At 4pm one afternoon, I walked into the sanctuary of Myongdong Cathedral in central Seoul. I was looking to spend some time in prayer and meditation, but instead found myself being an observer to a Korean Catholic-style wedding.
I had an idea something was going on when I saw a crowd gathering outside of the church, but I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on. When I took my place on the side of the church while getting a good distant view, I watched the wedding unfold. The wedding party filed in and took their places, the wedding march played and the couple walked in arm and arm.
As opposed to what is known in the by our standards of a wedding, in a Korean wedding, the couple can walk up to the altar with no bridesmaids or parents to escort them. She does not even smile because according to Korean traditional culture, if she smiles, she would bear a daughter instead of a son, and it would look as if she as hiding something. Even before the ceremony begins, it is not taboo for her husband-to-be to see his bride, even if she is getting ready.
Along with observing this wedding, I have attended several Korean-style weddings. They are inspired by some Western traditions but are not as elaborate or bride-focused. In these weddings, the focus is on creating a family union and generally ensuring that the couple knows their new place in the family.
After the wedding ceremony, everyone goes to the reception which is basically a sit down dinner of some sort. After dinner, the guests just leave and can either join up with their friends or other plans for the day. They don’t usually have a dance party unless they are with friends a little bit later into the day. This is something that is unusual to a Western mind since in the West, dancing is part of the celebration because a wedding is a happy affair.