Posts Tagged ‘ceremony’

These are a few pictures taken by my coworker RF which have a bit of a different perspective from my sister’s photos.

I really loved our venue space. I think it was the best part of the wedding. If you’ve been to a wedding here, you know that they are usually in somewhat cramped rooms in multi-leveled wedding halls meaning that there are multiple weddings happening in the same building simultaneously.  While there was one other wedding on the same day, it was an hour after ours, and the space was large, shaded by 500 year old ginko trees, and had a natural beauty which cannot be matched by most wedding halls.  We had over 330 people attend, including children, so there was ample room for everyone, and the children would roam freely without disturbing the ceremony.

Mr. Lee’s initial idea was to have a Korean girl and a Western boy carry the lanterns, but when we realized most of our friends had children too small to participate, and that my sister really wanted to play an active roll in the ceremony, we gave the lantern bearing job to her alone.

We made offerings of alcohol and jeon during the ceremony, and then drank some alcohol (not jeon).

I was trying desperately to see what was happening in the rest of the ceremony (can you see me trying to catch a glimpse?), but I was being a bad Confucian bride, and my handlers kept reprimanding me and putting my arms up higher.  If you want to be standing beside your spouse-to-be during the ceremony, this is not the tradition for you.  However, even though I didn’t see everything that went on, there was a certain relief in not being responsible for anything else than getting myself up and down during prostrations.  Also, as I had attended several ceremonies for other people or in preparation for our own, I knew what was happening without seeing it.

 I can’t even explain how difficult it is to prostrate oneself while wearing bloomers/traditional underclothes, a crinoline pinafore, a traditional top, a large coat piece, two headpieces, and a wig…in a graceful way (in 29 degree weather).  But that was sort of the fun of being in the traditional ceremony. I do advise you to practice ahead of time – not just in your comfy pjs, but in your whole outfit so you can figure out how to maneuver with all the layers on. 


Before my own wedding, I thought the women were actually helping to hold your arms up.  They’re not…they are simply holding me in place and pushing my arms up to cover my face.  Do a lot of free weights in preparation as well!

Overall, this was the absolute best option for us, and many of our Korean guests – 95% who had never seen a traditional wedding before – felt very moved at seeing this form of wedding.  Mr. Lee’s one coworker is even going to encourage his son to have this kind of ceremony when it is his time to marry.  I LOVED the performative aspect of the ceremony, and although it was physically demanding, it was also such a joyful spectacle of music and colour that it was exciting to be apart of.

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A little while ago, there was a bit of K-blog discussion about the modern Korean wedding, sometimes known as the ‘Western-style’ (more like ‘North American style’) or ‘wedding hall wedding’ (here and here and here).  Of course I was in the last stages of planning my own Korean wedding, so I didn’t have time to make a more timely response to those discussions.  Now, I’ve already blogged about how there are distinct and definite differences between this type of wedding in Canada and Korea, but I’d like to address the issue of ‘authenticity’ with the modern Korean wedding.

Long ago, even before we were engaged, Mr. Lee and I decided that we would not be having a wedding hall wedding in Korea.  There were a couple of reasons for this.  A) They are mostly cookie-cutter weddings, and we are not cookie-cutter type of people B) Mr. Lee works for a large company where workers are ‘required’ to attend even remotely connected coworker’s cookie-cutter weddings, which means that these days few of his coworkers actually attend weddings.  They go – hand in their money…eat the meal during the ceremony…and then rush upstairs to get into the photo to ‘prove’ they were there. By having a contemporary traditional wedding, people were actually excited to attend the ceremony C) Even his parents had a wedding hall-esq wedding…meaning that nobody since his grandparents’ generation had participated in a ‘traditional’ wedding – making it a unique experience for all but strangely many of my friends as a larger-than-you-would-expect number of expats marrying Koreans actually opt for this ceremony.

But the overarching feeling that we both had was that we didn’t want a wedding hall wedding because we didn’t like it.  We didn’t want the bubble machines, motorized carriages, smoke machines, blaring music, people talking on their cell phones loudly through the ceremony, the magic shows, the feats of strength…the sword used to cut the fake cake…and I’m not kidding about this.  These things regularly occur in wedding hall weddings.  In other words, to us it did not seem like an authentic wedding. 

