Most Koreans marry in commercial weddings halls where the ceremony and the reception are carried out. A typical South Korean wedding, according to Reuters, “is an ostentatious affair often involving costume changes for bride and groom, sparklers, sappy songs and gifts aplenty for the couple and their parents. common items given as wedding gifts, such as fur coats for mothers-in-law and home electronics for the couple.” Phuket in Thailand is a popular honeymoon destination. [Source: Reuter, June 23, 2006]

Among the key moments of the Korean wedding ceremony are when a goose or a substitute for of a goose is passed from one person to another and placed on a table and bowed to. In a traditional wedding ceremony the goose is placed on the table with red pepper inserted in its beak as a token of love and decorated with blue and red thread as symbols of long life. The goose (actually mandarin duck) have traditionally been symbols fidelity and harmony because they mate for life.

In the private wedding ceremony with family the mother of the groom throws chestnuts on a cloth to symbolize the desire for the newlyweds to have healthy children. Or, after the wedding ceremony is over the groom’s mother throws dates and chestnuts towards the bride. The number she catches is supposed to predict the number of children she will have in the future.

Donald N. Clark wrote in “Culture and Customs of Korea”: “The traditional Korean marriage ceremony — the one where the bride and groom never met before their wedding — consisted of three phases: the betrothal, the presentation of the wild goose, and the bride's move to the groom's house. These phases took place over a period of time, and the element most closely approximating what we would call a wedding "ceremony" was the exchange of gifts, the series of bows, and the trading of wine cups that happened in the house (or courtyard) of the bride. It was never too early to start looking for a potential spouse.” [Source: “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Greenwood Press, 2000]

At the time of the wedding ceremony, “the groom would have been "capped"; that is, his long boyish braid would have been tied into a topknot and he would have been given a man's proper headband and hat. The hat was a dignified symbol of male adulthood, and any man without one advertised himself either as a member of the laboring class and/or as an unmarried "boy" no matter what his age. Thus fitted with the trappings of mature manhood and after having announced his marriage to his forebears at the family's ancestral shrine, the groom was ready for his wedding.”

Traditional Weddings

In the old days, after the families of the bride and groom agreed to the marriage, the bride prepared household goods while the groom sent gifts called "ham" to the bride's house. The ham — a fancy lacquer box — usually contained things like jewelry and expensive clothes, chosen in accordance with the "Four Pillars and Eight Characters" of the groom's birthday and purchased by the bridegroom's family.

A few days before the wedding, the bridegroom and his friends presented the "ham" to the bride, whose family had prepared a feast for the guests. The person who carried the ham was called the "horse," a reference to the fact that he and bridegroom arrived on horseback. The groom was also accompanied by his father or grandfather and an entourage of gift bearers, servants, relatives and friends. When they arrived at the brides' houses, a sort game ensued: the groom's entourage tried to delay giving the ham and the bride's family tried to coax them to hand it over with "bribes" of food, drink and money. Then there is a party.

The ham is usually a lacquered wood box decorated with black arabesque designs and contains Chaedan (wedding presents sent by the groom's family for the bride's) and Honseo (a written marriage oath to the family of his bride). The Honseo, wrapped in black silk, specifies the name of the sender (groom and his father) and expresses groom's gratitude to bride's parents for the marriage. The wife is to keep Honseo with her forever, having it buried with her when she dies. Chaedan includes red and blue fabrics used to make clothing. The blue fabrics are wrapped with red threads, while the red fabrics with blue threads. The two colors represent the philosophy of Eum Yang (Yin Yang). Once the ham arrives at the bride's house, it is placed atop a rice-cake steamer in which bongchaetteok (steamed glutinous rice cake sprinkled with red bean powder) are prepared. The rice cake is shaped in two layers to symbolize a couple. The red beans are to ward off misfortune whereas the seven jujubes (Korean dates) in the cake represent seven sons to wish the couple many sons and prosperity. [Source:]

Some families still carry on the ham tradition. Rich families sometimes give the groom US$5,000 in exchange for the ham. Poor families give much less. Once, a newlywed husband was so upset that his wife's family gave him only US$125 for the ham, he reportedly badgered his wife about it so unmercifully she leapt to her death from her hotel room on her wedding night.

In the old days couples were sometimes married when the girl was 15 and the boy was 14 and the groom was hung upside down and “beat” on the soles of his feet for "stealing" the bride from her family. Sometimes the bride had dots applied to her cheekbones to ward off evil spirits. Some Korean families still hire professional mourner to cry at weddings.

