▲ Korean bride, Lee Ji Eun, and her American groom, Andrew Seymour, chose to hold their traditional Korean wedding at Gwandeokjeong, a government compound that has become a popular location for weddings. Photo by Jonathan Starr
Andrew Seymour and Lee Ji Eun wait excitedly in the shade of a beautiful Korean archway, preparing to begin one of the most important ceremonies of their lives. They are dressed in the bright colors of traditional Korean wedding clothes known as Yae-bok. Their family and friends gather nearby, some shelter from the mid-morning sun beneath pink and yellow umbrellas and others wander between the magnificent buildings, stopping to watch the carp swimming below the lily pads in the pond.
It is a special day for everybody here but also a special day for Jeju. The venue, Gwandeokjeong near Tapdong, was previously the site of government offices in the period of the Joseon dynasty, but these days it hosts around 80 traditional weddings each year. Half of these are multi-cultural and Andrew’s and Ji Eun’s wedding falls into this category.
The embracing of other cultures is something Jeju celebrates and the setting here is perfect for such an event. There are eight historic buildings, each bearing the traditional Korean designs that many of us here have come to know so well. Large trees cast welcome shade over the paths and other greenery and the large pond offers a place for contemplation away from the bustle of shop and cars on the nearby main street.
The use of Gwandeokjeong as a wedding venue originally came as a response to the concern that weddings were becoming too expensive and that the traditional Korean ceremony was being performed less often. As a result of this, and to encourage the traditional ceremony, the use of the grounds is completely free. The wedding decorations, traditional dress, make-up and music can cost as little as $800 USD depending on what the bride and groom would like.
▲ Lee Ji Eun is assisted by her attendants as part of the wedding ceremony, held outdoors on a beautiful Jeju spring day. Photo by Kim Ri-Na
Money aside, however, the beauty of the location and the uniqueness of a ceremony that celebrates traditional Korean culture is enough to pose the question- why not get married here?
It is a sentiment Ji Eun echoes, “Getting married here is pretty unique. I feel like I’m keeping my tradition. It’s a beautiful tradition and I hope that more people will do it.”
She and Andrew first met around a year ago when they were both students in Andrew’s home state of West Virginia, USA. Ji Eun experienced Western culture for many months during her time studying, but for Andrew coming to his bride’s hometown for his wedding was truly a fresh experience.
His parents David and Barb Seymour joined him in meeting their new in-laws and experiencing for the first time the culture that was now a part of their family. “It just keeps getting better,” David Seymour said of Jeju.
Those of us who live here experience daily, and perhaps sometimes forget, just how special Jeju is. Taking a walk around the grounds of Gwandeokjeong on a day when the sun is shining is certainly enough to remind you and perhaps may even offer the opportunity of glimpsing a traditional wedding ceremony taking place too.
Gwandeokjeong is at 43-4 Samdo 2-Dong and is about a 10 minute drive north from Shin Jeju.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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