Now, notice that I said, ‘to us.’ 

Authenticity is a tricky issue, and certainly there is a whole lot of nationalism and perhaps at times even fanaticism attached to culture in many places in the world, and especially in Korea.  To say that culture is and has always been shared is a touchy subject with many people because everyone wants their culture to be ‘unique’..the first…the innovators…the alpha of any cultural form, symbol, or ritual.  But academically, the more you do objective research, and the more you expand your search, the more you realize that finding ‘authentic’ culture or even the origins or a cultural practice is no easy or possibly even possible matter.  Therefore, any kind of academic discussion saying the way Koreans celebrate Christmas is ‘inauthentic’ is a ridiculous discussion to have…because it’s true that Christmas barely resembles ‘Western Christmas’ with the exception of the public displays of lights and perhaps some nativity plays safe inside closed churches, but saying it is ‘inauthentic’ misses the fact that many Christmas symbols are pre-Christian, pre-modern West symbols.  Not to mention the fact that many American, Canadian, Kiwi, Aussie, South African etc. customs are from Europe….which have evolved over centuries in a different contexts from their ‘European’ roots…just as European customs in Europe have evolved and changed.  (Have you ever read David Sedaris’ Six to Eight Black Men? Do it….it is Santa as you’ve never seen him presented before).  And then we have to talk about the point in culture when something is indeed ‘authentic.’  Is it what is practiced now? What our grandparents practiced? What people did 200, 500, 1000, 5000 years ago which have now changed beyond recognition?  Certainly if I met my great great great great grandparents, they would consider the modern Canadian wedding as just as ‘inauthentic’ as I would consider their weddings.  All this means that from a rational point of view, ‘authentic’ should never be used with great seriousness when we talk about culture.  We can certainly note something that came earlier or later, or something that is closer or further away from an earlier manifestation, but we cannot say in an objective and rational way that culture is authentic or inauthentic.  It’s too loaded of a term.

However, let me return to that phrase ‘to us.’  I do think that from an emotional, a personal, an individual point of view, that cultural can feel inauthentic.  I will never, no matter how much Mr. Lee begs, go to a rock concert and eat pasta on Christmas Eve.  For me that’s not an authentic way to spend Christmas Eve.  Christmas Eve means candlelight service, Christmas hymns, family rural Canada style dinner, and preparing privately for a great religious and cultural holiday.  It is not for going on a date with your significant other and braving the crowds for a K-pop concert.  That doesn’t mean that the Korean customs are wrong and I am right…it just means that I would feel like I was compromising my religious and cultural beliefs to do something other than I was raised with.  Even this past Christmas, when I went to Hong Kong to visit my sister, we went to her uber low Anglican church where they had glow sticks…seriously…glow sticks…for candles.  Merry Christmas to you Hong Kong! But we went to church and sang our hymns and heard the Gospel readings and then went back to our tiny hotel room to reminisce about Christmases past and track Santa’s travels on the NORAD website…because despite the radically different cultural context we were in, for us, Christmas is for Jesus and Christmas is meant to be spent with family…so that’s what we did.

So when it comes to wedding hall weddings in Korea, I want to say that for me, it doesn’t seem like an ‘authentic wedding.’  The symbols are there – the rituals are there, but to me they are but shadows of what I consider ‘the real thing.’  And for Mr. Lee, although he does not have the Canadian mainstream wedding experience, the wedding hall wedding does not seem dignified.  That’s not saying that it isn’t dignified for some people, and that for many brides it isn’t the ritual they have always dreamed of…it’s just not the ritual we have dreamed of.  And considering the fact that we are having a Canadian wedding at home which is sort of traditional (in a goth-rock sort of way), we didn’t want to have what we feel is the less ‘authentic’ version of the North American wedding.

Now, some people may say that as a ‘foreigner’ that I do not have the right to comment on Korean rituals.  I’ve already dealt a bit about the issues of what constitutes ‘foreigner’ and what kinds of rights and responsibilities we might/should have.  But on this particular issue, I want to simply say that when culture affects my life…when it is about celebrating my life stages … or affects my work or family life…or infringes upon my body…I do get a voice and I do have an opinion.  Of course, much of this hinges on the way in which we speak about culture, and if we can phrase differences of opinion in respectful ways, but I do think that expats, especially expats getting married or thinking about married here, have just as much right as our spouses to like or hate or feel ambivalence about wedding hall weddings. 