Before a Traditional the Wedding

In the old day, Donald N. Clark wrote in “Culture and Customs of Korea”: “By the time children were nine or ten their parents were fully involved in searching, and if two families decided on a suitable match there was no reason to wait until the bride and groom were old enough to get married. The families could arrange an engagement, or even a formal wedding, as early as age ten or twelve, and the bride would go to live with her husband's family, working as a kind of servant or additional child in the household, until at length she started bearing children. Factors to be considered when negotiating a possible marriage included the groom's "eight characters," which were the four pairs of characters that indicated the year, month, date, and hour of his birth. These were essential for divining his fate and could bode ill for a marriage with someone whose signs were incompatible. [Source: “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Greenwood Press, 2000]

“Prospective mates had to be from different clans, since Koreans practiced strict exogamy. The negotiations, which may have begun orally, passed to a written stage with the exchange of letters of proposition and intent that were signed by family elders on both sides, affirming the interest of the entire lineage in the bargain. This exchange led to the betrothal, which was a kind of engagement sealed by an exchange of gifts. The groom's side sent silks and various domestic items in a box that also contained a wedding contract to be signed, which sealed the bargain and constituted the legal basis for the marriage.

“The betrothal, which could precede the actual wedding by a considerable time, was in many respects more important than the wedding itself. It was then that a young woman became committed to her groom's family, and if the groom died after the betrothal but before the actual wedding, and even if the couple were still children, the bride's commitment to the groom's family could not be broken and she could not marry anyone else. There are many stories of Korean girls whose husbands died before the marriages were consummated and were required to live as virgin widows for the rest of their natural lives.”

Traditional Wedding Ceremony

The traditional Korean wedding ceremony takes about a half an hour and was traditionally held at the bride’s family house. Every little detail means something. The dress, accessories, position, food, and even all the bowing and drinking indicate something. In the old days, and still sometimes today, bride was carried to wedding site in a palequin and the groom arrived in a horse. The couple was dressed in colorful ceremonial clothes. The bride wore a chokturi (a black crown-like headpiece) and the groom wore a samokwandae (a ceremonial hat that looked like a Mickey Mouse hat with the ears pulled down to sides). In the old days the wedding ceremony was often the first time the bride and groom saw each other’s faces.

Donald N. Clark wrote in “Culture and Customs of Korea”: One of the gifts carried by the groom’s entourage “was a wild goose, either real or wooden, for the bride's parents. The wedding ceremony would take place in the courtyard, sometimes under a tent, where the bride, elaborately dressed and made up, would be led to a position opposite the groom before a ceremonial table laden with ceremonial foods featuring nuts, cakes, and fruits. The bride would then bow four times, the groom would bow back — but not as many times — and the pair would sip from a cup of wine that would be passed back and forth.” [Source: “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Greenwood Press, 2000]

The traditional Korean wedding ceremony is full of colors. The courtyard at the wedding site can be decorated with more than fifty colors and shades. Music is sometimes provided by a samulnori (traditional percussion quartet) with a kkwaenggwari (a small gong), representing thunder; a jing (a larger gong), for wind; a janggu (an hourglass-shaped drum), rain; and a buk (a barrel drum similar to the bass drum), clouds. There can also be a performance of buchaechum — a Korean traditional fan dance. [Source:]

Key Part of the Traditional Wedding Ceremony

During the ceremony the following events take place: 1) Chin-young-rye (bride’s family greeting the groom): The groom enters the courtyard with girukabi (person leading the way with the wedding goose – best man). The girukabi hands the goose to groom. These days a wooden goose is used instead of the live one. 2) Jeon-an-rye (presentation of wooden goose): The groom places the goose on a table and bows twice to his mother-in-law. The Mother-in-law takes the goose into the house. The bowing represents the promise of commitment to each other. [Source:]

3) Gyo-bae-rye (facing each other and bowing); The groom stands on the east of the wedding table. The bride walks to the west side. Helpers (two each for bride and groom) wash the hands of bride and groom. The helpers spread mats on the ground. The groom bows, then the bride and groom stand on the mat, facing each other, with the bride holding her hands to cover her face. First, the bride bows twice and the groom bows back once. Bride bows twice again, then groom makes a deep bow and kneel down. Sometimes when the bride bows she has to sit cross-legged on the floor and stand up. The helpers give her a hand.

