Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Re: The List - Getting Invited to a Korean Wedding!

(be warned: LONG. ...that's what she said?)

Mom: “Should you pack some good dress clothes for while you’re over there?”
Me: “Nah, that’ll just take up valuable suitcase real estate. I mean, what are the odds that I’ll get invited to a Korean wedding?”

I swear to Santa, this conversation actually happened.

Because I move slower than the second coming, and I don’t want the details to fade, I will not only speak of the awesome of the wedding invite, but will share details of the wedding itself!

So in case I’ve not mentioned it, soon after arriving I learned that Miss K and Boss were engaged to be wed to one another and the wedding would happen in December. Having only been in their employ for a short time, I was honestly surprised as hell when I was given an invitation! The card was absolutely beautiful—all silver and white and elegant. A keepsake for sure.
…and I have no fucking clue what it says.

Anyway. We got our wonderful coworkers to translate the important details for us (ie: where did we need to be on what day and what time?) and it turned out the location was super-close and we made it there on foot in about 10 minutes.

I… was in a dress. Anyone who has known me for any stretch of time is aware that seeing me in a dress is an occasion for the record books. D had an extra one that miraculously fit me, and my work shoes were dressy enough to wear with it. I don’t even want to begin to contemplate what questing for dress shoes in my size would be like here. I have a hard enough time finding the right pair at home. I had visions of finding a way to temporarily amputate my toes or some such thing. “Dainty” I am not.

Also, the length of this dress bordered on miniskirt length (on my planet, anyway), so I was super-paranoid and constantly tugging it lower. That’s how I roll.

We made it to the spot where we were to meet coworker and friend S before heading off to the wedding itself, and very fortunately for us, coworker and friend H was also given the same location as a meeting spot—S was running late and we had no clue where we were heading, but H did!

The ceremony/reception on the top floor of this place called Nucore, which is like… a department store/movie theatre/collection of restaurants, and this big hall meant specifically for weddings.

So we went and joined the massive crowd for the elevator. And we waited. And we waited some more. Then a bit longer. I will say now that that I don’t care a bit for my elevator experiences here. In the elevator at work, the door sensor is busted (or maybe just opseyo) so if the door is closing, you will lose a limb if you force your way in. Furthermore, it’s S L O W. In the time it takes to arrive from beyond the second floor, I can easily be up the four flights of stairs to work. Other elevators also take an eternity or so to arrive and are often filled to the brim. On those occasions I am often also the recipient of the OMG FOREIGNER stare—which can sometimes be fun, like when I departed the elevator and said farewell in Korean and everyone practically applauded.

…What the hell was I saying again? Right. Elevators suck. Yes. Luckily there is also a healthy abundance of escalators in Pyeongtaek, so H suggested we try them instead. So we bolted up them as quickly as the crowds of shoppers ahead of us would allow (with me cursing out my dress and pantyhose as the soundtrack), and arrived in the nick of time.

Already I could see the wedding differences.

First of all, we received a food ticket which would get us into the feasting hall for the post-ceremony lunch, and then we entered the… chapel, I guess, to observe what looked like a fairly western ceremony. Er, ‘western’ as in hemisphere, not cowboys. The seating was reserved for family, with many of the women wearing traditional Korean dress, so we hung out at the back to watch with a number of our students that had received an invite as well. The lighting kept changing colour, which I found both awesome and odd. I guess I am too used to ceremonies in churches with natural light seeping in from outside. Still, it was very pretty and different.

Boss and Miss K looked fabulous in tux and fancy white dress, saying their words (of which I understood exactly none), but there was no kiss to seal the deal. From what I’ve seen though, Koreans are pretty reserved about PDA. More likely you will see people swatting playfully at each other, and I see more handholding between girls who are close friends than between couples. Ditto for hugs. Sigh. I miss hugs.

Oh my god, I AM Ellen.

So! When the ceremony concluded, there were more photos taken, first with family—wherein I figured out that one of our coworkers is also Boss’ sister—then coworkers got called up for a photo too! And finally there was a photo taken with their students, which I thought was pretty sweet.

I don’t know how much of the ceremony was traditional, and how much of it was Boss and Miss K’s preference, but I liked that we got to be in a photo with them.

There were a few other odd things about the ceremony, in that people just kept kind of ducking in and out, and lunch was already being served in the next room, so there was this constant murmur of voices outside while there was y’know, a wedding happening. There were people dressed in blue jeans and baseball caps, and people were sending texts on their phones… it was almost disconcerting, especially since the wedding was only like 20 minutes. Of course I found out after that there were two ceremonies, just for the bride, the groom, and their parents—so maybe the other was just for show?

There was a moment that was particularly funny, however, that had nothing to do with the ceremony itself. When coworker M entered the ceremony hall, hand-in-hand with his girlfriend, our students started whispering excitedly amongst themselves and taking pictures with their phone cameras—and meanwhile there was a wedding happening.

Also, because I can’t resist a chance to show off my lame lame sense of humour, towards the end of the ceremony everyone started singing a hymn—in Korean—and I leaned over to T and whispered “Dude, I don’t know the words to this hymn!”

I believe I mentioned that lunch followed the ceremony. By ‘lunch’ I mean FEAST. An incredible, glorious, enormous, fantastical, all you can eat FEAST.

I don’t even know the names of pretty much everything that I put onto my plate, but oh my santa, it was all SO GOOD. Noodles, meat, fish, sushi, kimbap, plain rice, fried rice, chicken, sauces, salads, cookies, cakes, fruit, cider, pepsi, soju… more!

Some of our students joined us at our table, and this particular group of kids is fairly advanced in English, so they were talking to us lots, asking many questions, and answered the ones that we asked them as well. Most of my questions to them involved the food being served: “What’s this called?” “How do I eat this?” “Can you pass me the water?” –Some of the stuff, while delicious, was also very spicy.

Eventually the kids took off to go exploring, leaving me, T, D, S, and H to invoke soju o’clock. We might have killed nearly two bottles. Also, even though soju is generally served in shot glasses, it is apparently meant to be sipped. However, T and I decided that knocking the drink back was more fun, especially since it made H and S laugh hysterically. Then H introduced us to this flavoured nectar that you can mix with the soju to give it a new taste. It was kiwi! Er, the fruit. Not New Zealander. Heh.

Now, unlike the Canadian weddings I have attended, the festivities don’t last long into the night. It was 330 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon when we left, after bidding Boss and Miss K (who is no longer Miss K now!) farewell and telling them to enjoy their honeymoon, and admiring the traditional Korean clothes they had worn for the private family ceremony. As one who has been in multiple weddings, where the day commences at the crack of dawn for hair and nails and makeup and pre-ceremony photographs, and finishes almost 24 hours, a massive meal, and a pile of drinks and dancing later, it was a bit strange to be leaving so early in the day—but at the same time, the pantyhose were driving me utterly batshit and I was looking forward to burning removing them. For the rest of the afternoon (which was spent in Songtan in the company of D) I kept randomly saying ‘jeaaaaaans’ and grinning like an idiot.

Thus concludes the wedding adventures—the best that I can recall them anyway. Not because of soju, mind (haha), but because it’s been like two weeks since the wedding and this is the first chance I had to sit down and write about it!

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