During a week of training in Gwangju, we were lucky enough to be shown a display of the traditional clothes of Korea: hanbok. These colorful garments are used for everyday wear as well as celebratory events such as weddings. Many of the people in our training group were dressed in the more casual hanbok and but some wore the garb of the scholars and noblemen.
Since we are married, and thanks to Stephanie’s quick volunteering skills, the patient Korean women pulled out all of the stops to dress Stephanie and me up in the traditional bride and groom hanbok so that we could learn some of the highlights of a Korean wedding.
Bowing is a very important gesture in Korea, and instruction was provided to show us the proper ways to honor each other in a marriage ceremony. Memorizing the movements was stressful, as we didn’t want to waste all of their hard work and patience with sloppy movements. These women really were amazing. We stumbled through the short ceremony much to their enjoyment, and we even earned a few small smiles from their stoic faces.
Through every step of our experience we were stopped to display certain facts about our special clothing and to model the differences between the hanbok. From the translated descriptions I’m pretty sure that I was wearing an outfit that only the king wore, but is traditional for men to wear once in their lives: on their wedding day. This same deal went for Stephanie and she wore a princess’s hanbok. These details might be slightly incorrect either due to lapse in memory, translation services, or listening skills while being dressed and stripped by Korean ladies.
Part of the celebration included proof of strength/manhood. To exhibit the correct level of masculinity, I was made to pick up my wife and carry her a short distance, then my wedding guests rapped my feet with a metal rod. To make this assault stop, Stephanie was forced to sing a song to distract the men. I was very impressed by her willingness to sing on command in front of so many people. After her song all of the guys broke into an ironic “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.” Not the most appropriate song for a wedding, but you can’t argue with a room full of guys wearing dresses.
Our whole group really enjoyed dressing up and celebrating our second marriage. It was certainly an experience that we didn’t expect or prepare for when we went into this cultural presentation, but we ended up having a great time with some really great people. Many people go through two marriages, but we were lucky enough to marry each other twice, and on opposite sides of the world. Thank you to everyone involved.. This experience was spectacular.