Traditional wedding ceremonies, with the elaborately costumed groom riding in a palanquin to the house of the bride to share ceremonial sips of wine at their first meeting are now seen only at the Folk Village. Instead, most Koreans have Western-style weddings. After the ceremony is conducted with the bride wearing a white wedding gown, the bride and groom usually change into traditional Korean clothing to pay homage to the parents in a separate, smaller room.
Wedding are generally held either in a Wedding Hall or in a hotel, although an increasing number take place in churches. Non-church weddings are often presided over by a university professor, company president, politician or other high-ranking person. The marriage is not official until it has been registered at the local district office. During the ceremony, which last about 15 minutes at most, people may talk or leave to partake in the food that’s been laid out.
Guests bring money, not gifts, to the ceremony. At weddings, there is a table placed at the entrance where each guest is greeted and his gift accepted and even recorded for either the groom’s or the bride’s side. Some guests - usually foreign but also Korean - prefer to buy the couple household items such as electrical appliance, glasses, crystal, etc. and leave the wrapped package on the table on the day of the wedding. However, money is still the most common gift to give. Occasionally, a guest will bring both money and a gift.
The bills should be new (you can get them at any bank) and put in a special white wedding enveloppe. A regular white cash envelop (opens at the top) can also be used, but it should be pristine. The amount of the gift depends on the guest's status. The manager of an office or one of the chief officers of a firm would be expected to give the largest cash gift.
To know how much to give, you'll want to check your colleagues or support staff. At the time this is being written, the following would be appropriate:
30-50,000 Won - if either the bride or groom is an acquaintance or colleague or if you are acquainted with one of her/his parents.
100,000 won or a little more - if either the groom or bride or one of their parent works for your company. The higher the parent's rank in the company or the closer the work relationship, the more you will be expected to give.
Again, check to find out what others recommend you give or what they are giving themselves. Not to worry too much, however, as a foreign guest, you will be forgiven any faux-pas you may make. Same goes for what you wear.
Wedding attire for family is often traditional, but for everyone else almost anything goes. A safe rule-of-thumb is to wear 'business attire' or 'business casual'. No need, usually, to worry about hats or colour. You'll probably see women wearing white, black and all the colours between. If there's a special theme, it may be on the invitation, if you receive one.
Wedding invitations can be both formal (printed) or casual (verbal). Koreans like to have a lot of people at their wedding and the verbal invitation isn't any indication of how important (or not) they think you are, nor is it a reflection of your relationship to the person inviting you.
The ceremony itself is more 'ceremonial' than legal. An important person (as opposed to a legal/religious official - unless in a church) officiates, but the marriage is not legal until the couple has registered the marriage with the government. This may have occured earlier or it may be done some time later. If you are a foreign guest, you may find yourself invited to pose for many, many photographs. Enjoy!
K4E Editor: Korea4Expats.com tries to ensure that the information we provide is accurate and complete, so should you notice any errors or omissions in the content above please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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