Wedding Planning from Abroad

In about two weeks, I’ll be leaving for my hometown. I haven’t been back to the U.S. in 2 years, so I’m excited to eat and shop (mostly for books and shoes, since my size is so elusive here in Korea) and see my friends and family!

Junkyu will come about two weeks later and I’ll spend a week showing him around my hometown for the first time. He’s never been to the U.S. before, so we are both nervous-excited to go together. Then, at the end of the week, we’ll be getting married! (Again!)

We’ve been planning to have an American wedding since he first proposed, so we always knew we would have one, but it was a matter of when and how. Korean holidays are usually short and it’s hard for Koreans to take off enough time from work to go on an international vacation. My husband works especially long hours and doesn’t really get days off, even though he’s a co-owner of the company. Koreans just don’t really believe in “vacation” because every day that you don’t work is a day you are losing money.

This year, however, we got lucky! Chuseok (Korea’s version of Thanksgiving, basically) spans almost an entire week, and the Korean president Moon Jae-In gave the country an extra Monday off to round out the vacation, making it two weekends long. Chuseok is also close to Hangul day this year, which is on a Monday, making it a long weekend. We bought our tickets back in February or so, knowing that they’d get more expensive with people taking advantage of the long break.

Once we booked our tickets, I was able to actually start planning. I had already found a dress with my mom and my (then) newly appointed maid-of-honor, but all my plans were on hold until after we knew for sure when we could have the wedding.

So we chose our date but choosing a venue was a headache. I looked at so many places, but all of them were way overpriced and many of them had restrictions regarding decor and food, so I threw my hands up at the whole process. Then, I got an idea and called my mom (who lives on a big piece of land that’s basically a farm) to ask her if we could just have the wedding and reception at her place. Of course she said it was a great idea, but we had a lot to do to make sure the place was ready.

My mom had been dreaming of building a barn for practically forever, so she used the opportunity to build one for the reception. After the wedding, it will be a fully functioning horse and equipment barn with a car garage, so it’s big and spacious. She had the concrete poured and she started gardening so that we’ll have pretty flowers on our (second) big day.

For our Korean wedding, only my parents, my grandma, and my stepmom were able to attend, so we wanted to have an American wedding so that I can go back and see my friends and family. I feel really distant from them because ever since I was in high school, I’ve been going back and forth to Asia. Most of my adult life has been spent abroad, and many of my friends and family have gotten married and/or had kids since I was last there, so it’s a big deal to see everyone again.

Most of this wedding was planned out by me and executed by my mom and maid-of-honor, since I couldn’t be there in person to do fun things like cake-tasting. I love that I was able to book most of the vendors through email, though – that was really convenient. However, as the date has been fast approaching, Junkyu’s been helping me a lot more. He had no idea what went into wedding planning in America, since most Korean weddings are basically factory weddings where everything is planned for you and all you have to do is show up, walk down the aisle, listen to someone talk and/or sing to you, greet your parents, and send your guests off to eat without you in the buffet room.

I’m so excited about having a wedding that I’ve dreamed up and brought to life, but it has been stressful planning from Korea. Most of the people I’ve worked with so far have been really gracious about working with me over e-mail, since I’m so far away, but sometimes it gets frustrating. I can’t be there to see the venue in person, now that it’s changed so much, so I can’t be sure where everything will go or the logistics of the day. I also can’t be there to shop or double-check things that we’ve ordered.

However, I’m going two weeks early to help set-up, prepare, and decorate, so hopefully that’s all the time we’ll need. I also have to get my dress altered, which people usually do months in advance, but thankfully we have someone who is willing to work round-the-clock on my dress to make sure it’s ready once I get fitted. I still have to buy shoes and most of my bridesmaids live out-of-town and are only coming in a day or two early.

It will be a whirlwind wedding but I’m excited to see it come together and I can’t wait to show my husband the place where I grew up.

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