I am surprised to read when a Korean couple married, the bride family have to fork out certain amount of money to the groom and it seems like a lot.
May I know if Asians or foreigner marry a Korean guy, do they have to follow the customs as well? What if the bride’s family background are financially lower than the groom? How would the groom family be reacting about this? Can they still get married with the groom family support? :(
Well, if you can’t afford this particular husband, you either have to find a cheaper one, or wait for this one to be on sale (you can get best prices after they’re 35).
I kid, of course.
I assume you are talking about dowry. Traditionally, Korean weddings had elaborate gifting system. By elaborate I mean it made my head spin when Kimchi Man tried to explain it. There were the gifts given to close family of the groom, gifts for the bride, gifts for bride’s family, gifts from the bride’s family to the groom’s friends, gifts of food and wine between the families, and gifts that went back and forth between the families, upgrading on each pass.
The part you are interested in, the gifts given by bride’s family to the groom and his family, are called ‘yedan’ (예단) in Korean. Traditionally, the groom’s family would present the bride with fine silk. She would then personally make it into garments and send them back to her groom’s parents. As an appreciation for her hard work, they would in turn send money. With time, yedan changed its meaning to mean any gift sent to the groom’s family by bride’s family. In the past it only consisted of goods, most commonly a silver spoon set, chopstick set and luxurious bedding; but in recent times, presents commonly include money. As I mentioned before, that is only a small part of gifting which goes both ways.
Another option is for the groom to supply the place to live while the bride supplies the furnishings.
Some families consider it too much a hassle and too a perfect opportunity to cause inter-family feuds, so they agree to forgo it all.
If it was as you say, that bride’s family HAS to give a large amount of money, then poor people, people whose parents have passed away, and people who don’t believe in tradition would never get married in Korea. So the short answer would be that it depends on the situation and the opinions of particular people involved. It seems concerning for your coming marriage that you would turn to us with this question, rather than ask your future husband.
On a different, but related note, I would like to address many foreigners who wonder, like you, if not being Korean exempts them from following Korean customs. Koreans are rather understanding of foreigners and are ready to give them great leeway when it comes to Korean etiquette. However, let’s not forget that customs and etiquette are not just remnants of old times when people had nothing better to do than to create intricate social hoops to jump through in order to make their internetless time pass faster. Customs and etiquette are there to make the everyday interactions of people run as smooth and frictionless as possible. Imagine if you had to make up on your own, thousands of times a day in every minor social interaction, what to do to make the other person feel respected and appreciated. This is what famous Miss Manners had to say about it:
You can deny all you want that there is etiquette, and a lot of people do in everyday life. But if you behave in a way that offends the people you’re trying to deal with, they will stop dealing with you…
While someone who is merely passing through, should not worry about Korean customs and will still find it easy to be comfortable among hospitable Koreans, those that plan spending their life in Korea should resolve to follow the customs while keeping in mind that no etiquette rule is part of the law and can always be adjusted or left out simply by discussing it with all those involved.
Do you have experience with Korean wedding customs and giving money as gifts? Did you ever meet a Korean bride who had to pay money she didn’t have to groom’s family?
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