My Big Fat Korean Wedding

I mentioned in my last post that Donghee and I had a wedding ceremony in Korea before coming to the US to get “legally” married.  Even though it wasn’t legal, we still considered ourselves married afterwards.  When we were back in the US planning our second wedding, my mom kept telling people that it was my second wedding.  Finally, I had to ask her to at least tell people it was the same guy.  People were getting the wrong idea.  One lady still thought we had gotten divorced and were getting back together.  Haha:)  Anyway, I thought I would go into more detail about our Korean wedding!

In Korea, most weddings take place in big wedding halls.  I had been to a few of my coworkers weddings when I was teaching in Korea, so I had an idea of what to expect.  I didn’t realize how much is actually done at the wedding hall.  I didn’t ask a whole lot of questions.  I just let Donghee’s mom do her thing, but from what I could tell, there’s a lot less you have to do to plan a Korean wedding.  No need to worry about decorations.  I’m pretty sure they leave the room the same for every wedding.  I did get to choose my bouquet from a book.

You choose your dresses at the wedding hall as well.  I wish they had given me a book for those too, but they just brought out 4 or 5 random dresses for me to try on.  No alterations are made.  They just pin it in the back and hide it with the veil.  I had to choose 2 for engagement photos as well as the actual wedding dress.  I guess Korea doesn’t have any rules about seeing the bride in her dress before the wedding, because Donghee was sitting there while I was trying on dresses!

They also did my hair and makeup for the engagement photos and wedding at the wedding hall.  They put sooooo much makeup on my face!  From a distance it looked good, but up close I looked scary.  Donghee got his hair and makeup done as well.  I think he was glad we didn’t put him through that again for the US wedding.

The engagement photos were not at the wedding hall.  We went to some kind of studio after getting our hair and makeup done.  They had tons of staged setups and props for pictures.  We had to choose 2 more formal outfits at the studio to wear along with the 2 wedding dresses, hanbok, and casual clothes Donghee’s aunt bought especially for these pictures.  We were there ALL day.





We were very tired afterwards, but it was kinda fun:)

As for the wedding, I mentioned in my last post that there is a western-style ceremony followed by a Korean ceremony.  The “western-style” uses a lot of our traditions, but in some different ways.  Let me explain.

1.  The Bride.  At American weddings, the bride is usually kept hidden until she walks down the aisle.  It is often considered bad luck for the groom to see her before the wedding.  Even if they opt to do a first look, it is meant to be a private, special moment for the couple.  Typically, it is even considered rude to wear white to someone’s wedding, as that would take away from the bride.  At our Korean wedding, Donghee sat in the same room as I got my hair and makeup done.  After I put on my dress and he put on his suit, we were rushed to a little room where Donghee’s mom was in a wedding dress getting her picture taken!  Apparently, she had never gotten to wear a wedding dress before, so she was taking advantage of this opportunity.  She took it off before the ceremony, so I was ok with it.  So Donghee’s mom and I got lots of pictures together in our wedding dresses.  I got pictures with Donghee as well.  Then the little room became mine.  That was where I was to sit until the wedding so guests could come take pictures with me.


2.  The Rings.  Not all married Koreans actually wear wedding rings!  Donghee had a hard time understanding why I wanted an engagement ring and a wedding ring while he only got one.  Rings are not even part of the marriage ceremony.  We wore them, but there was no exchanging of rings.  We got engaged in NZ, so we looked for rings there, but decided it would be cheaper to buy them in Korea or America.  Donghee’s mom ended up buying me a set of rings and bringing them when she visited us in NZ.  One has a ruby and the other has a sapphire.  Donghee bought the rings from her and gave them to me.  I wore those in the Korean wedding.  My aunt gave me my grandmother’s wedding rings after we moved to the US.  So now I have 4 wedding rings!  I wear the US rings on my left hand and my Korean rings on my right.

3.  The Guests.  The first time I attended a Korean wedding, I assumed the wedding and the reception would take place in the same room because the chairs were situated around tables.  This was not the case.  I can only assume the seating is like this so that the guests can talk to each other more easily, because that is what they do during the whole wedding!  It is usually quite noisy because while you are having your wedding, there are people waiting outside for the next wedding.  Also, instead of wedding gifts, the guests give money in order to get their meal ticket for the reception.  The money goes to the parents to help pay for the wedding.

4.  Recognizing the Parents.  We often recognize the mothers or parents somehow in western-style weddings, perhaps by presenting rose or some gift.  In Korea, bowing is a big part of the culture, so to honor Donghee’s mother and father (my parents couldn’t come), we bowed to them during the ceremony.  Another big difference I would like to point out at this point is that there was no wedding rehearsal!  Anyway, at the beginning of the ceremony, Donghee and I bowed to each other.  Not a big bow, just like a low head nod.  After the I do’s, we went to bow to Donghee’s parents.  Donghee whispers to me, “Do like me.”  When Donghee bows, he kneels on the floor and bows his head to the ground.  I was a little unsure, but I copy him and bow on the floor in my wedding dress.  Everybody starts laughing, and Donghee asks, “What are you doing?!”  Apparently, he meant I should do like him the first time when we bowed to each other!  Ooops!


5.  The Cake.  After bowing to Donghee’s parents was the cake cutting.  Everyone can use the same cake, because the cake is not actually real!  First, they light candles on top of the cake and we blow them out like its our birthday.  Then we pretend to cut the fake cake with a huge sword.  It was quite amusing really.


6.  The Bouquet Toss.  Instead of having all the single girls fighting each other to catch the bouquet like they do in the US, in Korea, the bride chooses the lucky girl who will get to catch the bouquet.  The whole thing is very staged for pictures.  The other guests and groom are instructed to clap while the bride tosses the bouquet for the girl to catch.Image

Following the western-style ceremony, while most of the guests went in the reception hall to eat, we had a Korean ceremony with just the family.  We changed into our Hanbok (Korean traditional dress).  I was wearing my hanbok plus several other layers of wedding hanbok.  It was very hot!  We bowed for Donghee’s family and poured tea for them.  They gave us words of advice and money.


Donghee’s parents threw dates and chestnuts for us to catch in the apron of my hanbok.  The chestnuts we caught represent the number of boys we will have and the dates represent the number of girls.  Apparently we will have 6 girls and 1 boy.  Yikes!  Donghee and I then poured tea for each other and then he carried me around the table piggyback-style.

So, was my Korean wedding everything I dreamed it would be?  I thoroughly enjoyed the Korean ceremony.  Although I didn’t completely understand what was going on, I loved the tradition of it.  The western-style ceremony…ehh.  It just lacked the uniqueness and personality that we put into planning weddings in the US.  But, I married the man of my dreams AND I knew that we still had another wedding to plan exactly the way we wanted!


About koreanbymarriage

My name is Jennifer. I love to travel. I taught English in Korea for two years, which is where I met my husband, Donghee. We also lived in New Zealand for over a year. Now we are back in the US ready to start adventures here!
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2 Responses to My Big Fat Korean Wedding

  1. Pingback: My American Wedding! | KoreanByMarriage

  2. Pingback: Big Bow Wedding Dresses | Tucson Pool Saz: Tech - Gaming - News

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