Weddings

Traditional Korean Wedding 31

I recently got some more photos from our traditional Korean wedding so I thought I’d share some.

Two weeks after we had our Australian wedding we flew to Korea for our Korean wedding. Koreans don’t really do big traditional weddings like this anymore, instead most Koreans have a more westernized wedding and may just have a small ceremony after in traditional clothes. We had a wedding company organise our wedding but unfortunately we had no idea what was going on! Also, because this type of wedding is rarely done now, even the older relatives weren’t sure what was supposed to happen!

It ended up being pretty surreal and some points I was terrified. My husband looks so different in these photos as well. They put some horrendous makeup on him and pushed his hair back under the hat. The wedding was in Jinju Castle which is open to the public, so there was a huge crowd of people watching us. The sun was so hot and I remember sitting across from my husband, not being able to move in my hanbok, and worried my makeup was running down my face. My husband looked over me and mouthed, “This is terrible.” I just nodded and tried not to faint. I hadn’t had anything to drink in hours. The wedding seemed to go forever and I had no idea what was going on, but afterwards, especially when I look at the photos I know it was worth it. I can laugh about it now and it was definitely an experience!

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Our friends who had to carry us.

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They all complained that he was too heavy.

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Here we had to pass a jujube or a date to each other using our mouths.

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Our Visa Story 54

We had planned to get the ‘Prospective Marriage Visa’ originally- when we first got engaged. My husband had used up all possible visas for Australia: both working holiday visas and student visas. The only way he could stay in Australia was if he got a visa because I’m an Australian citizen. While we were in Korea for a month I started preparing for the Prospective Marriage Visa. The information and requirements are immense and takes a while to wade through.

So that is our visa story! It is one of the biggest problems for couples that are from different countries. People don’t really understand how stressful it is unless they’ve been through it themselves. Although we got married then, we didn’t really count it as our real wedding yet. We didn’t become a real married couple until our big wedding. Both our parents were really supportive through it all and had no problems with us marrying quickly like that.

You do hear stupid comments from other people though. Some people seem to get weirdly annoyed when someone is given residency based on their relationship. And if someone marries to hurry along the visa process well….. watch out for stupid comments! You’ll hear people saying “There are other ways to get into Australia.” No there isn’t. It is really difficult to get sponsorship to stay in Australia. There is not just some miracle visa people can apply for to stay… the only way my husband could live in Australia was through his relationship to me.

Some Australians seem to think that it’s really easy to get into Australia! But of course anyone who has tried to go through the rigmarole of Australian Immigration knows otherwise. And if you marry someone from another country some people are suspicious. There were even comments from extended family members about how my husband would leave me after a few years because he was just using me to get into Australia…. Yup. A lot of stupid comments.

Not only is it difficult because of judgmental people but because there really are people who do fake marriages to get residency. Because of this, the process of getting this visa is upsetting and invasive. We had to show personal emails, photos, phone records… details of your life that are just between you and your partner you have to submit to some faceless immigration officer in an office!

One of the most frustrating aspects is that most people simply do not understand what you have to go through. If you complain about all the intimate details Immigration wants someone will just say, “But they need it for a reason.” They really do not understand how horrible the process is. We spent weeks and weeks spending almost every day putting together our application. My husband was on a tourist visa, he could not work, he could not study and technically he could be kicked out of the country if Immigration wanted to do that. Our backup plan, if he didn’t get the visa, was for me to just pack up my life and move to Korea with him. Not that ideal.

In the end we were so lucky. Most people wait months, some even years, before their visa is granted. My husband’s visa being granted in just 3 days was amazing!

If you are going through this visa process at the moment, I sympathize!

So we actually had three weddings. The registry office one in Australia to prove to Immigration that we were serious, our Australian wedding for all our family and friends and then our traditional Korean wedding in Korea. So question is… which anniversary should we celebrate???

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Wedding Presents 10

This was for our Australian wedding. After everything finished we opened our presents. Some family and friends were with us as well and everyone laughed at my husband tearing open the presents while I sat reading the cards. His excuse was that it was difficult for him to read the handwritten English in the cards and he didn’t know who they were all from. He became interested when there was money in a card though!