4) Hap-geun-rye (combining the gourd dipper): The helpers of bride and groom prepare drinks (usually rice wine) and side dishes. The groom bows, then the bride and groom present drinks and side dishes to the sky, which looks down on everyone and offers protection. The helpers pour the drinks. After the groom bows, the bride and groom raise their cups. The helpers fill the cups, which are made of gourd dippers, and groom bows. The bride and groom exchange gourd dippers. The two halves of the gourd dippers are placed together, forming a whole gourd, symbolizing that the bride and groom are each part of a whole. 5) Seong-hon-rye (declaration of wedding): The bride and groom bow to both families and guests.

6) Pyebaek: For the family members only — traditionally involving the groom’s family — part of the ceremony, the bride’s family has prepared jujubes (Korean dates) and chestnuts, which symbolize children. The ceremony begins with the parents of groom seated on cushions behind a table in front of a painted screen, with the newlyweds opposite them. The newlyweds perform a deep bow. The bride offers a cup of rice wine to the father, and the groom offers a cup to the mother. The parents then share some wisdom on marriage from their own experience. Finally they throw the jujubes and chestnuts back at the couple. The bride has to try catching them with her wedding skirt. Traditionally pyebaek was only for groom’s family, but these days the bride’s family also participate.

Party and Events After a Traditional Wedding in Korea

Donald N. Clark wrote in “Culture and Customs of Korea”: “A feast would follow, and after that a night of celebration and good-natured harassment of the newlyweds who would be left together in a room of the house, surrounded by people making ribald comments and occasionally poking holes in the paper covering the door, removing the couple's only privacy. The party would not stop until the following day. The groom would then remain for three days and nights in the bride's home before going home, usually alone. Though he might return several times to visit her, in upper-class tradition the groom did not actually collect his bride and take her home to live with his own family until a further ritual exchange of gifts, which might occur over a period of many months. [Source: “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Greenwood Press, 2000]

“The groom was supposed to make three visits to the bride after the wedding, and only after the third would they begin married life. The amount of time that had to pass was determined by the age of the couple and the time needed to satisfy everyone involved that all interests had been protected and the success of the marriage assured to the maximum extent through the advice of older relatives. A final set of rituals involved presenting the new wife to the husband's clan members and introducing her to the ancestral spirits in the family shrine. These elaborate steps are signs that Koreans did not simply marry strangers but in fact began their marriages surrounded by love and support from kinfolk after many negotiations and assurances of happiness.

“However, it must also be said that life in the new household required a bride to fit herself intoa hierarchy of women — mothers, aunts, sisters, and sisters-in-law — in which she had a weak position and could only cooperate and submit or be subjected to many kinds of misery. She was particularly subject to her mother-in-law's direction and there are many stories about new brides becoming virtual slaves of their in-laws. She was also subject to intimidation by wives of older sons and sisters of the household. It was a rare bride who encountered no conflict as she took up life in the "inner quarters" of her new home. This inferior condition abated only after she herself bore children — or more specifically a son — and thus made herself a proper "ancestor" of the lineage.”

Modern Weddings

Modern weddings in Korea are often huge affairs with several hundred people — mostly family friends, relatives and coworkers of the fathers — held in a rented wedding hall. Some take place in a church, temple or auditorium. As the guests enter they give their wedding presents, usually envelops with new crisp banknotes inside, to the parents of the bride and groom.

Many Koreans are Christians. Sometimes even couples that are not Christians have a Christian-style wedding ceremony. These style weddings are usually held at a public hall, Christian church or wedding hall. Most are held in autumn.

The wedding halls are often quite garish. They are painted with pastel colors and have chandeliers, special lighting, video equipment and large parking lots. The hall usually takes care all or most of the wedding arrangements: the music, food, wedding dresses, tuxedo, make up, videotaping, photography. The families of the couple usually make several advance trips to the hall to chose the hairstyling make up and dress as well as food and entertainment.

Modern Korean wedding usually involves two ceremonies: the first in which the bride wears a white Western-style wedding dress and the groom wears a suit or tuxedo; and a second ceremony in which the bride and groom wear hanboks (traditional Korean clothes). Some brides have to wake up at 5:00 in the morning to get to the wedding hall to have dress put on and their make up done. Receptions are held at the wedding hall or parent’s house or restaurants. Noodles and stew have long been offered as a main course with soup, rice and rice cakes also being served. By the time al the ceremonies are finished and they catch their plane to their honeymoon destination they are too exhausted to enjoy their first night together.

