Dress Cafe: Week 184

Polaroids of a dress cafe in Ehwa: Seoul, South Korea

“Is it ok for Barret to see you?” Amy looked worried when she saw me come out of the dressing room in a strapless wedding gown. “He isn’t supposed to, right?”

“Nah, it’s fine.” I replied as I glanced at my freckled scoop-neck tan line in the mirror. “It’s not like it’s my real wedding dress.”

Amy, Eun Soon, Barret and I were right next door to Ehwa Women’s University in Seoul. Most good university neighborhoods cater to their student population, and in this regard Ehwa does not disappoint. Within walking distance from the hallowed school grounds are nail salons, jewelry carts, cafes, and tiny clothing shops crammed with pastel blouses and hair ribbons.

While those are all great reasons to visit the bustling neighborhood, the four of us were there specifically to visit a dress cafe.

Prior to arriving in Seoul, I had lamented the fact that the four of us didn’t have any photos together. “Eun Soon,” I declared as our flight drew nearer. “We need to go to a dress café.”

“You mean the wedding one?” She asked.

“No, just one with lots of dresses.”

Barret at a dress cafe in Ehwa: Seoul, South Korea

“There are only two types,” Eun Soon quickly clarified, “hanbok and wedding.” The loose-fitting traditional Korean costumes, called hanbok, are beautiful and come in a rainbow assortment of colors. However, the idea of renting wedding dresses for a photo shoot with friends was just too oddly intriguing.

“Let’s take a bunch of wedding photos!” I decided. “Can you make a reservation?”

Tree prop at a dress cafe in Ehwa: Seoul, South Korea

We were the only customers when we arrived at the café. The term ‘photo studio’ is a more apt description, but we did each order a sweet beverage. There was a large pink flowery tree behind us and over to our right was a vanity mirror piled high with makeup and glittery tiaras. The closet next to the vanity held three racks of dresses divided into four separate price categories. The most expensive dresses cost 40,000 won a session.

When I finished my drink I picked out a dress and slid the curtain across the closet. The barista helped me into my dress and afterwards asked what size shoe I wore. “Namu kun,” I replied and she laughed at the thought of my feet being too big for the 40 odd pairs of heels on the ground.

“Well,” Amy translated, “she said you should just wear your sandals.”

Choosing accessories at a dress cafe in Ehwa: Seoul, South Korea

While I waited for the others I sidled up to the vanity to touch up my makeup and select a tiara. Almost immediately, the photographer came over, removed it, and put a different one on my head.

“OK?” She asked.

“Sure, why not.” I smiled. She then selected a necklace and clasped it around my neck.

“OK?”

“Yeah!”

A veil appeared next to my head in the mirror. Ii was long and had gauzy fabric and a lace detail along the edge.

“Heck yeah!” I wasn’t planning on saying no to anything.

While Barret was putting his tux on and selecting his bow tie, Amy and Eun Soon were curling the tips of their hair and touching up their makeup.

About an hour after we first arrived we were finally ready to go. I just don’t know if the photographer was ready for Barret.

Barret playing the piano at a dress cafe in Ehwa: Seoul, South Korea

The group posing with a boquet at a dress cafe in Ehwa: Seoul, South Korea

The dress cafe rose room: Seoul, South Korea

How to get to Ehwa University neighborhood in Seoul: Line 2 – Ehwa Women’s University Station – Exit #3

A Wedding in Christchuch: Week 162

On a vinyeard just outside of Christchurch

“Is that all your luggage?” the customs official had asked with a skeptical glance.

“Yes.” We only had two small backpacks and a canvas bag with my dress and heels.

“We just jumped over for a wedding.” I felt like a jet-setter, but in reality we had caught a cheap red-eye flight to Christchurch. It was only three hours away.

It was after midnight by the time we reached our motel, the door to our room left unlocked. We ate an airport dinner on the bed and turned on the TV. There’s something about watching the news in a hotel room that elicits an inexplicable excitement in me.

Maybe it began back in ’94 with the promise of a new start in the Sunshine State, my mom turning on the news while my dad sat outside smoking the day’s first cigarette. Pack the last few items in the U-Haul and stop at the McDonalds on the way out of town. A long, long road lay ahead and the sun was just rising.

***

Barret and I have had an odd relationship with Christchurch. It’s a city still working to overcome a crippling earthquake that destroyed its entire downtown. Because of this, out of all the possible cities to visit in New Zealand, Christchurch would not currently be at the top of our list.

However we keep going back: once on our own, twice with Barret’s mom, and once again when my sister stopped there on her way to Antarctica.

I hadn’t planned on returning, but there we were the following morning in the only taxi that didn’t use GPS. The driver, an elderly guy who liked to talk about LPG tanks, handed Barret a thick book of maps. “Don’t worry,” he announced, “you have that discount coupon.”

Five minutes later we were back on track and pulling into a gravel parking lot outside a vineyard on the city’s outskirts. The wooden pavilions at the entrance were draped in pastel bunting and the soft autumnal light was filtering through a row of oak trees.

A Maori prayer was sung, then Bahá’í vows (a faith which originated in 19th century Persia), then traditional Christian vows. I tossed my sachet of oak leaves on the newlywed couple and tried to discretely wipe my tears away.

I’m not quite sure what impels me towards movement, to crossing oceans and mountains and state lines and doorsteps. However moments like these, when I’m seated at candlelit table decorated with gnarled driftwood and surrounded by good friends, I’m reminded of how important it is to sometimes stop. Or, at the very least, slow down long enough to be invited to awesome weddings in Christchurch.

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