I fully realize that there are many pros about getting married in the wedding hall (see Roboseyo’s post), and most definitely our wedding venue had some of the things we perceive of as problems with the wedding hall wedding system (rushed feeling, lack of choice, buffet where everyone eats together)…but there ceremony itself was to our liking, and seeing as it was our wedding, we felt that it was within our rights to make our own judgements about what we were and were not comfortable with.

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It was such a tiny little wedding in a cavernous cathedral…but it was so touching and beautiful.  It was in English, Korean, and Greek, and the ceremony was full of ancient melodies and ancient Christian rites.  But above all, I think the best part was the little girls sitting on the ground gazing in awe of our little ceremony.  When I was 5 I was the bridesmaid in my mother’s cousin’s wedding, and I was enamoured by the bride..the ceremony….the dignity of it all, and it feels like I’ve reached some sort of new life stage by being on the other side…by being that woman that little girls look up to.  And especially being that I know these little girls, and because these girls are from my church family, I feel a certain responsibility to strive to be a good example in having a happy and healthy marriage. 

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Orthodox Wedding Crowns (Stefana)

from Etsy

Russian Crowns

I’ve been refreshing my memory on the key points of an Orthodox wedding ceremony for tomorrow, and in my search, I came across this page.  It’s a good abridged version of the major symbols and rituals and the meaning behind them, and this one point about the crowning portion of the ceremony that really stood out for me. 

 “The service of the Crowning, which follows, is the climax of the Wedding service. The crowns are signs of the glory and honor with which God crowns them during the Mystery. The groom and the bride are crowned as the king and queen of their own little kingdom, the home – domestic church, which they will rule with fear of God, wisdom, justice and integrity. When the crowning takes place the priest, taking the crowns and holding them above the couple, says:”The servants of God, (names), are crowned in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” The crowns used in the Orthodox wedding service refer to the crowns of martyrdom since every true marriage involves immeasurable self-sacrifice on both sides.”

We’ve been legally married and living together for nearly two months now, and I have to say that one of the most unpleasant things I have learned about myself is how self-serving I really am.  Women have heard this ‘sacrifice’ line for so many generations, and it has often been used to subjugate women…or perhaps more commonly for women to make themselves feel guilty because they are not subjugating themselves.  Women have often been the ones more likely to give up their talents, their desires, their wants for their husbands, sometimes for the good, but often to the detriment of themselves and their families, and this is why feminists are so loathe to use the word ‘sacrifice’ and ’women’ in the same sentence.  I’ve always feared giving in too much, or losing too much of myself to a relationship to an unhealthy and dangerous degree which explains some of my prior fear of commitment.

But the flip side, the one that I am guilty of, is not sacrificing in that beautiful way in which people – men, women, children, citizens, strangers – let go of their egos and put someone else first for the benefit of all.  I think the ego bit is key. We should not sacrifice ourselves so that we crush our spirits in great misery, we should suppress our egos to build harmony and create happiness for everyone.  Sacrifice isn’t ‘women’s work’ or ‘women’s duty,’ it must be found on “…both sides.”  Sacrificing can be dangerous if one person is always doing the lion’s share, but it is beautiful when practiced by all.

I’ve been so guilty in these past 7 weeks of looking out for myself, for evaluating the minute details of each action to make sure we are both giving equally at equal times to our home, marriage, and partnership.  I can’t give you any specific examples, but it is a common theme running through my head at all times…looking out for my wellbeing instead of wondering how I can best serve my husband (even though he is always looking for ways to serve me).  I need to work a lot more on slaying my ego, on being joyful in service, and on committing myself to partnership over self gain.  I have heard of or seen so many cases where women’s needs and wants have not been met and they have been crushed in the process, but I am not in this situation.  Mr. Lee is by far a much nicer and more giving person than me (I tend to be snarky, over cynical, and bitchy), and I can learn so much from how he is always looking for ways to please me. So tomorrow when we are crowned in Holy Matrimony, when we are made ‘king’ and ‘queen’ of our residence, I hope that I can embark on a less egotistic journey of ways to better serve my husband instead of serving myself because the best leaders always remember that they are really servants.

