Thursday, October 14, 2010

I Love Weddings!

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of a Canadian expat (Desmond) and his lovely Korean fiancee (Serena) in Daegu.  This was the second wedding I have attended in Korea, but the first traditional Korean wedding.  When my co-teacher Yeon Ah got married this summer she had a big poofy white dress, her husband had a tux, and it was held in a Catholic wedding hall that basically just looked like a huge church.  Aside from the language and the food at the reception there was very little about it that said "Korean."  Desmond and Serena, however, decided to have a traditional ceremony and we were all really excited to be a part of it.

Saturday morning I met Chrissy, Julia, Shannon, Jamie, Erich, Frank and Melissa at Seoul Station and hopped aboard a KTX for the hour and forty-five minute ride down to Dongdaegu station.  Our first order of business was to take a subway over to Daegu Station and find our hotel.  Chrissy's cousin lives in Daegu and had suggested the Union Tourist Hotel, which is conveniently located just a few blocks from the station.  After a slight confusion about the reservations that had been made, we were sent up to our room.  It was REALLY nice, beautiful spacious room which made me momentarily question my plans to return to Seoul that night (in the end the promise of sleeping late Sunday won out over beautiful hotel room and I did go back).  It also had the nicest bathroom (with a tub!) of any hotel I've ever seen in Korea.  Those who needed to changed and we headed out to hail a taxi to take us to the ceremony site.

Me, Erich, Jamie and Shannon

Melissa, Frank, Chrissy and Julia

About four dollars and twenty minutes later we arrived at Daegu Hyanggyo, a Confucian school founded in the late 1300s.  The wedding ceremony was held out in the court yard and it was a nice day even though some clouds looked threatening.  In traditional ceremonies the bride and groom are each brought in on a palanquin (also known as a gama in Korea) and Erich and Frank were asked/chosen to be one of the carriers (not pallbearers as people kept calling them, haha).  Desmond was carried in first.  He was wearing a blue jacket called a jeogori (저고리) because blue is the traditional wedding color for men. He also had on a fancy weighted belt and a rather dapper black hat. As he rode on the gama he held up a piece of red paper in front of him, obscuring most of his face. Desmond's friend Eric carried a wedding duck behind the gama.  Ducks mate for life and are a symbol of good luck at weddings here.  Traditionally a pair of carved wooden ducks are presented to the wedding couple.  

Daegu Hyanngyo

Ceremony grounds

Desmond getting to the ceremony with a little help from his friends.

Waiting for his bride.

Serena was carried in on the gama next and she looked absolutely beautiful.  The traditional wedding color for a bride here is red, and she was wearing a red skirt called a chima (치마) with a red jeogori (저고리) over it that had colorful strips of fabric going down the sleeves.  On her arms she held a white sash with cranes embroidered on it in colorful thread.  Cranes are a sign of long life in Korea, so they are also a good luck symbol at weddings.  On her head she had a small traditional hat with a black veil with embroidered flowers coming off of it and down her back/over her shoulders.  Hard to explain, easier to understand in picture form. On the whole trip on the gama Serena was supposed to look demure and have her eyes shyly downcast.  Most of the time she pulled this off...but a radiant smile full of excitement did bubble its way up every once in a while.

Carrying Serena to her wedding.

Beautiful gama.

Can't contain that smile!
(Photo by Eric Gingerich)

When Serena reached the flower arch were Desmond was waiting, still holding up the paper.  Traditionally many marriages were "blind" marriages, meaning that neither the bride nor the groom had seen each other prior to their wedding day.  The red paper is part of the ceremony now to represent that moment when the bride and groom were first revealed to each other.  This part of the ceremony is called the gyobaerye, and it is when "the bride and groom face each other for the first time and exchange ceremonial bows. First, the bride bows twice. Then the groom bows once in return. This act is repeated twice." After this greeting they were walked down the aisle to the altar. (I might as well note at this point that there were three older women in hanboks who walked Desmond and Serena through every step of the wedding, helping them complete various tasks and keeping them on track.  It was very interesting.  You will see them in the pictures in pink and maroon hanboks.)
Desmond revealed for his bride.

Worth the wait...Serena looked gorgeous.

Well hello there soon-to-be-spouse!

At the altar.

During the ceremony there was a lot of bowing (twice as much for Serena as Desmond, even though she had about eight tons of clothing on and my arms got tired just looking at her!) and fast talking in Korean by the officiant. There was also consumption of wine during the portion of the ceremony called hapgeullye.  "In this ceremony wine is served in a gourd dipper. The gourd dipper, once half of a whole, symbolizes man and wife. It signifies that the bride and groom were once one, born separately, and now reunited through their marriage."  So that is pretty cool.  At one point they were also fed some things, not sure what, that made Desmond make a hilarious face. Perhaps not the most delicious wedding dish?  Haha.

Bowing (and, coincidentally, fast Korean talking).

During the ceremony.

They were so happy.

Drinking the ceremonial wine from a gourd.

After the ceremony was complete they had their mothers come up to the front and bow to the guests with them.  Desmond's brother also came up and gave a toast (with Jin translating) which was really heartfelt and sweet.  Then it was time for a flurry of pictures with all of the various groups who came to the wedding.  Family!  People from Seoul!  English teachers!  Friends from college!  (By the way, I love this idea now, just like I loved it when James and Meredith did it at their reception in Pennsylvania.)  

The newlyweds with their moms.
The lovely toast from Desmond's brother.

Walking down the aisle as a married couple!

And off they go!

(Extended) Family photo.

Fo' Sho' representing at Desmond's wedding.

During this time I went up and took some more photos of the altar after Shannon informed me that there was a  LIVE CHICKEN AND ROOSTER that I had missed.  The birds are part of the ceremony as a symbol of fertility, and are usually just hanging out.  During the ceremony before Desmond and Serena's the chicken had tried to run away, so both were trussed up in fancy little color coordinated bags.  I was just impressed by how quiet they were.

Altar, complete with rooster and chicken.

In traditional Korean weddings, the chicken is also allowed to make a toast.

The last part of the traditional ceremony is called pyebaek, and it is when the newlyweds pay their respects to their families (especially the groom's family).  It is a closed event and gift exchange, so I am not 100% sure of what went on.  I did sneak a picture though...

Gift giving ceremony.

After the ceremony was over we taxied back to our hotel, and went over to Lotte Mart for dinner.  While walking through the store to the restaurant I slipped on something that had been spilled right in the path of travel and totally wiped out.  Less than thrilled, and it messed up my hip/ankle for a few days.  Damn non-litigious society.  We had dinner (the most random assortment of foods I've eaten in a while) and then I headed out on the train and back to Seoul.

It was a quick trip down to Daegu but it was a lot of fun, and it was wonderful to be able to not only see a traditional ceremony but also support a friend on a very happy day!

Congratulations to the lovely couple!
(Photo by Eric Gingerich)

If you'd like to learn more about traditional Korean weddings, check out Wikipedia, Korean Tourism Organization's Website, and this article on Suite101.

No comments:

Post a Comment