Korean Wedding

Korean Wedding Ceremony

I step out of the taxi and light up a cigarette.  I’m in front of a Korean wedding hall.  Today, I get to see a real Korean wedding!

Lots of people in suits and dresses are milling about outside.  I look down.  Blue jeans, black shoes and a dressy button down.  I feel self-conscious.  “Don’t worry, they understand,” April says.  “You’re a foreigner.”  Yeah, maybe.  But I wish I had bought a suit. 

I enter the lobby.  One by one they notice me.  White skin, big nose, round eyes, shaved head, poorly dressed.  How conspicuous I am!  Most give me a brief glance, then look away.  Only babies and old folks stare.  Their gazes aren’t unfriendly, but neither are they inviting.  But I’m used to it.  I’m a foreigner.

Some people are gathered over by a little room.  I wander over with April.  Its the bride and groom in the Photo Zone.  April says, “Go get your picture taken with them.”  “I’ll do it later,” I say.  I think I’d just make them feel awkward.

I watch the bigscreen TV.  A slide show of the marriage couple, now and then.  Cute.  Very cute.

April goes up to a table.  She takes an envelope, stuffs cash in, writes her name on it, and hands it to a man.  She writes her name in a book.  When she gets married, she’ll get the exact amount back.

The wedding is about to start.  We enter the main Hall and find a seat.  I’m comforted to see familiar things: white decorative chairs; nice white flower arrangements along the aisle; an altar; candles.  Women dressed like stewardesses seat the guests.  Up front, one of them rolls out a big wedding cake from behind a curtain.  Somehow it seems out of place.

I’m waiting.  Nice music begins playing.  I look around at everybody.  They’re all talking, laughing, reuniting with old friends and family.  Very festive, very noisy.  I glance up at the altar, surprised to find the bride and groom in place, the ceremony already started.  “Aren’t they going to be quiet and listen?” I ask.  April smiles, “No.  It’s Korean style.”

They kiss. Someone sings a song, someone gives a speech.  The stewardesses help turn the bride around, she walks out with her new husband to everyone’s applaud, and it’s over.  A happy feeling is in the air.

The stewardess pushes the cake back behind the curtain.  I point over longingly,  “Aren’t we going to eat it?”  “No,” says April, “It’s not real.”

Out in the lobby, I wander over by the Photo Zone again.  The bride and groom are back in there.  I want to go get April to take my picture now, but something’s wrong.  I look again.  It’s not the same bride and groom.  I look to the bigscreen.  Its not the same cute photos.  I scratch my head.

We go downstairs.  There’s a buffet hall.  Looks like a big restaurant.  April hands the lady two tickets.  She lets us in.  Wedding crasher checkpoint?

We go in.  It’s a huge buffet.  Korean food, sushi, pizza, even hotdogs for the kiddies.  We fill our plates with enough to feed ten.  We search for a table.  No room except by a group of old men, already deep into a bottle of soju.

We eat.  I see the gentleman next to me has an empty shot glass.  I take the bottle and refill it.  He smiles heartily, takes the bottle and fills my glass.  We toast, throw back a shot, smile, then ignore each other again.

The wedding party enters the hall.  They’ve changed into hanboks – colorful little deals that really make them look Chinese.  They circulate among the guests, stopping at every table. Hello, thanks for coming!

I wipe my hands, ready to congratulate them.  They walk right past our table.  I turn to April, again baffled by what I’m seeing.  “They’re just nervous,” she explains, “You’re a foreigner.”  Yeah, I get that a lot.

Things are winding down, people are leaving.  I have the sinking feeling there’ll be no band, no dancing.  No chance to meet other people.  A woman in uniform enters and starts talking loudly.  “What’s going on?” I ask April.  But I don’t need an answer.  People from the next wedding are at the checkpoint, tickets in hand.

We leave.  Out in front of the wedding hall again, I crush out my cigarette.  We step into a waiting taxi and drive off.

I watch the city pass by, quietly contemplating the experience.  It was a beautiful wedding, I’m glad I went.  But it was nothing like I had expected.

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About UnderCoverChris

An American traveler teaching English in South Korea. See the world through my eyes.
This entry was posted in South Korea, Travel and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Korean Wedding

  1. wow, such a cultural difference from here in the States. I think you would have felt out of place in a suit or not. Next time, take some video.

  2. True, I was rather disappointed after the wedding, but not because of the wedding itself, but because of what I expected from it. It looked so much like a Western wedding, but it wasn’t. That in and of itself was bewildering.
    Later, I’ll be writing a followup story about Korean Weddings, minus my expectations and disappointments. Stay tuned!

  3. Haha, well I guess having a fake cake is better than none! Very interesting, never really thought what a Korean wedding might be like…

  4. janice mey says:

    I love these stories! you are very good at writing! also so many new experiences! I am so happy for you and very proud of my son. I will continue reading bye for now

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