Gloria & Robert's harmonious wedding of Korean-Canadian traditions

August 1 |  
Photos by: Mailyne Briggs
korean ceremony
Photos by Mailyne Briggs

The Offbeat Bride: Gloria, lawyer, musician, and writer

Her offbeat partner: Robert, chef and assistant Hotel Manager

Date and location of wedding: Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada — September 22, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: It was really important to us that our wedding incorporate traditions from both of our cultures, Korean and Canadian. This meant having two wedding ceremonies, two caterers (Korean food and "Western" food), and two wedding dresses! It also often resulted in a creative fusion of cultures: Western-style table settings with origami cranes as decorations, my mother-in-law walking down the aisle in her dress alongside my mother in her traditional Korean hanbok, and a bar serving both Canadian beer and Korean soju liquor.

wedding party

outside the reception hall

origami cranes

moms walking down the aisle

saying our vows

Tell us about the ceremony: We first had a Western-style wedding at the church that I grew up in, with my uncle (who is a pastor) officiating. The first people to walk down the aisle were the flower girls, my little cousins who are half Korean, half French Canadian. I like to think they set a good tone of interracial harmony!

korean ceremony

korean ceremony

As mentioned, we also did a Korean tea ceremony after dinner, where we paid our respects to our elders by bowing to them, serving them tea, and listening to their advice.

korean ceremony

korean ceremony catching

At the end, my mother-in-law followed Korean tradition by throwing chestnuts and dates at me, while Rob and I tried to catch them with my scarf. Each chestnut or date that we caught symbolized how many sons or daughters we would have. From what we caught, it seems like we will have three boys and one daughter. Wow…

korean ceremony

Our biggest challenge: There aren't a lot of Korean-Canadian weddings in our town. People tend to either opt going the Canadian route or having the wedding in Toronto, which has a larger Korean population, so the services weren't readily available. We had to get creative and arrange a lot of things by ourselves.

korean buffet

For example, most conventional wedding venues didn't offer Korean food as part of their menu, so we had to find a venue that would let us bring in our own food. Luckily, the local community centre let us hire our own caterers. There aren't any major Korean catering companies in town either, although there are a few Korean restaurants. With a help of my Korean-speaking mother, we negotiated a contract with some of the Korean ladies in town to provide a Korean dinner, while we hired a well-known catering company in town to provide Western appetizers and desserts.

dessert

Most bars don't serve soju (Korean liquor) either, so we opted to buy all the alcohol ourselves and hire a bartender, rather than have the caterer supply it. This meant we had to special order the soju from the liquor store.

We also didn't own any of the traditional Korean wedding clothing. A family friend who also works at the Korean embassy generously lent us all of her hanboks, as well as the tea set. Another family friend provided us with the beautiful backdrop and the Korean table.

korean ceremony

My favorite moment: I'm really glad we did the Korean tea ceremony. It gave us a chance to pay respects to our elders. My non-Korean friends also enjoyed the rare opportunity to witness a part of my family's culture. Additionally, Rob looked great with his Korean hat!

korean ceremony
Ouch ouch ouch

My funniest moment: Rob had actually hurt his back before the wedding, so it was very painful for him to bow during the Korean tea ceremony. Unfortunately, the deeper you bow, the more respect you show, and Rob didn't want to disrespect any of our elders! To make it worse, during the ceremony we were supposed to bow three times for each set of parents/grandparents, which meant that he had to bow at least fifteen times. Each time we bowed, he'd look at me and whisper incredulously, "AGAIN?" He put on brave face throughout the whole thing. I know I shouldn't be laughing at my husband's pain, but really, it was funny.

reception

on the beach

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

  • Bride's dress: I think every Canadian bride should learn about The Brides' Project, where I got my wedding dress. The Brides' Project is a Toronto-based organization that sells secondhand wedding dresses and donates the proceeds to cancer research. It's such a great cause. I was happy to spend my money there for my dress, which came with a card from the original bride. I later got in contact with that bride and we shared our stories.
  • Day-of coordinator: Julie Barake of Chic Wedding Planning & Design. She was absolutely wonderful, and there's no way that our day would have gone as smoothly without her.
  • Cake and cupcakes: Penny from Cakes Above All. She did an incredible job of making beautiful yummy cupcakes at a great price.
  • Photography: Mailyne Briggs, who was professional and patient in taking her beautiful photos.
  • Caterer: We are so thankful to Tulips and Maple Catering for accommodating our unique request for a multicultural dining event.
  • Wedding bands: Magpie Jewellery, which features jewellery made by Canadian artists.

