Weddings in Korea Part 1

After the last wedding I attended/was a part of, I promised myself I would never participate in another one again.

Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely believe that it’s an honor to be invited and participate in a wedding. Having a deep bond with someone, even semi-obligatory because they are a blood relation, is special and not something I take lightly. I do not regret supporting my friends and family on one of the happiest days of their lives. When I say that I never want to/don’t plan to attend a wedding again, it is for a purely selfish reason.

The first selfish reason I prefer not to attend weddings is that they make me sad, out of longing and jealousy for something that has forever seamed out of my reach. Having never dated while watching my friends and family find love and happiness year after year made me very bitter at one point in my life. Partially because for years, everyone told me that one day it’ll happen to you, don’t worry in the same breath that they would say to me how jealous they were that I was single and wish they could do what I do. I get what they were saying, don’t worry, enjoy your life, but they said it in the most untasteful and hurtful way. Honestly, those words made me ashamed of feeling jealous of my friends while ignoring the pain and sadness that weddings brought me.

Now that I embrace those feelings instead of burring them, I no longer feel ashamed because I’m embracing what my future holds as someone single without ties and obligations to work or a significant other. I am happier for it.

The second reason ties into the first because well weddings are lonely and not always fun. Not to say that I did not have a blast at my friend’s Universal wedding or a family member’s wedding in Savana, Georgia, but overall I find them to be lonely. My life path has taken me far from friends and family, where I have grown apart. Catching up with people you haven’t seen in years doesn’t always equate to a joyous drunken occasion that movies and tv shows portray. More often, they are painfully awkward. Where one party or both have been through many challenges that they would rather not discuss with a used-to-be friend.

To add to the awkwardness and loneliness, I never get a plus one (not that I would have someone to invite, but still). So most of the time, I’m either avoiding awkward situations with people I used to know, making small talk with people I don’t know, or sitting and drinking way too much at my table because leaving before the wedding is over is not an option.

Weddings are not always the party romance movies tell you about when you’re the guest. Again selfish, but I forwarned you this was a selfish decision.

The third reason is that they are sooooo expensive. Honestly, a financial burden when you are living paycheck to paycheck. Between outfits, plane tickets, gifts, it all adds up. Even when more than half the trip is paid for by someone else, I end up spending the same amount I could have taken to go on vacation for the same amount of time or worse, I don’t have PTO at all, so I lose up to a week of pay minimum of 4 days that month.

The last reason is working as a bridal seamstress and stylist and just being a friend; I’ve seen the worst weddings bring out in people. The fights, disagreements, and drama are not worth having a wedding despite having dreamt of and in some ways still wanting a big wedding. Why I don’t care to partake in them, and if it so happens that I find love, I will be eloping to Italy. You are all welcome to come, but it’s not my concern to throw more than a dinner party with wine and cocktails.

Despite making this promise to myself two years ago, here I am invited and going to two weddings in Korea. Yep, I broke the promise. Part of it is I still have an inter soft-hearted romantic side that wants to see people happy. The other part is that I’m in Korea, and the Opportunity to experience wedding traditions in another culture is exciting.

So exciting that I spent quite a bit on a new dress and jewelry for the wedding. To be fair, none of my clothing, including my work clothing, fits me anymore, so the dress was necessary, but still, here I am spending more than I would like for a chance to get fancy for the first time in 2 years at a wedding.

Yes, I’m 100% a diva, what can I do about it.

The first wedding was a 2-hour train ride away in Jeonju, South Korea. My friends’ Co-teacher was getting married, and he was able to invite 10 NET’s (Native English Speaking teachers). I confess that this wedding ended up being what I had envisioned going to a wedding with friends and acquaintances would feel like.

I woke up early to get ready because Korean weddings happen very early. Although we were dressed to the nines on time for the 11:30am wedding, we ran late trying to catch a taxi to the venue, a giant building with several floors dedicated to weddings.

I put money in an envelope to claim my meal ticket; yes, You have to pay usually a minimum of 50,000KRW (USD 42.46) to get a meal ticket, and rushed into the wedding hall since the music had started.

The ceremony was beautiful yet chaotic. With no bridal party, it was just the happy couple center stage reciting traditional vows to each other than bowing to their parents. The groom even broke out in song to his bride after exchanging rings. The first kiss happens at the entrance to the aisle at the end of the ceremony before a few quick group photos before being ushered out for the next wedding to happen just 30 min later.

Did I mention the chaos? I’m not sure if it’s any more chaotic than a western wedding. Still, it felt that way with an officiant off to the side announcing the wedding like the price is right, with the photographer and wedding planner constantly guiding the couple on where to be and how to stand for the most perfect shots. The ceremony felt less formal, although it was more visually extravagant than a western wedding (maybe because the bride rents her wedding dress or the hall provides decorations on a 4 wedding budget, not 1, so each ceremony looks fancy and expensive). Despite the lack of formality and chaos, the couple’s love for each other was truly tangible.

After photos, we went down to the dining hall, where an extravagant buffet is provided for all the guests of every wedding held that day. Though no cake, traditional …… was served along with bottomless Soju and Beer.

My friend made a great choice on who they invited. We all instantly got along eating, and drinking like covid wasn’t a thing. Seriously though, in a group of 10 people at a wedding packed to the brim, it was wild that this wedding happened a week after restrictions were lightened, and we were able to gather like this.

Even after we were finished eating till our hearts were content, we could walk (or drive) around Jeonju together in ways that had been off-limits for so long. This wedding with those great friends is what I had always imagined weddings could be fun and joyful. 10/10 if I stoop so low as to rate a wedding, which I am because having no responsibilities or obligations when attending a wedding hits differently.

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