Sunday, June 3, 2012

Techno Mart: Wedding City

I snipped the tag off my new dress and blow dried my hair for the first time in months.  Kyle rummaged around the pockets of his suitcase for any decent looking tie.  He smoothed the wrinkles in his dress shirt the best he could with his hands.  We were ready for Jane's wedding.  Jane is a Korean teacher at our school with a hilarious sense of humor, known for her grammatically poor catch phrases like, "I am die," to describe her hangover. 
We met the other SLP teachers, Korean and foreign alike, and jumped on the train heading for Sindorim.  The subway car was packed tightly, and the A/C seemed to be malfunctioning.  At each stop, somehow more people squeezed in.  During the long ride, the Korean teachers practiced a song they prepared for Jane, and we took turns signing a card for her.  In Korea, brides don't create gift regristries.  Guests always give monetary gifts.  Depending on the amount of money given, the bride then has to show the proper level of gratitude in the form of a thank you gift.  Due to this, the foreign teachers opted out of lumping our money with the rest of SLP's gift.  We didn't want Jane to have to do something too elaborate for the school. 

Anyway, we were headed for a little place called Wedding City, which takes up one floor of the enormous Techno Mart mall just outside Sindorim Station. 

Not my first choice for a wedding, but the ballroom where it was held ended up being really beautiful.  After a few escalator and elevator rides and weaving through the shopping traffic, we walked in a few minutes late, just missing our opportunity for one-on-one pictures with the bride.  Apparently, the bride sits poised on a chair with her dress sprawled at her feet, and the guests line up to get a photo with the bride.  Just like seeing Santa Claus at the mall! And we missed it!

We tiptoed into the enormous ballroom and grabbed the only seats available - three round tables at the front.  Each table and chair was covered with a soft black tablecloth, and placed at the center were bouquets of white roses and small trees decorated with candles.  More fresh, white bouquets lined the auditorium-like stage at the front which merged into a long center aisle covering the length of the room.  Huge white tapestries hung from the ceiling, lining the aisle. 

With their backs to us, Jane and her fiancee stood listening to the marriage officiant.  He went on in Korean for about ten or twenty minutes, and we watched on the jumbotron (Koreans love those things!). 

There was no bridal party, only the bride and groom were on stage during the ceremony.  A few official looking people with wires in their ears walked around making sure the ceremony ran smoothly.  One woman stuck by Jane, tugging at her dress whenever it needed adjusting. It all felt very formal, like watching a theater performance, until Jane turned and waved at all of us, smiling.

After the officiant finished, an announcer cued the Korean teachers, who filed up onto the stage.  The music started, and they all sang a beautiful Korean song to Jane and her new husband.  The performance was supplemented with confetti, small arm gestures, fake snow, and roses for the new couple.  Not your typical maid of honor speech, but it was a very sweet gesture.  I think Jane really appreciated it.  Here's a clip for you to enjoy:

Following the performance, the officiant's voice sounded again.  He said a few commanding lines, then Jane and her new husband kissed while the crowd cheered.  A few violinists and a pianist took the stage, and Jane and her husband walked down the steps of the stage to the floor where two armchairs and a coffee table were set up.  In the chairs sat Jane's mother and father.  The new couple bowed respectfully to the parents, who then stood up hugging the couple, happily receiving them.  This continued on the other side of the stage where the husband's parents sat.  It was a clear symbol of the two families joining together as well as their accepting the new couple.  I really admire the high level of respect for familial bonds in this country.

Jane and her husband took the stage again, and the music faded into Mendelssohn's "Wedding March." The new couple paraded down the elegantly decorated aisle, while younger guests stood at the sides tossing glitter and more confetti.  We mingled for another hour or so in the ballroom, while different groups of people joined the bride and groom on the stage for photos.  First, photographs were taken of the immediate families, then all relatives, and finally friends and acquaintences.  This was the first time any sign of a Maid of Honor existed.  Jane's closest friend and co-worker, Hailey, joined in some special photos with the bride and groom.  They also posed as Jane tossed Hailey the wedding bouquet. 

Many of Jane's older relatives, including her parents, wore the traditional Korean hanbok, which up to this point, I had only seen in store front displays.  I was happy to see some of the Korean traditions still exist in wedding celebrations.  Jane's dress was simliar to those seen in the U.S., except in Korea brides typically rent their dresses for the day and for about the same price as purchasing one in the states! 

After the photographing ceased, we received a meal ticket and filed out the door to the buffet.  Walking out the doors of the ballroom, we were suddenly back in reality.  The sounds of classical music faded, and the noise of a shopping mall took its place.  Shoppers bustled by us, and we piled onto the escaltors once more.  We followed the herd to a huge buffet room that spanned an entire floor.  I'm pretty sure a few different weddings were going on at once at the buffet.  We turned in our meal tickets, then scoured the packed room for seats.  The dozen or so of us had to split up and join half-full tables. 

There were lines and lines of food to choose from, including Korean, Japanese, and Chinese dishes.  We enjoyed plates of salad and other fresh vegetables, sushi, kimchi, fried rice, soups, plenty of seafood, dumplings, stir fries, and of course, dessert.  The servers floated around, clearing plates and replacing any soju bottles that went empty.  At the ceremony, all the guests were dressed as they would for an American wedding, ties, slacks, dresses, and heels.  However, the dress code relaxed quite a bit when we entered the buffet.  There were many t-shirts and jeans among the suits and ties.

 While we were eating, Jane's parents and grandparents visited all the guests, thanking them for spending the day with them.  Soon after, Jane and her husband appeared, also thanking her guests.  They had changed into the traditional hanbok, as well.  Jane thanked us for coming and acted surprised, "Shelly, who is this new man with you? What did you do with your old boyfriend Kyle!?"  All of the Koreans were surprised at how well Kyle cleans up! At this point, it was also apparent that Hailey had some special role in the wedding, as she joined the couple in making rounds throughout the buffet room.  The girls continued chit-chatting at the tables, while Kyle... well, I'm sure you can guess...

After a few more beers, we said goodbye to Jane and her husband as they took off for a week in Indonesia.  We reunited with the other foreign teachers, took one last group photo with Jane's grandmother, then headed out for a night in Seoul. 

1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness- the picture of Kyle reading under the table! Priceless! Made me laugh out loud, though I wasn't surprised!