Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Wedding

So, I didn't actually write the wedding details, did I? (Sorry, Katie. I was just explaining an event before the wedding day :) ).

I arrived at Shinhwa Yeshikjang (Wedding Hall) thirty minutes before the ceremony began. People were already milling around.  A lady in the lobby told me to go upstairs to the second floor. I walked up with other relatives and friends who had just arrived. On the second floor, the first person I spotted in the crowd was the groom. He was standing in the open room greeting guests. Various people (probably family members) occasionally walked up to him to adjust his tie. We exchanged greetings, and he told me that our other mutual friend would arriving soon. He asked where Corey was. I didn't know, I told him. I'd waited outside the Dunkin Donuts at 12 like we'd arranged the night before, but he never showed up. I didn't tell him that part though. Instead, I went to go peek at the bride. She was in a small sitting room off to the side. It was decorated beautifully for photo-taking. I think people could just go up and ask to take a picture with her. I'm not quite sure if people were going in to take pics with her, or if they were going in to greet her while she was in the middle of taking pictures. Still, when there was a free moment, I peeked my head in and said hi. 너무 예뻐요, very beautiful, I told her. I might've mispronounced a syllable, now that I think of it. Still, she smiled kindly and said thank you. Afterwards, I headed back downstairs to wait for the phone friend.

Instead of seeing my phone friend arrive, I saw Corey come in. A-ha! He responded with the same phrase. There was a moment where he explained what had happened to him. He'd forgotten about the wedding and was about to settle down to watch a movie, when suddenly, the word wedding popped into his head and he rushed over! Ah, I see.... I told him what was happening upstairs ( i.e. everything), and we went upstairs to greet the groom again. Look! Corey has arrived!

There was a moment of watching all the other people in the room and guessing who they were, which side of the family they were on. Some people we'd met at the phone shop came over to talk to us. Then, Corey and I noticed white envelopes everywhere. We asked someone about them. Is it some gift you give to the bride and groom?  Maybe. Every time I asked about these envelopes in the past, someone would start to explain, and then say, "...but you don't need to do it." I wanted to know why! So the person we asked started to explain. He said something about you putting money in the envelope and writing your name on the outside. You return it to the desk where they hand out the envelopes, and your name is recorded (somewhere, but someone). Then, in the future, if you have a wedding (or wedding-related event), "they" will give you some money towards the event. I guess it's an investment of some sort. Corey and I decided to give some money anyways. We wrote our names on the outside of our envelopes. They looked drastically different from all the others (English letters vs. Korean hangeul). Then we were told that women return their envelopes on one station, and men turn theirs in to a separate station. There wasn't time to ask why, as our informant started going to talk to other people. We mosied about for a little while until our phone friend showed up. After that, there were just a few minutes left until the ceremony began.

Ok, so let me explain the layout of the room. When you walk up the stairs, there's this open area. On the left is the little half-room (the size of a large closet) that the bride sat in. On the right is a second room (only set apart by the change in decoration and flooring). The second room is where the ceremony takes place. Down the center of the room was a raised glass (or most likely plastic?) platform, which the bride, groom, etc. would use to walk to the front of the room. At the front was a stage of sorts, with a few steps at the front (which came in handy during picture-taking time). The room itself was decorated very nicely. There were many lights everywhere: chandeliers, fake candelabras, etc. In the minutes before the ceremony, the fancy lights above the platform went on and off like timed Christmas lights. As Corey correctly pointed out, it looked like the inside of a noraebang. It was a little TOO flashy. An announcer near the front corner introduced all the event thereafter. The mothers-in-law walked the platform first, turned away from each other and walked to opposite ends of the stage to each light a candle. Then the came to the front of the stage and bowed before taking their seats. Then it was time for the groom to enter. He walked up the platform and bowed to the audience, too. Following him was the bride and her father. Here, the lights did more fancy synchronizing. The bride and groom joined and the ceremony ensued. There was about 10 minutes of speech from a priest-like person in the front of the room. From what I could understand, he talked about normal marriage things: happiness, love, the city they live in... things like that. Then the ceremony was somehow complete and the couple turned to the audience to bow. I suppose that here, the priest-like person pronounced them a married couple. The couple then turned to the bride's family and bowed. I couldn't see clearly from my seat, but I suppose the groom did a full-body bow (including kneeling down), because he would disappear completely from view during this time. The bride did a modest bow. The couple then turned to the groom's family and repeated the gestures. After much bowing, the bride and groom faced the announcer, who was standing next to the wedding singers. At this time, the singers sang a romantic song ...or tried to. The female singer, she's a really good singer, normally, so I mistook her performance as her feeling under the weather and not having recovered enough to sing the whole song. Later I found out she wasn't sick, just nervous. You see the female singer got a case of stage fright. Finally, everyone was to clap again for the couple, signalling the end of the ceremony.

Now, I should've written this earlier, because I can't remember if they exited via the platform or just stayed on the stage. It matters because after the ceremony was about 20 minutes of picture-taking. There were pictures with immediate family, pictures with all relatives, and pictures with friends. I was happy to take part in the last picture! I hope that when they are old and grey and looking at their wedding pictures, they will remember my name... *daydreams*

Erm, anyways. Some comments about the ceremony. During the ENTIRE ceremony, the people standing in the open hall would NOT stop talking. This wasn't just whispering commentary about the happenings of the ceremony. No. The people talked with normal voice levels, sometimes higher. Sometimes they could be heard over the priest-like person's speech. They were talking loud enough (and not paying attention enough) to not clap when all the sitting guests clapped. Later, it was explained that the family members were merely catching up because they hadn't seen/heard from each other in so long. ...Still! I say, if you traveled this far to see a wedding, you should WATCH THE WEDDING!

Another somewhat funny thing to mention is the use of music during the ceremony. It was like filming a movie. You know, when you watch a series of scenes, and they each have their own background music? This is what the wedding was like. Some of the sounds were odd, like when the priest-like person began his speech. The sound of birds and woodland creatures played on the speakers. Corey and I looked at each other, baffled.

After the ceremony and pictures, there was lunch two floors down. The bride and groom shared a special room with immediate relatives on the first floor, while other guests ate together in the kitchen area below.  One of the dishes served was a bowl of noodles. Noodles symbolize long life and happiness. After lunch, everyone was free to go, but most just continued to mingle.

Yes, so that was the wedding! Overall, it was really enjoyable. I'm glad to have witnessed a Korean wedding.

'Til next time,

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