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Tomorrow we are having our Orthodox church wedding.  It’s going to be a tiny little ceremony in the chapel instead of the cathedral, attended by probably around 10-15 people.  I’m not really excited at the thought of having another wedding ceremony, especially one so close to the huge Korean wedding we had last week, but it we didn’t participate in this ceremony, I wouldn’t be considered an ‘Orthodox in good standing’ meaning that I could not receive communion, be a Godparent, or be considered a person living in the fullness of the faith.  (The post explaining why we could not get married in one ceremony can be found here).

Perhaps to someone outside of this tradition, or outside of a religious tradition itself, it seems strange that I should care so much.  Indeed, at the beginning of my planning journey I considered not having an Orthodox wedding because of the complicated process and cost of planning so many ceremonies, and the fact that nobody else in either my family or my husband’s family are Orthodox and care about such matters.  However, I then read an online post from a girl who had just found out that her Catholic church was not going to marry them because for practical purposes, they were living in the same home even though they were not having any form of sexual relationship.  The priest was uber conservative and told her that he didn’t believe that they were not doing anything sinful.  In the process of trying to find a solution in which the just 3 month away wedding could proceed as usual, the girl started asking about the general Catholic policy on this issue and found out that the church she had been attending for three years, and that her fiancé’s family had been in for twenty years, was not technically part of the Roman Catholic communion, but a pre-Vatican II breakaway church that is not actually under the auspices of Rome.  In other words, had she married there, her marriage would have been considered invalid in the eyes of Roman Catholics which is the group she actually wanted to (and thought) she belonged to. 

That might be too much in the way of church politics for the more secular among my readers to handle, and is definitely ‘irrational’ but the idea is that we all have our own views on what makes a marriage ‘valid.’  Yes, in most places the State ‘validates’ your marriage in a legal way, and for a small minority that is enough to ‘be married.’  However, for the rest of us, we usually want the marriage to be witnessed by certain people, or we want specific vows or actions to accompany our marriage.  Yes it is irrational – the presence of my mother does not mean that I am married and has absolutely no bearing on how the State treats me or what benefits I receive as a married person, but for some reason I feel that it is necessary that she and other important people in my life be there to witness my marriage.  And yes, people elope, and yes people go down to the courthouse, but even those people usually have certain symbols and actions which they want to incorporate into their ceremony, and as a person who had her civil ceremony first, I can attest to the fact that at the very least for me…for us as a couple, the legal paperwork was not enough for us. 

 So with these above ‘irrational’ feelings, I want to throw in one more which is that I also believe that being married in a way which is understood to be ‘marriage’ by my church is another vitally important component to me ‘being married.’  I did not realize that I had such strong personal opinions on this matter until I read the other girl’s story. My heart broke for her as she struggled over several weeks to deal with the sudden fact that her church was not ‘The’ church, and then as she searched valiantly for a way to get married in ‘The’ church on such a short time frame.  And at that point I realized that not having my marriage validated in my church was a big problem for me.

 I have this personal mantra about many things in religion in a whole, which is ‘God doesn’t care.’  Meaning, if you cover or don’t cover during service, if you kneel or don’t kneel, if you say this prayer or that prayer, God does not really care. God doesn’t worry about the specifics, although the specifics have often been developed by people through the ages as a guide for our overall wellbeing and spiritual journey.  Instead, I think He worries about our heart.  And as a result I have a high level of tolerance and respect for a variety of traditions and Traditions far different from my own.  So, on one hand I could rationalize my Korean wedding, or vaguely Protestant-esq Canadian wedding, or legal wedding as what it means to fully be married because ‘God doesn’t care’ if I’m actually married in my church.  I’m married, people witnessed it, and it’s legal according to the State.  But while I don’t think God cares, I care, and I think that if I have committed myself to this Christian tradition (I’m a convert), and if I see my active and full participation in this tradition as a key factor in my life, then I need to participate in this additional ritual because it is important to me and my understanding of what it means to live an Orthodox life.

