Planning a wedding in Korea is not an easy task although there are definitely some reasons why you should get married in Korea. I thought I would share my experience of getting married in Korea to hopefully help others in a similar situation plan a great wedding of which the guests will be thankful that they came. I will cover the basics and provide a cost breakdown which will hopefully assist others in deciding what kind of Korean wedding is best for them. Of coarse, this is the experience that I had getting married in Korea so it may differ from weddings you have been to or even had yourselves.
Planning a wedding in Korea
How can I get married in Korea?
To obtain a certificate of Marriage in Korea, a foreigner who wants to marry a South Korean citizen must produce the following documents:
- Evidence of identity and nationality – both birth certificate and passport.
- Affidavit of Eligibility for Marriage – issued and notarised by the consulate of the home country.
The following two documents may also be required:
- Evidence of current marital status – in the event of a previous marriage, a sealed certified copy of the final divorce decree is needed.
- Evidence of consent – required if either party is underage according to marriage law from their home country; Korean citizens who are less than 20 years old need consent from their parents to get married.
If you are wanting a Korean/English translation of the Affidavit of Eligibility for Marriage simply ask anyone who is relatively fluent in both Korean and English (I got my co-worker to help me out on this – they don’t need a license).
Decide what kind of wedding you want
International marriage in Korea comes with a lot of questions and the first decision you need to make is what style of wedding you want to have? Is it going to be in a Wedding Hall like almost all Korean weddings. What about a mixture of both Korean customs and foreign customs (this is the option I chose). Or do you want to skip the Korean side of it and just have something very easy and straight forward?
Pros of getting married in Korea
Significantly cheaper than most other countries which means more options, more affordable food/drinks and a better priced venue. Korean people like to drink and this makes for a great vibrant night.
Taxis are super cheap which means transport to and from the wedding venue is very affordable for guests.
Cons of getting married in Korea
Koreans generally expect to come for a maximum of 2 hours therefore might not expect to be there for the reception. Koreans are busy and many work on weekends which means getting time-off isn’t that easy.
You might not be the only couple getting married at that venue on that day (common for wedding halls to have 3 or 4 a day) so you might see other guests walking around or sitting near you while you eat your meal.
Where to have the Wedding?
This question for us was quite easy to answer. We both didn’t like the idea of having the quick 2 hour wedding in a wedding hall as we felt those guests who have made the trip from overseas will feel a little shocked with how quickly everything is finished.
In saying that, there are a lot of advantages of having your wedding at a wedding hall starting with the price. It is considerably cheaper than a having it at a hotel for example. Wedding halls generally have at least 3 or 4 weddings a day, which means they have seen it all before and have a lot of experience which means smooth sailing for the most part.
We decided to have our wedding at a Hotel (Songjung Hotel) and the reception upstairs on the 10th floor which overlooks Songjeong Beach. It took us a while to find this place and we did a lot of looking at various Wedding Expos in Busan.
Another option may be to have the wedding at a Church which is not a bad option and depending on the Church may not be all that expensive.
One thing to think about when choosing a wedding venue in Korea is to make sure there is enough parking close by as this could make it difficult for your guests living in Korea.
Pre-wedding photoshoot at Wonkyu 원규스튜디오
Another important task when planning a wedding in Korea is the Pre-wedding photoshoot. Unlike western style weddings the photoshoot is done months in advance. We went to numerous wedding expos and finally decided on the one we liked.
Wonkyu is regarded as one of the best photo studios in Busan. This was evident after the numerous recommendations we received while attending Wedding Events/Shows for couples planning on getting married. We also had a personal recommendation from a friend and they raved about it.
Keep in mind almost all wedding studios in Korea have suit/dress rental included in the price which means you get to have a photo shoot in different wedding suits which makes the photos a bit more dynamic.
Planning for the Guests
Where should the guests stay?
Our guests who came to our wedding in Busan either stayed at the Kent Hotel Gwangalli by Kensington (they have budget friendly rooms also) overlooking Gwangalli Beach or at the IBIS Budget Ambassador Busan Haeundae in (you guessed it) Haeundae Beach. This was the perfect introduction to Korea and more so Busan.
Those guests (including my immediate family) who also traveled to Seoul to enjoy the vibrant capital of Korea, stayed at the Best Western Premier Hotel Kukdo in Dongdaemun and enjoyed the endless amounts of shopping. I did have other friends stay at the 57 Myeongdong Hostel as they wanted to buy a lot of cosmetics in Myeong-dong and they really enjoyed the close proximity to the main area of Myeong-dong.
How many guests are expected?
This will factor in to where you can have your wedding. For our wedding we had about 100 guests attend and that wasn’t a huge issue as most places accommodated for up to 100 – 150 guests.
