The Happy Couple

So this Saturday I went to my Korean friend Thomas’ (Korean name Hyun-Tae) wedding. Not only was this to be my first Korean wedding, but I was also going to be a part of the ceremony, reading a poem on Thomas’ request.

The wedding was over in Busan at Geum-Gang wedding convention centre which is essentially a building which has several chapel-like rooms which are hired for an hour or so in which to hold weddings. We arrived half an hour before the ceremony and had a look around. The place had the feel of an upmarket shopping centre, or of a large hotel.

Once we had found the right chapel (I believe there were four in total) we met Thomas and his fiancé Min-Ju and had some photographs taken with them and some of their relatives (including their hanbok wearing mothers).

Wedding Hall

The chapel itself was nicely decorated and had many round tables to sit at, although many of the Koreans in attendance chose to stand at the back of the room.

As the bride and groom walked up the aisle, a pair of machines spurted hundreds of bubbles out over the room, which was surprising to say the least. This would perhaps be tacky if done in the west, but in oh-so-cutesy Korean it seemed to fit very nicely.

After a lengthy speech by the man presiding over the ceremony, it was my turn to read the poem. I came to the front and was pleased to find that I was to direct my poem at Thomas and Min-Ju rather than at the audience, which would have made me more nervous. What did make me more nervous was the plethora of guys with video cameras filming everything. All in all it seemed to go ok.

After than some of Thomas’ ex-students (he is a teacher too) sang a song in a slightly (oh all right, massively) over-enthusiastic way. When they had finished a couple of his female students got up to do a song and dance. Brilliantly, after than Thomas himself sang a song to Min-ju and proved himself to have a great voice. Once again, I feel as though this would often be considered a tacky thing to do in the West, but it very nearly brought a tear to my eye.

After that there were some more ceremonial proceedings such as bowing the parents, but as I don’t speak enough Korean, I couldn’t tell you exactly what was going on.

I should point out that the whole ceremony was punctuated with bursts from the bubble machines, and also dry-ice machines which were fitted into the floor. I was half expecting a laser show to start at any minute.

Something else which was strange about the ceremony was the way in which many of the Korean guests talked loudly throughout. I’ve been told by other people that this is common in Korean weddings but it certainly came across as a little rude.

The ceremony was rounded off by the cutting of the cake. Well actual fact it was a trolley, with a fake cake on top of it which a kind of ceremonial sword with which to pretend to actually cut the cake. This was one of a number of things which seemed to be an homage to western weddings, and seemed to be done solely for that purpose.

Finally, and with ruthless precision, a lighting rig was wheeled to the centre of the room and the group photographs began. There was one of the bride and groom with their parents, one with their whole family and finally one with the miscellaneous other guests. There was finally a staged photo of the throwing of the bouquet to the bridesmaid, another apparent reference to western tradition.

After that was done with we all made our way downstairs for the buffet. It’s usual in Korea for the guests to pay for their own buffet, but we somehow avoided that probably by being western. We went down into what was essentially a cafeteria with a buffet, and sat amongst maybe 2 other wedding parties on long trestle tables. The bride and groom came down briefly and thanked everyone, and that was it. Wedding finished.

Later in the evening I met up with Thomas and a few of the other guests in a bar near the beach. It was all very informal but high-spirited. Thomas and Minju left for their honeymoon in Hawaii today, and they both seemed very excited about the prospect.

All in all it was a fun day out, and it was certainly interesting to see how a Korean wedding works. I thought that the bubble machines and dry-ice were maybe a tad over the top, but they seemed to work well with the ceremony. The major annoyance of the ceremony was the ridiculous intrusiveness of the cameramen who were constantly standing in the way of the bride and groom and who really seemed to depersonalise the wedding. Still, at least there should be an ample record of it in the future.


After the Poem

Photo Time