Donald N. Clark wrote in “Culture and Customs of Korea”: ““Weddings in today's Korea retain vestiges of the earlier customs but they differ in significant respects. Most weddings now take place in ceremonial halls (yeshikjang) that are commercial buildings with all the necessary facilities. Most have multiple floors where several weddings are going on simultaneously, and there is an amiable din throughout the building as hundreds of guests enter and exit, exchanging gifts and gossip all the while. Contemporary weddings are, if anything, more elaborate and expensive in terms of gift exchanges and social display than weddings in traditional times. Engagement ceremonies continue to be an essential part of the marriage process, and the feast and gift exchanges at that time are major events. The groom's family still sends a gift box via a raucous delegation of the groom's friends who normally create mayhem as they extort money from the bride's family to complete the delivery. [Source: “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Greenwood Press, 2000]

“On the day of the wedding itself all invited guests are expected to arrive with envelopes containing cash at the going rate, which increases with the social status of the families involved and the general level of prosperity in the Korean economy. Members of the wedding party record the guests' names and the amount of their gifts as they enter the wedding hall, or chapel. Korean brides normally wear white, Western-style gowns for this phase of the wedding. These gowns are displayed in store windows in special shopping areas of Seoul, notably the streets leading to Ewha Women's University and in the fashionable Myong-dong district. The dresses are grand and beautiful and very expensive. Grooms have less expense: they are dressed in business suits, though these too may be of an expensive cut and fabric. Neither the bride nor the groom has attendants, but there is music, usually provided by a pianist or organist who comes with the wedding hall.”

First Ceremony of a Modern Korean Wedding

The first ceremony, held in front of the guests at a wedding hall, begins with the bride walking onto a small stage with her father and the groom walking to the stage alone. Other important family members file in after them. The bride usually has a fairly stern expression on her face during the ceremony because a smile is believed to foretell the birth of a daughter. The ceremony is overseen by a master of ceremonies (churye), usually a close make family friend of high social standing.

The groom enters first, bows and waits for the bride. The bride enters on her fathers arm as a pianist plays the Wedding March and is presented the groom. Cups of rice wine are poured and the couple bows before them to show respect for their ancestors.

Instead of exchanging vows or presenting rings, the bride and groom do a lot of bowing: first the groom bows to the bride family, thanking them for their daughter; then the bride and groom bow to each other with deep bows showing respect (in the old days the bride usually bowed deeper than the man but these days they try to bow equally). The bride and groom also repeat vows to each other: “to love and have each other always, whatever the circumstances, and to revere their elders, and to fulfill their duties as a faithful husband and wife. They affirm their vows by nodding their heads. The Master of ceremonies reaffirms the couple’s vows.

Afterwards candles are lit, the master of ceremonies gives a speech, and the bride and groom bow to the guests. Dates and chestnuts are scattered on the bride’s dress to symbolize fertility. The bride’s mother gives wine and packets of foods wrapped in red cloth to the bride, who in turn offers them to her in-laws. Many wedding ends with a congratulatory song for the newlyweds and greetings from the bride and groom

The master of ceremonies presides over this part of the wedding ceremony. Donald N. Clark wrote in “Culture and Customs of Korea”: He “is usually a dignified friend of the groom or his family, often a professor from the groom's university or a senior business associate of the groom's father. The churye announces the beginning of the ceremony, signals the bridal couple when it is time to enter, leads the pair through the exchange of vows and pronounces them married, and gives a speech or sermonette reflecting on the fine character of the two families that are being united and the solemn importance of marriage. The churye is almost never a woman. “ [Source: “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Greenwood Press, 2000]

Second Ceremony and Party of the Modern Korean Wedding

The second ceremony, held in a smaller room with only family members present, consists of short speeches and about 30 minutes of bowing as each member of one family bows to the members of the other family. Often the bride and groom offer fruit and rice wine to the groom’s parents, who reciprocate the gesture with toasts to a successful marriage. The purpose of this meeting is to cement the union of the families of the bride and the groom.