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A few more pictures for you to enjoy, specifically pictures related to the paebek ceremony food.  I’ve discussed paebek here before, but basically it is when the bride and groom show their respect to older generations by bowing on the ground to them (and in the past specifically it was the way for the bride to pledge obedience to her new family with whom she would live).  In return, the couple receives cash in envelopes from each group, and then relatives get to throw chestnuts and jujubes onto the bride’s linen cloth which represents the amount of sons and daughters they will have.  After all of this, the family members eat from the paebek table, and the couple receives the rest of the food. 

Our paebek table included dried fruit, nuts, dried squid, and a whole lot of yugwa or fried Korean snack sweetened with honey.  When it came time to choose our paebek food, we were planning on getting the cheapest possible set, but then I realized that one of the pieces was in fact a dead chicken with cloth over it’s beak and decorative pins sticking in its eyes….it looked nice if you didn’t think too deeply about what it was, but as a vegetarian, I was not about to bow toward a table with that on it…so we went for a different, less freakishly decorated and less meat based version.

While not part of the paebek, the wild geese were an important part of the wedding ceremony.  I actually send a pair of ducks to all of my friends around the world when they get married because I think it is an interesting and unique custom.  At the very beginning of the ceremony, my husband presented a wooden wild goose to my mother at the building which represented our ‘house.’  He then pledged to support and care for me and bowed to the ground in front of my mother.  The wild goose represents many things including fidelity and long-partnership.  The geese pair then sat on the altar table throughout the ceremony and were then given to us to keep.  When you display them in your house, their beaks are supposed to touch…symbolizing of course that the couple has a good relationship (if they are tail to tail, it means the couple is fighting).  Of course, I’m sure you will note the goose with the tied beak…that one is mine….and yes, it does represent what you are thinking. Of course, in our lives I am absolutely not the silent or obedient one, but it is a consideration in terms of our discussions as to if we are going to display the ducks in that way in our home or not.

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Yesterday was our Korean wedding. The weather was glorious for an outdoor wedding…with the exception of the heat.  It was an incredibly good day except for one small unfortunate event that I will explore later in a recap, but overall I think in time we will only remember the super fun and unique day we spent with our families, friends, coworkers, and a couple of shocked school groups on field trips who were tres excited to see a foreign bride.

So here’s a few pics (non-pro picts mostly from my sister and a few from my friend) to get the recaps started highlighting some of the details of the day:

My outfit:

A few details from the ceremony:

The ceremony altar:

And that’s me in the box…

Our musicians:

My mother in law’s friends from her traditional performance group singing for us:

Our ‘helpers’ ie. the women who moved us around, helped us bow, and adjusted and readjusted our outfits at all times.

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So here is my completed hanbok that we picked up two weeks ago…only to find out that they hadn’t made it long enough…and then finally picked up the final (long enough version).  It’s hard for me to find a good space to showcase it, especially with the cat babies prowling around, but here’s a few pics of all the pieces.

not-so sexy underthings

mounds of crinoline in my petticoat

traditional Korean socks

my fav part:  shoes

the skirt

top detail

the top in its entirety…can you spot my cat trying to get in on the action?


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I’m at this stage of the wedding journey where everyone starts conversations with me by saying ‘Are you stressed out with all the wedding planning?’  And the answer is ‘Not at all.’  Expats here somehow understand, but Koreans are incredulous.  Part of the divide comes from the fact that ‘preparing for the wedding day’ in Canada and Korea means totally different things.  Specifically, in Canada, this phrase usually means preparing for the wedding while in Korea it refers to almost everything but the wedding ceremony and reception.

In Canada, as I’ve mentioned before, most people live together before marriage or have lived away from their parents pre-marriage. They have their own ‘stuff’ and they quite often have their own place.  There may be a few people who have always lived with their parents, but they tend to be younger and setting up a more basic first home.  There are also people who are buying a house and getting married at the same time…but people just think that’s insane.  In addition, it’s rather abnormal to be engaged…or close to engagement without knowing the in-laws, and overall most people in Canada have between an 8-18 month engagement which means there is a great deal of time to plan.  Martha Stewart and every wedding magazine gives you those handy checklists which tells you exactly what you have to do and when. 

