Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ending With a Celebration

My brother and his fiancee picked my mom and I up from our hotel in Seoul on Saturday afternoon and we all drove together to the wedding hall. We arrived about four hours early so that everyone could get hair and makeup done with enough time remaining to get dressed and take a few hundred photos. While Se Eun and my mom were busy getting ready I chatted with Sui, one of Se Eun's cousins who was just lovely. She works in marketing for Calvin Klein and spoke English really well, which was of course helpful to the general flow of conversation.

I did not end up taking very many photos of my own AT ALL. Something I regretted almost immediately after. But the situation was so new to us that I wasn't really sure when it was appropriate or what would be coming next. I wish I would have gotten photos of the traditional Korean dresses that the women wore or more photos of my brother in his tuxedo, or even a quick shot of my mom and I all gussied up. But the opportunity never seemed to present itself. I'm hoping that when they get their real wedding photos back they'll send some on and I can share them here with you.

Anyhoo. Weddings in Korea are similar to ones in the US in many ways. The bride wore a white gown, carried a bouquet and was undoubtedly the star of the show. The flow of the ceremony was much the same as it is here, and the reception dinner was quite similar. The differences came in the details. For example, instead of her father giving her away, my mom and Se Eun's mom walked down the aisle holding hands. At the end, they each lit a candle on the front alter and rejoined in the middle, bowed to the guests and sat down.

Also, most people in Korea get married in wedding halls which are sort of a one-stop-shop for all things wedding day. The hair and makeup, the room for the ceremony, the hall for the reception, the food, the flowers and even the corsages and some parts of the outfits were all included in the venue. We were also told by one of my brother's in laws that it is traditional for family of the bride/groom to wear white *lace* gloves and a flower corsage. Of course they said that if we did not want to there was absolutely no pressure, but seeing as it was my brother's day and not ours, we were ready to do whatever was asked of us. I was only momentarily disappointed that the white gloves clashed with my royal blue/black outfit, but I got over it when I channeled a little Madonna/Jackie O. (Yes, what a combo.)

After the ceremony and some food the newlyweds came back in to cut the cake. I was personally excited because I was starved and definitely ready to eat ANYTHING other than seafood. So they cut the cake with the worlds largest knife and after at least thirty minutes I finally catch my brother and I say "So like...When are we going to have cake?" and he said that in fact the cake was not real. I still haven't wrapped my mind around whether the cake was only there for the benefit of the westerners in the audience, or if the cutting of the cake in Korea is more of a symbolic gesture and they actually hate cake. But either way, it was just one more quirky and interesting tidbit of the day.

My brother was very obviously happy and excited to be married to his wife. My mom and I observed that she was the most beautiful girl in the room that day (did I mention they had over 200 guests!?) What I did not expect however, was all of the young women in the room saying that my brother was so handsome. That he looked like a celebrity or a model and that Se Eun must have been having a hard time keeping it together. Funny because you know...It's hard to envision your brother that way, but I'm sure he secretly didn't mind.

I think more than anything it was great to see how much his in laws liked him and how glad they were that he had chosen their daughter (or rather, they chose each other) to marry. They are undoubtedly a great match and I have always wanted a sister, so I feel lucky too.

The next morning they took off for Ko Samui, Thailand and my mom and I packed our three week's worth of clothing and souvenirs and headed for the airport ourselves. It was a long and amazing trip - probably a once in a lifetime opportunity and I think I will be glad that I spent this time with my mom for many years to come.

Small details that didn't make it into the blog while I was away will come along this week as well as an excessively long rant about the perils of jet lag and returning to work the day after you get home. Spoiler: It's a mistake when your body clock is 17 hours ahead. More on that later.