Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Wedding

The invitations were sent out, the family had arrived from the US, and now as the guests arrived the excitement was building. Being a parent of the bride, I joined in greeting guests into the traditional Korean village for the wedding ceremony. A representative from each side of the family sat at a table to accept wedding gifts. My son, Zac, manned our table with envelopes and a pen. It is customary to give money and as a gift and this is often how it is received. A pair of white cotton gloves were given to the parents to wear as a symbol of formality, somewhat similar to the American custom of the last century. The day was a little chilly so I welcomed them on all accounts. Thankfully, we were graciously guided each step of the way on the customary protocol. Being Mother of the Bride can be a little overwhelming and especially in a foreign country. Wasn't it just recently my daughter had her hair in barrettes and was wearing flouncy dresses with bows? My how time flies. She was now being dressed and groomed in the Korean hanbok with her hair pulled back preparing for her headdress.
As the bride and groom readied, the festive drumming sounds of the samul nori could be heard in the background. The pounding of the drums mixed with the clanging of the 2 different types of gongs while the guests arrived. My daughter was taken to the palanquin and was guided as she backed into it. Two children, called chullongdong, lead the way while 4 men carried the palanquin holding the bride. A shroud covered the grooms face because his good looking face might make the evil spirits jealous. In turn, the bride keeps her eyes lowered to prevent any evil spirits from entering. The drumming and clanging continued, creating excitement as the wedding procession made its way up some stairs to the open-front traditional house. Shoes must be removed before entering the rooms. The parents were given clogs to wear (so much for shoe shopping...mine were kelly green!) and were seated on benches on either side of the room. I was still chilly and my teeth were chattering from a mix of nerves and cool temperatures. This was unlike anything I had ever experienced. The samul nori sat quietly during the ceremony. A table held symbolic items that were to be used during the wedding. Among them were 2 wooden ducks, symbolizing marital fidelity and joy, and 2 live chickens wrapped up to the head in a red cloth. Occasionally the chickens protested, and were soothed by someone from the wedding party. I had no idea what their fate was. At one point someone brought a small flannel covering over to me and draped it over my knees. I thought, how perceptive they were to see how cold I was. Later, I realized it was part of the ceremony for me to wrap the ducks with this cloth that sat upon my skirt. There were many symbolic gestures that took place. I was very touched by the bowing of the bride and groom to the parents as a show of respect and a thank you for all they have given. That is one custom I could get very used to!My daughter must have felt like royalty as her attendants blotted any tears during emotional moments. There were many symbols of the bride and groom becoming at one with each other, including the seocheon ritual. Seocheon is reporting of the marriage to the spirits of heaven and earth and asking the couple to live happily. Raising a cup symbolizes reporting the marriage to the heavens, while lowering it reports to the earth. Liquor was poured into the cup and the bride and groom drank from it. Then a split gourd was used to drink from, as a symbol of the 2 minds becoming one. The couple was pronounced Man and Wife, and then wedding rings were exchanged. The guests applauded and happiness and joy filled the spring air. It was such an exciting time as the Bride and Groom faced their guests now as husband and wife! Tears fell and hearts warmed. But, there was still one last custom to fulfill. In Korea, chickens are considered a sacred animal that tells us the time. The chickens also take away any bad luck during the ceremony and are offered as a prize. The throwing of the chickens seems similar to the western tradition of throwing the bouquet. A floral bouquet may have been more cooperative, but less exciting! The chickens were tossed out to the guests, and I understand that one became dinner shortly afterward. Wow!Following all of that excitement, in a private side room, the Bride and Groom shared a ceremonial tea before family photo taking began. This begins their life together. They then changed into traditional post ceremony dress for the final feast of the joining of both families....our new families. We all shared a multi-course meal together as all of our lives were now magically different through the love of these 2 people. There were hugs, kisses and bows as they bid farewell. The next morning they began the new chapter of their lives as they left for their storybook honeymoon in Bali ♥♥ I think they have a beautiful life before them.
A very special thank you to my family who didn't hesitate to be there and to my new family who treated us with such generosity and grace. xo

And thanks to my sister, Sandy, for most of these wonderful and memorable photos
I may update once the professional photographers photos come back.

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