed their own pop culture and other things, like weddings, have also changed throughout the years and resemble the things they see in western movies and television.

      Thanks for reading Lys :)

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