Sunday, March 30, 2008

Korean Wedding

At pretty much every wedding, the hall is filled with people with varying degrees of interest in the proceedings. For the bride, her parents, and sometimes the groom, it’s the most important day of their lives. For others, like close friends, enemies, rivals, and relatives of the couple, it still stands as a pretty substantial day. Of course, every wedding also includes a select few that aren’t remotely involved or interested, and may go so far as to crack jokes non-stop throughout the ceremony , treating it as a live-action Mystery Science Theater experience. I was proud to be firmly in the latter camp on Saturday afternoon.

What the hell was I doing at a wedding in Korea, you may be asking yourself? A female Korean co-worker of mine that I’m not all that close with was getting married, so several of the other teachers were going. More importantly, I was there to see what a Korean wedding is all about, for the benefit of you, the reader. I expected to see ridiculous Korean hilarity, and I was not disappointed.

First off, this isn't the wedding I was attending. This is some random wedding party, 15 minutes before Ji Eun's (the co-worker) was to start. Korean weddings don't occur at churches or outdoors or anywhere mildly unique. From what I understand, they all take place in wedding halls, almost a Vegas-style wedding factory, though less classy. There aren't any bridesmaids or groomsmen, and the bride and groom rent the dress and tux straight from the hall.



Anyway, on to the proceedings. Our group took a picture with the bride before the wedding. Clearly no superstition here about the bride being out and about before the ceremony. That, and she’s burning valuable dress rental time, so why not do the pictures while the previous wedding party is still present in the hall?



We entered the hall to take out seats. The hall had a large, though poor video projection screen of the alter, and a small orchestra sat in the front off to the side, though I don’t think they actually played anything, all the music seemed to be piped in. Shortly befere the groom entered, two hot chicks dressed like stewardesses stood opposite one another halfway down the aisle. The were both carrying swords. By the way, if I get married, there will absolutely be weapon-brandishing stewardesses involved.
The stewardesses raised their swords in the air, and the lights dimmed as extremely cheesy light effects darted around the walls, and the brief introduction of a techno song played. Ladies and gentlemen, YOUR 1996 New York Islanders! Never mind, it’s just the groom. The stewardesses formed the swords into a bridge, and the groom walked under it, alone, and stood at the alter alone, with the priest or whatever the hell he was standing behind the sizable alter. Then the bride did the same thing. They stood together, and then, I shit you not, a smoke machine under the alter started up for a few seconds, but I didn't get the picture in time.


After what felt like hours due to the poor PA system, the fact that everything was in Korean, and the fact that the hall was probably about 147 degrees and I was in a suit, the bride and groom moved over to an area to the side with cake and champagne. They poured the champagne and huzzah! Another smoke machine! They also cut the cake, but did not feed it too each other. In fact, I never saw that cake again, it wasn't at the reception. After taking two champagne glasses, they returned to the alter and did a "love shot," drinking through locked arms. Then, they bowed to the "priest" and to the crowd, and it was over! No kiss, which is unusual, even in a Korean wedding.



More loud piped in music was played, and the bride and groom walked up the aisle as the stewardesses shot confetti at them out of trumpets. That is not a sentence I ever imagined writing. There were some pictures to deal with before moving on to the reception. Sadly, I was in the best one, thus couldn't take it. In the picture with the co-workers was when the photographer finally had the couple kiss. This was almost indescribable. The level of passion was somewhere between kissing an aunt and kissing a dog. Next,the bride threw the bouquet, but to a pre-arranged recipient standing alone about a foot behind her.


We adjourned to the "reception." I'd heard Korean wedding receptions were bad, though I was still surprised at how bad it really was. The reception was a buffet upstairs from the ceremony hall, and quite crowded since other wedding parties were there too.
The room had all the charm of a Korean department store's food court. There was no toast, no dancing, no music, no bridal table, no entertainment of any form. Just buffet food that people ate as fast as possible at tables with the people they came to the wedding with, no mingling of any kind. The bride and groom walked around the tables, now dressed formal but no longer in their rented wedding attire. By 4 p.m., two thirds of the guests had left. The ceremony had begun at 3 p.m. My group were late stragglers, we stayed until the bitter end, 5 p.m. I threw down two beers, but really didn't even feel like drinking them. None of my other co-workers had any. No reason to really, since there were no bridesmaids to hit on, no dancing, no reason to even be there, really.


None of these aspects, by the way, are remotely unique to Ji-eun. She didn't go out to host a shit wedding, she went out to host a wedding that, from what I hear, is exactly the same as every other wedding here. Still, it was unquestionably the lamest wedding I've ever been to. My buddy Jon is having one here in Korea in a few months, and I expect better. I certainly don't want to get home from a wedding at 5:30 in the afternoon, sober as a clergyman. If I'm putting on the suit, I at least expect to be entertained until it's late enough to go to the bar.






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