Hopefully while living in Korea, you will get to experience a Korean wedding. It is extremely different from those that I have gone to in the West. Typically, weddings in America and Canada are all day events. Weddings there consist of the ceremony, dinner service, and then drinks and a party to round out the night. When I went to my first Korean wedding, it was a shocker. I think in total, the wedding ceremony was 25 minutes. Here are a few reasons why it is like that and here are some expectations when you do go to a Korean wedding.
Wedding Halls - Wedding halls can be found around any major subway station throughout Korea. With the pressure on couples to tie the knot, owning a wedding hall is a serious money making business. Going to a wedding here, it is very common for one room to accommodate three weddings within a three hour span. My Korean friends call them ‘wedding factories’ because they just get you in and directly push you out so the next couple can experience the same thing. The room where the ceremony takes place usually cannot hold all of the guests so many guests just stand at the back and wait for it to be over. It is common for the guests to even stand outside of the wedding. Another thing of note is, since the room is small and there are many guests inside, the room gets awfully loud. In America, it is usually quiet enough to hear the MC or the presider speak to the bride and groom. Maybe it’s Korean culture, but Korean guests talk a lot during the wedding ceremony.
Gift/Presents - In America, it is normal for couples to receive electronics, appliances, silverware, and whatever will be necessary to furnish the wedding couple's new home. In Korea, the only presents I have seen have all involved money. A lot of my friends have used that money that they have received as a gift to help pay off the debt from the wedding. So here is a general rule about giving money as a present in Korea.
$30 - Is the minimum to give because this will help offset the cost of the buffet afterwards; if you bring a guest, I suggest to at least add this amount to your gift.
$50 - $70 - This is a good amount if you are an acquaintance or a friend of the couple.
$100 - This is a good amount if you are a really good friend or co-worker of the couple.
$200 - $300 - This is a really generous amount if you are a friend but are considered to be ‘family’ by the parents. Usually they are ‘as close to you as a brother or sister’ without being blood related.
$300+ - This is typically reserved if you are a blood relative to either the bride and groom.
Entertainment - I have been lucky enough to have been the entertainment for some of my friends’ weddings. Usually, one of their close friends or a group of friends will sing a congratulatory song for the new couple. There is usually no party afterward, so this maybe some of the only music you will listen to during the event.
Food - (The only reason my students want to go to my wedding) Again, $30 is a good gift since it helps offset the price of the food at these wedding halls. The reason so, is that these wedding halls offer buffets to the guests. Once you present your monetary gift, the wedding attendant will hand you a ticket that allows you to enter the buffet. Good buffets in the Seoul area are expensive (i.e. not VIPS or Ashley’s) and a lot of the food at the wedding hall is of good quality. As a result you get a pretty good buffet at a reasonable price. However, it is a buffet and it is a wedding hall, so you do have to share the food with the guests from other wedding parties. But hey, it’s a good chance to strike up a conversation and meet someone new!
Hopefully, you will get a chance to experience a wedding in Korea. It is definitely something that I will never forget.
After working for five years in banking, Marc decided that it was time for a change before he got too old. He left the stress from his 9-5 job to do something new and different. After coming to Korea with a group of buddies, he landed in the Gangdong Branch in Eastern Seoul. When he's not teaching and doing head instructor duties, he is out about traveling Korea, looking for the new, old, and undiscovered places to visit.