Donald N. Clark wrote in “Culture and Customs of Korea”: “Following the formal ceremony in the chapel there is often a second, more traditional-style ceremony called a p'yebaek in another part of the building that is furnished in Korean style. For the p'yebaek the bride and groom don Korean clothes and the bride is fitted with special celebratory accessories including a crown and long sleeves that are typical of dancers in the royal court. [Source: “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Greenwood Press, 2000]

“The central element of the p'yebaek is the bowing ritual, where the newlyweds perform the kowtow before their parents, kneeling and bowing far enough to make their foreheads touch the floor. Current custom calls for the parents to "endow" the bride with chestnuts and other fertility symbols to promote the birth of children, especially male children. Other relatives and well-wishers may also request bows from the bride and groom, and often they present an additional amount of money on a tray, as the "bowing price."

High Costs and Extravagance of Korean Weddings

The average cost for a wedding is around US$50,000. When presents are added in it is often more than US$75,000. The costs are often so high that families go into debt for years to pay for it. A typical wedding attracts 350 guest, who each give a cash gift that averages between US$50 and US$100. Guests often stay for only half the wedding: loading up free food and leaving, often to another wedding.

The bride’s family and groom’s family usually split the costs of the wedding. Traditionally the bride was expected to buy new clothes and quilts for the groom’s entire entourage and the bride’s family was expected to buy jewelry for their daughter’s future mother-in-law. It is not clear how many families actually do this. Diamond advertising campaigns in Seoul are often directed at mothers-in-law who make jewelry selections for engagement ceremonies.

Donald N. Clark wrote in “Culture and Customs of Korea”: “An impressive amount of social display goes into these expensive arrangements. From time to time the Korean government has officially disapproved of the consumption that is involved and has called for more frugal rituals. These appeals have not been taken seriously for very long.” [Source: “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Greenwood Press, 2000]

Reporting from Seoul, Geoffrey Cain wrote in GlobalPost: Weddings here “are lavish, anxiety-inducing celebrations. Families take the events very seriously. Their honor is at stake in a society where social stature is paramount...Families here are eager to show off their wealth and personal relationships, judged by the number of guests and the unbridled opulence of the event. Hundreds of co-workers, friends and distant relatives arrive even if they’ve never met the bride and groom. Otherwise, the hosts could lose face. For some young couples, the demands are so grueling they lead to a pile-up of debt and fighting later in life.

“Throw in the luxurious pre-wedding gifts like luxury handbags, gems and an apartment, and wedding costs average almost US$100,000 total, according to an October 2013 survey by the Korean Consumer Agency. Visitors are expected to bring cash-filled envelopes, chipping in to cover costs and having a cashier write down their contributions in a guest book. Some young Koreans are rebelling against what they call an extravagant and debt-fueled wedding culture.In one survey, 85 percent of respondents felt that Korea's wedding culture is too ostentatious. Still, under social pressure, most go along with an extravagant ceremony, according to the Korean Consumer Agency. [Source: Geoffrey Cain, GlobalPost, February 10, 2014]

Wedding Gifts and Honeymoons in Korea

On their wedding day, the bride and groom receive spoons, chopsticks and other household items that ideally they will use for the rest of their lives. According to custom the bride's family is supposed to buy furniture and household goods for the newly married couple and the groom's family is supposed to supply a place to live.

When guests file into the wedding they pass a desk and hand over envelopes containing cash. The amounts and donors are often logged into a velvet-bound ledger. Sometimes the weddings are quite large and the guests hand over the equivalent of tens of thousands of dollars of cash. Some people receive five or six wedding invitations a week and complain about the amount of money they have to pay.

The gifts by guests have traditionally been a gesture to help families pay the wedding costs. One Korean man told AP: “You help friends with donations, and when the time comes to marry off your children or when your parents die, they will help you to. It’s a good tradition, as long as you don’t cross a line to greed.” In some cases families try to invite as many guest as possible to collect as much money as possible.

Cash wedding gifts are expected to be reciprocated at future weddings as a polite gesture or an obligation, depending . “Rich families go to the weddings of other rich families like networking events,” Hwang Mi-jin, 29, a clothing shop owner, told Global Post. “They give and take money, and sometimes it is a way for powerful people to scratch each other’s backs. Like there is a business deal coming, even if they don’t state it directly. Even if you don’t agree with the system, there’s intense pressure to follow it or else lose favor among your work partners. Some of us say it is an old custom that should be dying.” [Source: Geoffrey Cain, GlobalPost, February 10, 2014]

Most couples go on quickie three- or four-day honeymoon package tours to Cheju Island or Thailand. They can't stay any longer because often the husband has to get back for work. Clark wrote: Honeymoon destinations have grown more elaborate with Korea's rising incomes. Fifty years ago, young couples went to provincial sight-seeing spots. Forty years ago they went to the mountain resorts along the east coast. Thirty years ago they flew to Cheju Island off the south coast and enjoyed the delights of "Korea's Hawaii."” Now they go to Hawaii itself, Guam, Europe or anywhere in the world they like.

