While raindrops slid across the window like wriggling sperm, our bus pulled up to a hotel in Daegu. Inside a large marble-shellacked entrance hall the guests huddled around a small wooden podium stocked with white envelopes. Only cash is given at weddings, so one must only write their name on their envelope to remedy their I-have-no-idea-what-to-buy gift-giving headache.
Turning the corner upstairs I saw a smiling groom in white gloves that I recognized from the engagement photos. His petite mother stood next to him in her traditional hanbok with gold teeth gleaming through her exuberant smile.
Immediately to the right of the wedding hall doors was a small alcove where the bride perched on a cushioned bench in her wedding gown to receive guests and pose for photographs. My friend looked like a Barbie doll still inside the packaging and I wasn’t sure if I should ruffle her perfect set up. However, I decided to hug her and show her the strobe light I had bought for the wedding.
I am sure the professional photographer on hand had groaned when he saw his amateur competition, especially since I spent the rest of the time trying to capture my shots while dodging out of his way.
Inside, the guests remained seated while the bride and groom walked down the aisle together. A small fog machine bleeped on and the curious crenellated grey tube I had seen suddenly had a function. The ceremony concluded with a kiss-less exchange of rings and a deep bow to parents on both sides of the aisle. The attendant wheeled over a three-tiered cake and produced a sword with which to cut it. Afterwards it was pushed away and at some point I swear I saw a box sit upon one of the frosted surfaces.
When it was time for the couple to be serenaded, my friend Laiza from Noraejarang fame anxiously guessed her cue to walk across the room and take her place at the mike. As her powerful voice encompassed the room, I could feel the tears collect in my eyes. Glancing around I couldn’t believe no one else was choking up. Maybe it was the language barrier, but every high note she hit made my eyes a little redder and my nose a little runnier. As I secretly blamed my mother for my teary predicament, other parents pushed their daughters to practice their English with Laiza once she had returned to her seat.
Downstairs the newlyweds changed into a traditional wedding outfit to receive their closest family members. The bride wore little red dots upon her cheeks to enhance the display of modesty and innocence that is expected from a young woman. After removing my shoes I sat on a cushion in the corner of the room while the bride’s brother narrated the events for us.
The Korean ceremony started with the mother-in-law tossing chestnuts and Chinese dates into a white cloth to predict how many children the couple will have. Then relatives took turns sitting behind the low table while the newlyweds bowed. The family members all toasted and ate a small Korean cookie before stepping aside for the next group. At the end the groom scooped up the bride on his back and left both sides of the family to bow to each other before saying something positive about their newest addition.
By the time I made it to the large buffet hall it was virtually empty. Despite unlimited alcohol, almost every one had finished their meal and were lured back to the buses for a ride home. Somehow I had not realized that there are no celebrations planned after weddings in Korea! As I tucked into my iced octopus heads, the rain poured outside and the clock slipped forward. When Barret and I finished, only the kitchen staff was left eating in the cavernous room.