As a foreigner preparing for a wedding in Korea, I have been learning a lot… Here are some things I wish I knew before I started.
- 신부님– the bride.
- 신랑님– the groom.
- 예비부부– the couple planning the wedding. The soon-to-be husband and wife. 예비 means “pre-” or “prospective” and 부부 means “husband and wife.”
- 플래너– the wedding planner. He or she can introduce and reserve everything you need for a wedding. But getting everything through a planner could get quite expensive, so it is recommended to compare prices with your own research.
For example, my wedding planner introduced me to the wedding venue and reserved my dress shop, photo studio, and makeup artist. She also introduced us to the honeymoon travel package but it was expensive for me because I knew I could reserve all of that on my own for cheaper.
Overall, wedding planners can save you time because they are the experts and they can narrow down your choices and make reservations for you, but it comes with a price. If you’re really busy and have money to spare, then leave everything up to the planner. If you’re on a budget, then do more research and reservations on your own.
- 예식장– the wedding hall. Wedding halls in Korea can be divided into five different types. A general wedding hall (일반예식장, venues specializing in weddings), hotel wedding (호텔예식장), outdoor wedding (야외예식장), house wedding (하우스웨딩), and church wedding (크리스찬웨딩). Popular and bigger wedding halls require more minimum guests. House weddings and outdoor weddings are more similar-looking to western weddings and accommodate for small groups under 100 guests, but they could be as expensive as luxurious hotel weddings. Couples on a budget typically choose an indoor wedding hall or a church.
- 스드메– a shortened phrased for studio, dress, and make-up. All three combined could cost on average about 3 million KRW (about 3,000 USD), but if you are on a budget, it could be as cheap as 1 million KRW (about 1,000 USD).
- 스튜디오– a photo studio. The place where you do a photo shoot a few months before the actual wedding. There are two different photo shoot types. Some couples choose to not do a photo shoot.
- 웨딩춸영– a wedding photo shoot. A 4 to 5 hour photo shoot with 3 wedding dresses, a hanbok, and a casual outfit. Most dresses need to be rented separately from the dress shop.
- 세미촬영– a “semi” photo shoot. A 1 to 2 hour photo shoot with 1 or 2 dresses. Cheaper than the “wedding photo shoot.” The dresses can be rented for a cheaper price at the studio, or it can be brought from a separate dress shop.
- 드레스– the bridal salon (드레스샵, dress shop). The place where you can try on wedding dresses. Trying on these dresses will cost about 30,000 KRW (about 30 USD) for each store visit. Dress shops must be visited on a weekday a few months before the wedding, so you can try them on when the good dresses are not rented out for another person’s wedding. You will also have to hire a helper to help you wear and maintain the dress during the rehearsal and wedding ceremony.
- 메이크업– the make-up. The hired make-up artist will do your make-up on the photo shoot day (rehearsal) and the actual wedding.
- 폐백– pyebaek is a Korean wedding ceremony that is held with only families and relatives. Some couples have it right after the wedding ceremony while the guests are eating at the buffet, and other couples skip it. The couple has to rent or buy a hanbok (Korean traditional dress) and hire a pyebaek helper for about 70,000 KRW (about 70 USD).
- 답례품– wedding favors. The gifts you give to guests who come to the wedding.
- 예단– a gift from the bride’s family to the groom’s family. Some families skip this Korean wedding tradition because it could get quite expensive.
- 예물– a gift from the groom to the bride. This is typically a set of jewelries, but this step is also skipped in many cases. More detailed information about older Korean wedding traditions can be found on this blog.
- SIDE NOTE: In the past (or among more traditional Korean families today), the groom’s family was expected to prepare a house for the newlywed, and the bride’s family was expected to buy all the furniture and household electronics. That is one of the reasons why Korean weddings could get infinitely expensive.
- 리허설– the rehearsal. This is the name they use for the photo shoot. You get to practice wearing the dress and the make-up.
- 본식– the wedding ceremony.
Steps to Take Before the Wedding
*There are many more steps to wedding preparations but here is a general list.
- Find a wedding planner or a wedding planning website. The latter requires more Korean reading and comprehension skills. It would be too draining for me to compare and contrast everything in Korean, so I left some work to the wedding planner. Some wedding planners can be less helpful because they know less, so don’t be afraid of meeting other better wedding planners.
- Find the wedding venue and reserve it. Visit wedding venues that you find online or through recommendations by the wedding planner, and compare their atmosphere and prices. Before you go, you should have an idea of how many guests you have and 1 or 2 possible wedding dates. Some venues will say they will give you a discount if you sign a contract within 24 hours.
- Reserve a photo studio, bridal salon (드레스샵), and a make-up artist. I left this all to the wedding planner, but learned later that I could have made the total cost cheaper if I knew more about Korean weddings. Make sure you know the basics, price range, and your budget before you see a wedding planner. Whatever you think is important is worth the money.
- Make reservations for your honeymoon vacation. If you already travel a lot on your own, this should be easy. For those who are not used to making reservations on your own, leaving this up to the wedding planner could be an option.
- Reserve everything that is not included in the 스드메 package. That could be the pyebaek, the bride and groom’s hanbok rental, the groom’s tuxedo or suit and shoes, the mothers’ hanbok dresses and makeup, wedding favors for guests who do not have time to eat after the ceremony, or anything else that is important for you and your family’s wedding.
- Try dresses at a wedding dress store. I have not done this yet, so I may make another blog post about this later.
- Buy or make your wedding rings.
- Do the photo shoot. The wedding rings should be ready before the photo shoot.
- Send out your invitations. Koreans typically prepare a card invitation and a mobile invitation. The mobile invitation includes the date, location, contact info, and the photos from the photo shoot. There is no need for the guests to RSVP. The bride and groom must guess who may or may not come.
- Grow your hair out. Wigs are expensive.
- Choose one friend that is willing to receive your wedding bouquet.
- Choose someone who will be willing to sing for you at the wedding.
- Edit your own videos and background music playlist to save some money.
- Always try to convert the Korean won to US dollars (or your native country’s currency) inside your head or on paper, so you can better grasp how big the money is.
- Send videos of a Korean wedding to your family so they can get an idea of how it looks like.
- Hire a bilingual friend that can help you out on the wedding day.
The planning is still in process, so I probably will learn more about weddings in Korea, but here is what I learned up until now. Hope this information helps another foreigner who will need to plan a Korean wedding.