Thus, with a (comparable to Korea), lack of housing and family stress (from my side because my mother has been awesome at letting me do my own thing), and with many any months to plan, the Canadian wedding mostly revolves around that particular day and all that goes into it.  And of course, the need to have a ‘unique’ or ‘personalized’ wedding which in and of itself is a very Western European/North American desire, is also reflected in Canadian wedding planning.  So much so that this has been my Canadian to-do-list.




-overall style/theme

-colour palate

-dress (designer, style, colour)

-size of wedding party

-tux (style and colour)

-maid of honour dress

(style and colour)


-hair and makeup style

(+ stylist)


-ceremony music

-ceremony musicians

-ceremony style and wording



(4 course meal, h’ordeuves, open or closed bar) + meal tasting


(style, colours, flowers or cake topper, flavours, fondant/butter cream, baker) + cake tasting

-decorations (table, ceremony area, guest book table)





-post-ceremony games

-printed material

(programs, favour tags, seating chart, menus)


(readers, MCs, ushers, welcomer, etc)

-save the dates, invitations, and thank you cards

-guest list/seating chart

-accommodations for out-of-town guests

Hell yah that’s a lot of decisions.  For the Korean wedding?



-wedding hall/hotel or contemporary traditional wedding

-own hanbok style (our visible hanboks are on loan from the venue and are the same for every ceremony)

-guest list


-roles (money collectors, lantern bearers)

-any additional performers

It’s pretty clear to see why I’m not the stressed over the Korean wedding itself.  I don’t really get to choose very much.  Perhaps on the day of they will give be a small choice of make-up colours or variations on the same hairstyle, but the ‘look’ for the contemporary traditional wedding is set.  The clothes are set.  The officiant and musicians are set.  In fact, we’ll be married by the same guy who married my co-worker who got married there 3 years ago and another one who married there 2 years ago.  I’m guessing he’ll probably say a similar script that he used years ago.  The meal is set, the atmosphere, the decorations.  All I really need to do is show up and do whatever my ‘handlers’ (two women who will be on my left and right) tell me to do.  Literally they will force me into a bow/to stand up, to eat, or drink, to get in or out of the box.  I’m an incredibly passive participant in all of this, as opposed to the Canadian wedding where it is supposed to be ‘the brides day’ (however untrue that may be), and where in our case I will have literal control over everything as Mr. Lee has never even been to a Canadian wedding.  Perhaps if I had a Korean mother who was here I would have a slightly different experience in that I would probably be encouraged to do more beauty/plastic surgery/ options, but I don’t and the only thing I’m going to be doing in that regard is going for my obligatory ‘face massage’ which is included in the wedding venue package.

So if the wedding ceremony is so hands-off in Korea, where does the stress come in?  Well, I’ve already discussed the house hunt and setting up an entire rather complex and settled house from scratch in Korea.  I think it would have been even worse had we both lived at our parents’ house with absolutely no experience setting up a house and with two sets of families giving their advice and opinions.  But what made the house event so crazy was the super tight schedule we were on.  We started looking, bought everything, and moved in within about 2 months which was ‘starting too early’ in seemingly everyone’s but our opinion.  Everything is so last minute here which is good at times stressful.

Take the invites.  I told everyone in Canada a year before our wedding at our welcome to Canada Mr. Lee/surprise engagement announcement that they were invited to the wedding. Then we sent out an online notice to those invited and then sent out our formal invitation in early-May for our August wedding.  The week after we sent out our Canadian wedding invites for a wedding three months away, Mr. Lee started calling coworkers in other departments, friends from high school and university, and people he does not regularly see to tell them a) he was getting married b) to a Canadian (they didn’t know he had been dating anyone) c) they were invited to a wedding in three weeks time.  It’s not that he was putting things off until the last minute…that’s just how things are done, and that’s part of the reason for the stress- it’s all happening at one time right before the wedding.  Then, we had to go and formally meet certain people – especially those older than him, and buy them dinner and drinks to formally invite them to the wedding (this again, just weeks before the wedding).  He also had to take a day off of work to visit colleagues at other locations around the city to respectfully invite them.  It’s strangely taboo to take a day off because you are vomiting, but okay to do so if it means you are handing out invites.  We’ve also had to do several family-related things in terms of meeting with family members to make sure they are properly invited and feel properly involved in the process.  If we had done the traditional exchange of wedding gifts, I think my life would be more stressful in this regard, but since we settled on buying clothes for his sister-in-law and parents, and sending is parents to Canada and my family to Jeju-do for their presents, it’s been a whole lot easier in this sense, but again, all this planning has been last minute.    