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. I lived in South Korea for four years and I miss it like crazy, so I LOVED seeing this wedding! I appreciate the difficulties that you must have faced trying to include the Korean elements. You did an absolutely amazing job (I especially love the picture of both the moms together) and the food looks fantastic! I wish I could have gone. Congratulations!

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    • Thanks so much! South Korea's a beautiful country, and I'm hoping we'll have a chance to go there next year so I can show my husband around the homeland. Since the wedding, we've now moved to Nunavut in the Arctic, where there is even less of a Korean population (just me), so I really miss Korean food too.

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  2. This is incredible! Way to go on everything you did! As a West End Ottawa gal I literally bounced in my seat at the sight of Britannia Park. It's one of my fave spots in the city, so I'm super happy you were able to have your wedding there.

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    • Isn't Britannia Park great? I was so happy to have part of the wedding by the beach – a lot of people were surprised that Ottawa has such a nice beach. I'm very happy with how the photos in the park turned out.

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  3. love everything about it! :-) the reception looked sweet great buffet looking table. New to this blog after checking out this site and you guys were on the top page :-) Great photos.

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  4. I love everything about it! I also love where you got your dress. I never knew such a place existed, or I would have checked them out (never mind that I'm in Edmonton). Congrats!

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  5. I am happy for both of you!! If you don't mind my asking, you are a lawyer and he is a chef / Hotel manager, did you move for his job or yours or both??? Best wishes on your new marriage, move and life together.

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  6. Thanks for your kind words!

    We moved up North for my job. Rob was very supportive about this move because he knew it would be good for my career. Luckily, he didn't have much trouble finding a great job once he moved up here.

    If you're interested, we actually talk a bit more about our post-wedding life in the Arctic in this Offbeat Homes post: http://offbeathome.com/2013/05/arctic-home

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  7. This wedding was so resourceful! I never would have thought of asking local Korean-Canadians to help out in the food division (and catering can never beat home cooking no matter how much you pay for it). Also fabulous idea getting hanboks from the embassy. I hope your ??brings you much ??.

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    • Thanks so much! The Korean ladies that we asked to cook dinner had previously owned and managed one of the Korean restaurants in town, so luckily they had professional experience and knew what they were doing. I'm so relieved that it went well!

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  8. This is so great! We are also having our wedding in the Ottawa/Gatineau area and your wedding was so inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

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  9. hi gloria, – super to see your ceremony- many thanks for your post – i have one question, did you do the p'ye-baek publicly in front of all the guests with the entire ceremony or only for your in-laws at the reception? and if you did it in front of all the guests, how did you contextualize it? we will probably move it to another smaller room at the reception, to do it the "proper way," but i'm open to changing it.
    in addition, i'd love to know how you handled the explication of the traditional Korean symbols and traditions in canada. did you have a moderator?

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    • Good question! I know other people have done the paebek privately or even on another day, but we did ours after dinner at the reception. There was a stage in the venue, so we set it up there, almost like a show. It allowed the guests to watch what was happening while they had coffee and tea. We also had a family friend with a microphone narrating the whole process in English, so that even non-Korean people could understand what was happening. It ended up working out really well (except for my husband's sore back, of course).

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      • so you separated the ceremony and the p'ye-baek with dinner. good idea. as for the moderator, we're planning to have an interpreter, once in German and then in English. one more question if you don't mind all my annoying questions, did you have a korean elder from your community officiate the ceremony? or did you just wing it with family? since the korean community is quite tight knit here, we're getting so much advice from them all, it's getting a bit overwhelming. y'all look like you had it all down pat.

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        • No problem! For the "white wedding" ceremony at the church, it was my uncle who officiated. He's a pastor, so it made sense. For the Korean paebek ceremony, it was a family friend who was narrating what was happening.

          It felt overwhelming for me too, in the days coming up to the wedding, but everything went smoothly! Hope you enjoy yours!

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  10. Beautiful wedding! I especially loved how your family and community helped out with the Korean dresses. That's so incredibly sweet. <3

    Also, nifty mix of the cultures!

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