I went to a wedding last week, and thought it would be useful to do a post on the etiquette of attending a Korean wedding, with some vocabulary too. So if you've been invited to wedding in Korea and you're not sure what to do, just follow these steps:
1. Check the location. You need to check not only the name of the venue, but also which floor, or the name of the room. Wedding halls are large and often have many weddings happening on different floors at the same time, so you need to make sure you go to the right one! If it isn't mentioned on the invitation, the information should be on a board or screen inside the entrance of the wedding hall when you arrive.
Wedding hall, event hall - 웨딩홀, 예식장, 결혼식장, 회관
2nd Floor, 3rd Floor - 2층, 3층
2. Dress Code: Smart casual, the same sort of thing you might wear to the office. Guests don't dress up to go to weddings here; in fact they usually wear very plain, dark-coloured clothes.
3. Bring cash! You have to give money when you attend a wedding in Korea. If you're not sure how much to give, ask other guests beforehand. Also check Talk to Me in Korean's website because they did a really good video on this recently. When you get to the venue, there will be a desk near the entrance. In fact, there may be two desks - One for the bride's side (신부), and one for the groom's (신랑). Depending on whether you are a guest of the bride or the groom, check which desk to go to. They will give you a white envelope. Put the money inside the envelope, write your name on it. They will check how much money you gave, and ask you to sign your name on an attendance register. Then they will give you a ticket for the buffet. Keep this because you'll need it to get food later!
Extra note: I'm not sure of the etiquette regarding this, but I've heard that many guests prefer to give money directly to the couple, to ensure that they actually receive it. Some couples may designate a family member to collect these cash gifts, but as it's unofficial, you'll need to ask around to know who you should give it to. I think you still need to give some money to the official desk to get your buffet ticket. Again, your best bet is to ask other guests beforehand.
Congratulatory gift money 축의금
4. Arrive early. Most guests want to greet the bride or groom beforehand, because there may not be a chance later, and you want them to know you attended! After giving your money and getting your buffet ticket, next look for the 신부대기실 ('Bride's Waiting Room' ). The bride will be just sitting in there with a photographer, so you can go and say hello and pose for a picture with the bride. If you are a friend of the groom, he should be waiting somewhere around the entrance of the venue.
5. The ceremony. Take a seat in the main ceremony room. Now you can just relax and watch the couple walk down the aisle, and all that stuff.
6. Photographs. After the ceremony, the photographer will take pictures. Usually they will do some with just the couple and their parents first, then with family, then lastly with friends. So if you are a friend, just sit and wait until the photographer calls you.
7. Time to eat! The buffet will probably be on a different floor, so just follow the other guests. Now you need to hand over the meal ticket you got earlier, and then you can just enjoy the buffet! What can I say? - It's a buffet, so expect to self-serve, and eat as much as you want. Be aware there may be guests from another wedding in the buffet room at the same time, so don't assume everyone in there is a guest from the wedding you just went to. The bride and groom and their parents may walk around the room to greet everyone again during the meal, but they will be quite busy as they also have other family-only ceremonial stuff to do.
8. Go home. After the buffet, that's it, the wedding's over and you can leave. The whole thing should only take up about 2 hours of your time.