There are two very important practical reason for this time difference between the Canadian and Korean weddings.  The first is wedding uniquess which I touched on earlier.  There’s not much need to plan the specifics of the ceremony when the wedding hall takes care of everything for you and they follow the same basic plans for all weddings at that location.  But the second and geographically specific reason is that when you live in capital city where the majority of not only the metropolitan’s citizens, but also the country’s citizens have easy public transportation access to the wedding site, and when they only have to devote 30 min-1 hr of their day to your wedding, you don’t have to tell people in advance…because they can probably get there pretty easily.  But in Canada, where my family members live in four provinces (not to mention 6 countries), and where even the people in the same province often live 4-8 hours away from my hometown, and where people have to devote a whole day to the wedding and at least 1-2 other days of travel time, you need to give them a whole lot of time to save for said wedding and travel.

So yes, wedding planning in general is stressing me out, but I’m not stressed out in the least about the Korean wedding which is just a week and a half away.  My 50 people were told ages ago to mark their calendar, and other than picking up my hanbok last week and getting my face massage next Thursday, what more is there to prepare?  Mr. Lee on the other hand is struggling with all the last minute relationship-related stress of trying to cultivate the proper atmosphere and situations for inviting people to the event.  The tables will turn though as soon as we land on Canadian soil and I have to throw myself into the last minute planning and things I couldn’t do from abroad…but for now, I’m a blissfully busy but relaxed bride.

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On 4

I am the bride of 4 weddings. That’s right F-O-U-R.

People often want to have a heart attack…or a brain aneurism when they hear such a thing – especially those who have recently been through wedding planning hell. One is usually enough for one bride, and one is usually all one bride truly wants. If you have multiple weddings, how will you know when your anniversary is? How long you’ve been married? How in the world do you fund so many events?

So let me explain the reasoning for each. In Korea, the wedding ceremony is separate from the legal marriage; therefore, technically you always have to have two events.  This will probably be the first wedding – conducted ever so romantically via. cab rides back and forth between the local Korean administrative office and the Canadian embassy in Seoul. 

We could have just had a Korean wedding and loaded up my 80-something grandparents on a plane for a 14 hour flight (if lucky!), or we could have had just a Canadian wedding which would have sparked an outcry (and perhaps some interpersonal conflicts) at Mr. Lee’s work if his team, group, and division were not included in the festivities. So when presented with those fun scenarios, 3 weddings started sounding pretty good.

Then why a fourth? Le sigh. I’m Orthodox, and if I am not married in the Orthodox church, I lose my ‘good standing’ meaning I cannot receive communion or become a godparent. Mr. Lee’s family is Catholic and Buddhist while my family members are Lutheran, United, Catholic, and Muslim. In other words, nobody else in our families would feel connected to the church ceremony. As my mother, who has been to a few Orthodox Sunday morning services herself says, ‘I know everything you do must mean something…but it’s really foreign to me.’ On top of that, the churches I attended in Canada are in cities 4 and 8 hours away from my hometown, making it very difficult to incorporate an Orthodox service into our Canadian wedding.

So within this bizarre framework, the only rational choice was to have four different weddings, somewhere between May and August 2010.

It may seem strange that we are having so many events, but as family, friends, and work relationships are important to us, it only seems right that those diverse groups – stretching across innumerous racial, ethnic, religious, and linguistic boundaries, be present to witness and affirm our marriage as complicated as the process may be. In a way, the whole thing is like a metaphor for how to negotiate an interracial, intercultural, interlinguistic marriage with all the extra special issues which come with these kinds of marriages.

The great blessing with this situation is that there we don’t have to decide between a small or large wedding, traditional or. modern, Korean or Canadian, religious or secular..we can have them all!
A Korean friend who married a Canadian often jokes that in this age of divorce, she been married three times…to the same man….hopefully reducing any desire she has to marry again. May the same be true of us!

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