Of course all our money is shared but he organises it. Traditionally in Korea (and Japan) the woman manages the money but we decided it is better that my husband does the managing. I’m a creative type and not exactly good with money (and we are poor newlyweds at the moment).

We got a lot of nice presents but haven’t used them yet, even though our wedding was months ago, because we haven’t found a new place to live in Sydney yet. We have them piled up in a spare room at my parent’s house. Sometimes I like to go in and just look at them and say “Mine mine! These are all mine!” Hehe, I’ve never owned such nice things before.

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Your wedding in…? 19

Oh dear. This happened far too many times. At first I hoped it was just the slip of the tongue and they accidentally said the wrong name but really they knew we went to South Korea for our traditional wedding. Then I realised many people couldn’t actually remember where my husband was from, even though they’d met him and even had conversations with him. Is he just some generic Asian man to them? Asia is a country right?

The other disturbing thing is that people are assuming that somewhere like Thailand and South Korea are pretty much the same thing. This is so insulting to both Thai people and Koreans who have very different cultures. How are people this ignorant about other countries?

I know it annoys Koreans so much when people assume South Korea is some third world country. People who can’t think of one single thing they know about Korea while they watch their Samsung TV and then go drive their Kia car. While it’s easy to laugh at strangers who don’t know, it’s much sadder when it’s a good friend who is ignorant. Like a friend of my family who thought Japan was the capital city of China… even though my brother has been living in Japan for several years.

I really hope this changes. It is quite embarrassing how little some Australians know about the Asian region even though we are right next to it.

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My Australian Wedding 22

We had two weddings. One in Australia and one in Korea. Here are photos from the Australian wedding. We wanted a small wedding and went for a vintage theme. My dress was originally made in the 1920’s so was 90 years old and very delicate! My veil is from here.

I’m sorry we don’t look like what we do in the comics… (I dyed my hair darker for the wedding as well).

All photos taken by Sheer Image Photography.

 

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My Traditional Korean Wedding 13

Right from the beginning we wanted to have a traditional Korean wedding. We had already had a western wedding in Australia but we were yet to marry in Korea and in the traditional Korean way. We thought it would be a good experience and I wanted to respect my husband’s culture by doing it. We knew we’d have to have at least two weddings anyway because our families live in different countries.

However, Koreans don’t really have these type of weddings anymore. They have a version of a western wedding (though still quite different to what we expect in western countries) and then if they do anything traditional all they do is dress in traditional costume and do a quick ceremony in a room after their wedding.

Our wedding however, went for over two hours! Because Koreans don’t really do this traditional wedding anymore even my husband’s family weren’t sure exactly what was supposed to happen. Most of my Korean friends said they had never attended a traditional wedding before.

The day started quite similar to my Australian wedding day with hours of hair and makeup. Things started to seem different though when the woman from the traditional wedding company put makeup on my husband! And I don’t just mean a bit of concealer… he had pink lipstick and mascara too.

We knew we were already running late but I was horrified to see that when we got to Jinju Castle that all the guests were already there. The woman from the company wasn’t even sure where to go. I had friends calling out to me as I was rushed to a van and I felt that it was so strange that they were seeing me in jeans and a shirt because I thought shouldn’t they first see me when I’m in traditional wedding hanbok?

I was rushed to a bathroom and was dressed quickly in my hanbok and then taken back to the van parked near where the outside ceremony would be and my head pieces were put on. While this is happening many of the guests gathered around and took photos. This was bizarre to me because in western weddings you are in hidden from guests (and get ready in a nice hotel or house usually, not at the back of a van) and there is the big reveal as you walk down the isle. That is also why I’m not really a fan of the Korean way of western weddings where before the actual wedding they do a photoshoot in their wedding clothes or sometimes a bunch of hired ones and these photos of them already in wedding attire is put on invitations. I’ve grown up knowing that the moment when a bride enters the church or venue in her wedding dress is an important moment. It’s a big reveal and when everyone gets to see the dress for the first time.

I tried to remind myself that this is a different culture as flashes went off in my face and a large stick was forced through my hair. I could feel the stress rising in me- which my husband could see and he held my hand and reassured me.

