Today, I went to yet another wedding. I’ve been to a few in Korea now. Korean weddings seem quite different from those in the states, perhaps because so many of them tend to take place in this huge wedding chapels. Wedding chapels are popular, mostly because they provide all the food and everything one would need for a wedding. Depending on how well the family observes all the customs, the couple will change clothes at least two or three times in the course of the celebrations.
This is a fairly typical wedding hall, though this is not where the wedding took place. Today’s wedding took place in a convention center on the grounds of Seoul National University. Perhaps the university draws in a fair amount of extra income from renting out its facilities for these type of events. Anyhow, it certainly had the feel of a wedding hall wedding, given that it did feel slightly rushed.
The wedding was for my boss’ daughter. I don’t know her that well. In fact, I am closer to his son, who works at the school with us. The boss’ wife dressed up in hanbok, the traditional Korean clothing, for the occasion and even had her hair done in the traditional style complete with ornamental hairpins. But they did invite us, and so we went. This is the second such family event I’ve been to for my boss’ family. The first was for his mother’s funeral.
It was sort of like a church wedding. My boss and his family are very devout Presbyterians. So their minister came and performed the ceremony. We had hymns and everything! Immediately following the ceremony, we went into another building to get a bite to eat while my boss’ daughter and new son-in-law changed into traditional Korean clothing to perform the bows to the parents. This is one of the few occasions when Koreans will sit in what we perhaps like to call “Japanese style”, that is sitting on the ankles. The newly married couple will make a series of bows to the groom’s parents as well as to those of the bride. (As an aside, I am told that Buddhist postulants who make it to novice ordination in a Korean Buddhist order, will sit on their ankles during the novice ordination ceremony while a senior monk gives a discourse on the importance of the Buddhist monastic precepts and what the expectations are of them as novices. According to Robert Buswell’s The Zen Monastic Experience, many of the novices have difficulty in rising to their feet following the discourse, given that they are not used to sitting in this manner.)
Everything was all finished in two hours. That may seem like breakneck speed! With my friend Steve’s wedding, we were there for about three hours at most. A mutual friend whom neither of us had seen in some time was there, and there was some catching up to do. But then, his was a Catholic wedding and the wedding Mass takes about an hour.
As far as wedding gifts go, all of us gave them about 30,000 won a piece. I suppose that giving money is more common here than in other places, but it’s not a bad custom. In fact, it’s a highly practical one. As I mentioned before, it is the custom to give money to the family on the occasion of funerals. As with anything in life, these things cost money. It is only good manners, I suppose, to help bear the burdens of one’s friends and family.