Arranging the tables at a wedding normally inst as simple as it should be. Being that most people either spoke Korean or English we had to try our best to make sure all of our family and friends interacted as much as possible which was challenging. We grouped our family and friends the best we could and took into account those friends who could speak both English and Korean and tried to get them to translate where they could to help integrate our guests as such.
Showing them around Korea
The reason our foreign guests came to Korea was to attend our wedding however it doesn’t make much sense traveling to Korea for 1 night for a wedding and flying back home the next day without taking the opportunity to enjoy/explore Korea itself. Klook offers a good day tour around Busan which covers some of the more popular places.
We hired a bus for the week (about $500 including a driver) which accommodated up to 30 guests and took them on a tour of Gyeongju and Busan. If you would like to know where we went and what we did you can check out my detailed Busan Itinerary. One thing that everybody really enjoyed was a Night cruise along Busan’s Coastline .
Keeping them entertained
Normally at a wedding the guests keep themselves entertained by talking, drinking, eating and catching up with other guests they may have not seen for a while. As Korean weddings these days are generally a maximum of 2 hours and most not even staying that long, we thought it might be a good idea to include a few small events to keep the guests somewhat interested throughout the day.
We included a raffle with Jenga blocks where guests would write their name down on a Jenga block upon arriving and write a message on it. These were then put into a large glass jar which we then did a raffle at the reception and handed out some small prizes (Busan starbucks cup, Australian wine, chocolates etc) to those who’s blocks were picked.
What to wear to a Korean wedding?
Another grey area among guests would be what do they wear? As most foreign guests would have most likely never been to a wedding in Korea before. When we sent out our invitations we included a few suggestions that it was appropriate to wear suits or smart casual attire but to keep in mind it was during summer.
As for the Korean guests there wasn’t much need to explain anything as for them they would just dress as they normally do (mother and aunties wearing Hanboks and the men almost all wore suits).
Planning for the Bride and Groom
Preparing for a wedding in Korea
First things first, Wedding rings! There is an area in Seoul (Jongro 3-ga Station) and Beomil Station (Exit 12) in Busan with a lot of jewelry stores which you can go and take a look. I purchased mine right near Beomil Station.
There are quite a few different options for suits in that you can buy a pre-made suit and get it altered or you can get a local tailor to make your suit (mine cost just over $1,000,000 won). Dresses are similar and can be made or hired. If you plan on wearing a Hanbok at your wedding you can get them for as little as $300,000 won or if you want an original with quality material you might be looking at more than $1,000,000 won.
We booked our photographers and celebrant (Bilingual) through our wedding planner which made it a lot less work for us as we only had to communicate to one person (the wedding planner). We had 1 photographer at the wedding ceremony and then another at the reception. We paid about $350,000 won for the entire night which included original photos and a video. The celebrant was around about $200,000 won which was very affordable.
We decided to keep it easy and stay at the hotel where we had our wedding. It was a great choice and we got a discount as we had our wedding there. We got an ocean-view room and even invited a few close friends back after the wedding night to continue on drinking and eating.
Wedding vows are obviously kind-of important so we both read our vows in English and in Korean (I was very nervous reading in Korean I might add) which is a great idea as then all your guests are able to understand and enjoy the moment. We each had one parent each do a speech which also helped the wedding process along nicely.
Incorporating Korean wedding traditions
Should you have mothers, aunties or grandmothers attending the wedding they will most likely wear Hanboks (Traditional Korean wedding dresses). I also got my mother to wear a hanbok (renting a hanbok generally starts at about $100,000 won) and a mini-hanbok for my niece.
Pyebaek is also a Korean tradition that is done during a wedding which consists of the bride presenting the groom’s parents with jujubes (Korean dates) and chestnuts, which symbolize children. A variation will have the newlyweds offering cups of wine, usually Cheongju. The bride offers the cup to the father, and the groom offers the cup to the mother. Sometimes the parents will then also offer the newlyweds cups of Cheongju or Soju.
Catering at a Korean wedding
It really depends on the style of wedding you will have. A wedding Hall wedding will mostly likely be buffet and a wedding at a hotel or restaurant could be either a buffet or a set menu. Drinks will be in a similar fashion although in some instances like our wedding, the restaurant allowed us to bring our own for the reception (which was great as it saved us a decent amount of money).
Bachelor Party / Stag Party in Korea
For the girl or guy, a Stag Party / Hen’s Night is something that is always great to have to get your friends together and go out for a night on the town. I organized my stag party at a local brewery and luckily it wasn’t very busy so we had the entire area to ourselves.
This process will most likely be handled by siblings or cousins on the Korean side and involves a member of the family sitting at the front of the wedding venue accepting and writing down the amount of money received by each individual guest. Obviously western cultures are a little different however if you are marrying a Korean this way of receiving gifts is very normal.
How much does a wedding cost in Korea?
Who pays for the wedding in Korea?