Because this type of traditional wedding is not really done much these days people weren’t really sure what was supposed to happen. Only the few people from the wedding company knew. There had not been any rehearsal or instructions given prior. Directions were barked at me in fast paced Korean and I really could not understand. One of my friends was close by translating but it was still so difficult.

I knew I was going to be carried in by four guys in a box. Actually it is a litter or called a gama in Korea I think. I was so happy to see the guys who were to carry me as they were friends (and some have been in some of my comics). But then I was told to get into the gama by the wedding company woman. I thought the top of the box opened or something but actually I had to squeeze backwards through the opening! The wedding company woman demonstrated and instructed me in Korean. I clumsily managed to get in. My hands were hidden in my sleeves with a long piece of fabric over them. As I sat in the box not being able to use my hands I felt my nose getting runny! In a panic I racked my brain for the Korean words for “tissue” and “nose” and luckily I was understood and the woman wiped my nose for me. (Poor her!)

Waiting for it to start

The photos I have are just snapshot friends took as don’t have official photos yet. In the above photo I’m smiling but inside I was terrified.

I could hear the drums playing and soon the gama was lifted into the air and we followed the musicians and my husband in a chair gama which was also carried by four guys. It was very surreal. I knew I was supposed to keep my hands in the sleeves and somewhat covering my face, but I wasn’t sure how much. The box rocked back and forth and felt unstable but luckily I trusted these guys to not drop me.

When the procession stops I’m helped out and down the steps to where the wedding takes place. The gown is difficult to walk in and luckily two women who know my husband’s mother have been enlisted to help me.

Things then became very difficult. The sun was hot and I felt sure it was melting away my makeup, fake eyelashes and red dots. The ceremony starts and I understand nothing. The two women sit by me and help me but they speak no English so my friend is behind us trying to translate. I can see my husband on the other side of the table as we are made to drink from little cups and hold up things for the ritual. The biggest problem was the big bow. I’ve never had to do this before but during the ceremony I had to do it many times. The women were there to help but I felt so clumsy.

The women helping me

There were so many people crowded around and there was no sense of seating- people stood so close to the front. Because it’s a public area there were tourists too. I think some did not realise this was a real wedding ceremony and not a reenactment! At one point I look up from where I was seated and see a man right at the front answer his phone and loudly saying “YA! YA! YA!” I remember looking at him in disbelief. I wasn’t sure if he was a family member or a random person but later when I’d met all extended family I realised he was not someone we knew. I didn’t mind tourists watching but I found that to be incredibly rude and if I didn’t have to be the docile bride I would have given him a piece of my mind!

Once we had completed the ceremony and things were read, my mother had given my husband’s mother a wooden duck, we had bowed low to both sets of parents and two live chickens were tossed (and luckily caught) we thought things were over.

We were wrong. Then the photos had started. The sun was hot and I had not drunk anything except sips of alcohol for hours. The photos seemed to go on forever and the photographers were so particular about how we stood or sat. My husband whispered to me several times about how difficult it was. I think he was having a worse time than I was. At least as a woman I’ve been made to stand still in elaborate clothing before. I could endure it. He was dying from the heat in his clothes and his hat kept falling back. Our clothes had to be constantly fixed to look good in the photos.

After many many photos we thought surely this must be over now. No, there was more ceremony! Things luckily got a bit easier though, or maybe I was just getting used to it. We poured alcohol for family members and bowed low to the ground. They then put money on the little table for us. There were some more funny things like passing jujube to each other with our mouths and then my husband carrying me around on his back.

Passing jujube with our mouths. The closest thing to kissing in the ceremony.

The whole time I had no idea how I actually looked. I had not seen myself in a mirror. I felt hot and sweaty and so exhausted. I was sure that I must look terrible. But when it was all over and we went to a restaurant with guests for lunch I saw some of the photos and realised how bright and colourful it looked! It looked wonderful. We haven’t even seen the official photos yet but even the snapshots look amazing. I had no idea. Though my husband thinks he looks like an idiot. He does look very not like himself. Maybe modern clothes suit him more.

I would never go through it all again but now I feel like it was worth it. I wish more Koreans had weddings like this too. If you are marrying a Korean I recommend doing it. In hindsight it was amazing and I’m really happy to have that cultural experience.

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