Wedding Cash Used to Make Bribes and Payoffs in Korea

Sometimes the wedding cash gifts are more than they appear to be on the surface. Wedding gift cash is also used for paying back and collecting money. Politicians and businessmen sometimes use wedding as places to pass on bribe money.

Geoffrey Cain wrote in GlobalPost: The cash-filled envelopes sometimes are a cover for influence-peddling and bribery, explains Sungsoo Kim, managing director of Transparency International’s Korea chapter. Since 2004, political candidates have been barred from offering cash envelopes except at the funerals and weddings of close relatives, out of fears they could influence voters. Several have faced disciplinary action since then. [Source: Geoffrey Cain, GlobalPost, February 10, 2014]

“Several high-profile figures have been criticized on these grounds, and successive presidents going back to the 1970s have called on the nation to change these practices. In one famous case, the granddaughter of South Korea’s erstwhile dictator, Chun Doo-hwan, held a sumptuous ceremony at the elite Shilla Hotel in Seoul in 2012, even though Chun claimed he had just a few hundred dollars in his bank account. Investigators later seized US$156 million worth of Chun’s assets, allegedly obtained through bribes and kickbacks in the 1980s.

Transparency International’s Kim. It’s the perfect cover considering the difficulty of proving whether a cash envelope amounts to a bribe, he says. “This is basically a way of handing money where nobody sees it,” he explains. “So it’s difficult to catch when this is going on.”

Fake Friends Hired to Impress at Korean Weddings

Elise Hu of NPR wrote: “At a recent wedding in June, Kim Seyeon showed up as a guest even though she is a total stranger to the bride and groom. She makes about US$20 per wedding she attends as a pretend friend. "When it's the peak wedding season in Korea, sometimes I do two or three acts a day, every weekend," Kim says. As a role player, she's part of an agency that casts her to attend weddings all over the country. At this wedding, at least 30 of the guests are getting paid to fill the seats. "It's fun. A lot of the times [couples] need these guests because they want to save face," Kim says. "They're conscious of what others think, and they need more friends. So the brides are very thankful for my presence." [Source: Elise Hu, NPR, August 5, 2015]

“At this particular ceremony, neither the bride — who hired Kim — nor the groom — who doesn't even know there are fake guests at his wedding...I suppose you could call it wedding crashing, but I just blended right in with the other unfamiliar faces. The logic in South Korea is this: You can rent chairs and venues for weddings — why not guests? "Wedding guest rentals started in the late 1990s, and in the early 2000s, broader role-playing rentals began," says Lee Hyun-su. He runs a South Korean casting agency called Role Rental 1-1-9.

“He keeps a database of 20,000 actors, ages 21 to 70, whom he places to work in real-life situations. We're talking fake bosses, fake parents, fake mistresses. Lee has cast them all. "This year we've seen increases in the other types of rental requests [like] renting family members, boyfriends, girlfriends, lovers or office employees. There have also been times when people hire fake spouses to get a loan from the bank," Lee says.

“While it may seem strange to have actors in what are supposed to be real-life rituals, performance artist Maria Yoon — a Korean-American — "gets it" after experimenting with the artifice of weddings with an art project a few years ago. She staged 50 different wedding ceremonies to play on the idea that all weddings have a performance aspect to them. She just fears that the Koreans are taking the dishonesty too far.

“It's clear the need to impress keeps the guest rental business going strong. The whole event feels more like a cruise ship production than what Americans might be used to. There are musical numbers. There are skits. There's even a solo sung by the wedding emcee, who is a different guy than the officiant. Somewhere in all this song and dance, a couple got married.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons.

Text Sources: South Korean government websites, Korea Tourism Organization, Cultural Heritage Administration, Republic of Korea, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook, World Bank, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Chunghee Sarah Soh in “Countries and Their Cultures”, “Columbia Encyclopedia”, Korea Times, Korea Herald, The Hankyoreh, JoongAng Daily, Radio Free Asia, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, BBC, AFP, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2021

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