The cost to have a picture perfect wedding day
The average cost of a Korean wedding is roughly $100,000 per couple! This cost may surprise western folks, where the average cost for a wedding floats around $20,000. This got me thinking, what are the expenses for a Korean wedding? Unlike in the western world where weddings take place in a myriad of locations from churches, mountain tops, backyards, or wineries, a traditional Korean wedding is held in a wedding hall or church. (When I am referring to a traditional Korean wedding, I mean the Korean style of a western wedding, where the bride wears a white dress and groom wears a tuxedo when they walk down the aisle).
The largest expense for couple is often the venue or wedding hall, which comes decorated to the couples taste. The location of the wedding often includes the restaurant where the meal will be held after the ceremony and so this is commonly the largest expense for the couple and their family. The wedding hall (this does not include the cost of decorations or food) costs an average of 2,000,000 won ($2,000 USD), but with the bells and whistles added this can easily hit 10,000,000 won (roughly $10,000 USD). This cost can vary immensely depending on the size of the wedding. Traditionally, weddings in Korea are not just about the couple, but are a union of families and so often the bride and groom’s parents will invite coworkers and their families as well as their extended families. From my experience, it seems that the wedding invitation in Korea is a lot more open than wedding invitations in Canada and the USA where the couples strive to have a more intimate wedding. In addition to the cost of renting the room or venue for the occasion, there is the food to also consider. It is common for the wedding hall to have a required minimum amount of guests that the couple is to pay for prior to the wedding day depending on the size of the room that they rent for the ceremony. An average cost per person is 30,000 won ($30 USD) per person for the buffet. After the ceremony when the couple exchanges their vows there is a meal afterwards for the guests and it is usually a buffet-style affair. Here you may briefly see the newlyweds and exchange words to offer your congratulations. In contrast with western-style weddings where the reception is an evening for the guests to mingle together with the newlyweds and their friends and family, a Korean wedding is often over in a couple of hours. So, after the venue and food how does the average cost of a Korean wedding rise to 100,000,000 won?
Another difference besides the length of the wedding is that there is no wedding registry done by the couple and so instead guests offer the couple a monetary congratulatory gift. In my experience, when you enter the reception hall there will be two tables set-up, one for the family of the bride and groom, you give the monetary gift to the family of who you were invited by. This is a gift for the couple, but also offsets the costs of your meal. Often people gift 30-60,000 won, but this is a rough estimate and depends on how close you are to the couple.
After speaking with a young newly-wed couple, they said that after the cost of the venue and meal for the guests, the next most expensive cost was the dress, tuxedo, hair and make-up. This may vary from couple, but is definitely a
large expense. Unlike in the western world where the photographs are done on the day of the event; Korean couples often have a professional photo-shoot prior to the wedding. Here the bride and groom will wear a white dress and tuxedo as well as have other themes and the couple will take a variety of glamorous shots that will be on display on the day of the wedding. It is common for the bride-to-be to rent two wedding dresses, one for the photo-shoot and one for the wedding day. The one that is worn on the wedding day will be more expensive and luxurious because people will see you in the dress! During the wedding ceremony, there are also professional photographers on the scene who capture special moments.
Today, young couples prefer a western-style wedding than the traditional Korean wedding, but there are traditional customs that are incorporated into the ceremony. In Korea, weddings emphasize the unity of two families and as a result parents are very invested in the event and what the wedding says about them to their coworkers, peers, and extended family; consequently, the wedding may be designed around what the parents want, rather then what the couple wants because there is the emphasis on leaving a good impression on guests. Weddings are expensive and so young couples look to their parents to help with the economic burden of the event. Another thing to consider when thinking about marriage in Korea is not just the day itself, but the purchasing of a home for the newly-weds. Young Koreans often live at home until they get married and once they are married the couple will purchase a home to move into with their partner. With this included into the other expenses of the wedding can you see why the average cost of a wedding for a Korean couple is around $100,000 USD. After speaking with some young Korean couples today, I think that opinions about weddings are changing and a modern-style wedding is becoming more popular. Young couples seem aware of the expense of a Korean wedding and are finding ways to maximize their budget and focus on setting themselves up for a future life together. These days’ young couples seem concerned in making their parents and wallets happy on their special day.