Along time ago it was generally the groom’s family who paid for the wedding however both in Western Culture and Korean culture it seems to be changing. This in a way really depends on the individuals and how financially well-off they are in terms of who pays for what.
Cost of the Venue
The cost of the venue itself was very affordable. We booked the Songjung Hotel which is located overlooking Songjeong Beach and the cost was surprisingly cheap. Less than $1,500,000 won (6 hours – which ran over at the reception at no extra cost).
Food and Drinks
Food at a Korean wedding can vary from about $25,000 won per person to anywhere above $100,000 won depending on how much you are wanting to spend. We were given 3 set menu options which included chicken, beef or steak and shrimp, which were all reasonably priced.
If you go to a wedding hall you generally get a buffet option which is great for guests and that can range from anywhere from $20,000 won to $50,000 won depending on the food.
Drinks like beer and soju are generally included in the wedding hall cost itself so you don’t have to worry about that if you decide to get married at a wedding hall. If you decide for a hotel/restaurant option then it really comes down to the agreement you have with the venue itself. We agreed on having the hotel itself serve/charge for drinks during the wedding ceremony while we bought and supplied the drinks and food for the reception which worked out great for both parties.
Wedding Planner, Photographers and Marriage Celebrant
The wedding planner was about $1,500,000 which included make-up on the day and we paid the photographers about $350,000 won for the entire night which included the original photos and a video. The celebrant was around about $200,000 won which was very affordable. Getting married (on paper) essentially cost nothing apart from the few applications for marriage at the local government office.
Total cost of a Wedding in Korea
Below is an estimate of the total cost of a wedding in Korea (Korean Won ₩):
* Pre-wedding Photoshoot *
₩ 1,800,000 to ₩ 2,500,000
* Bus, Hotel, Invitations, Hanbok Hire for Guests (3) *
₩ 1,000,000 to ₩ 1,800,000
* Rings, Suit/Dress and Hanboks for Bride & Groom *
₩ 4,500,000 to ₩ 6,000,000
* Venue, Food, Cake and Drinks *
₩ 6,300,000 to ₩ 11,500,000
* Planner, Photographers and Celebrant *
₩ 1,800,000 to ₩ 3,300,000
TOTAL COST: ₩ 15,400,000 – ₩ 25,100,000
Please note the total cost of a wedding in Korea will depend on your budget and how much you are willing to spend. There are some things which will greatly affect the price of your wedding such as: food, # of guests and the location. So please take these estimates as more of a guide.
Organizing a Honeymoon
Off to Japan
After our wedding we traveled to Seoul for a few days then landed in Tokyo, Japan for the first part of our honeymoon. We stayed in Shinjuku (as usual) and can recommend the APA Hotel Higashi-Shinjuku-Ekimae which is very close to the subway making it the perfect base to get out and explore Tokyo.
As we have been to Tokyo numerous times before it was great to just relax and stroll around with a loose plan. We visited the main sites such as Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku, Akihabara, Asakusa and lastly the Tokyo Tower. For those going to Tokyo for the first time make sure you check out Golden Gai and Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho as both are a great induction to Japan. If you’re not the one to plan too much you may want to catch a tour by Klook in Tokyo.
As we said good-bye to our family and friends in Tokyo, we headed west out to Lakeland Hotel Mizunosato which is located along Lake Kawaguchi near Mt Fuji. It had an onsen in the room as well as views of Mt Fuji. It was arguably one of the best hotel room views I have ever experienced. The area is absolutely stunning and the Mt. Fuji Panoramic Ropeway is a must. There is actually a lot of great activities and sights to see around Mt Fuji.
Well, that brings this post to an end. I hope you have enjoyed reading my experience with getting married in Korea and it helps you along the way at some point. Should you have any questions or would like to know more about my experience, please feel free to leave a comment 🙂
Other Guides for South Korea
If you are looking for other places in Korea then you might like relaxing on Jeju Island. Here is my detailed Jeju Island Travel Itinerary which was recommended to me by my brother-in-law who is a Jeju local.
If you’re coming to Busan then you will want to check out my detailed Busan Travel Itinerary which was created from my time living in Busan. During that time I had numerous visitors and therefore put together this article on the Best Areas to Stay in Busan. Not sure what to eat in Busan, then check out my 10 must eat restaurants in Busan.
Additionally, if you have some extra time in Busan or are coming back to Korea and want some new places to explore, these Day Trips from Busan are an excellent choice. It includes a detailed Gyeongju Travel Itinerary which I used when my family came to visit.
Still deciding whether to base yourself in Seoul or Busan? You may want to check out my article (Seoul vs Busan) which compares the difference between Korea’s two largest cities.
The most important thing (for me at least) is the food. What should I eat in Korea? Here are the Korean foods I crave the most when someone mentions Korean food.