This week I’ve been writing about the new anti-corruption law, The Kim Young Ran Law, and in particular the 3-5-10 rule. In this post I’ll look at how this law affects weddings.
If you go to a wedding in Korea you are expected to give money – not a gift. So the only thing you have to worry about is how much money to give! The tradition for giving money goes back to when Korea was very poor and people couldn’t afford to pay for big events such as weddings and funerals. So a gye system was set up where group members would regularly pay small amounts into a communal pot and any member could withdraw from the pot when they needed it. I wrote about the gye system here.
So the question is how much money should a guest give?
There are some general guidelines. The average amount given at a wedding is 50,000 won. But if you are close you would give more, probably 100,000 won. But if you have a business connection, you might give a lot more.
One day years ago when I was working at a school here in Seoul, I was surprised to find a wedding invitation in my pigeon hole from one of the Korean teachers.
I was surprised to get the invite to her wedding as I had never even spoken to her.
I asked around about what I should do and was told that I didn’t have to go and I didn’t even have to RSVP. Everyone at the school had got an invite. So she was just inviting us out of duty.
At the first wedding I ever went to in Korea which was in a church, I was surprised when we were waiting for the ceremony to start and heard cutlery clinking and people chatting from another room nearby.
I asked Mr. Kim if there was another event going on at the same time but he said no, the noise was coming from the guests at ‘OUR’ WEDDING as they were already eating the buffet!
That’s when I learned that this is perfectly normal.
Because the reason for going to a wedding here is more about showing your face and contributing a monetary gift. And less about having fun and dancing in the disco in the evening. (Yes, it’s been a long time since I went to a wedding in England..)
There are lots of guests at weddings who don’t really want to be there! They go because of duty – they are distant relatives or coworkers or have some other connection with the families. They give the money and sign their name in the book – later the bride and groom are given the book which lists all the guests who attended and how much money each guest gave. This info can be used for future reference.
100,000 WON LIMIT
Businesspeople often have to go to weddings to represent their companies. One of my students who is a CEO goes to at least 1 if not 2 weddings every weekend during the wedding season. Mr. Kim goes to a lot of weddings too.
The average money gift is 100,000 won. But many guests give a lot more. So in the past huge amounts of money could be given to anyone at a wedding for whatever reason …
But now the upper limit is 100,000 won.
It’s bad timing to get married now if you are working in public office because over the years, you (and your parents) probably went to hundreds of weddings and gave LOADS of money but now you will only get the bare minimum back …
On the first weekend after the law came into effect the ranparazzi were busy out and about looking out to catch law-breakers.
Monday’s Chungang Ilbo newspaper told us about a couple of students from a paparazzi hagwon in Gangnam who spent the weekend going around wedding halls and funeral parlours with their hidden cameras trying to catch people out. They didn’t catch anyone though …
But they did notice the lack of flowers at the weddings.
Giving large flower arrangements has also been tradition at weddings but if you give flowers (which usually cost around 100,000 won) then you can’t give money as well because that will go over the 100,000 won limit. So sales of flowers have gone down drastically.
Apparently at the wedding of a prosecutor last weekend there were only 4 flower arrangements when normally the whole wall would be full of flowers. The same occurred at the wedding of a news presenter.
One flower shop saw a drop from an average of 22 bouquets sold a day to just three. Already smaller bouquets have gone on sale rather that these huge ostentatious ones. But the big flower arrangements do seem to be a waste of money. The couple only gets to keep the ribbons after the wedding because the bouquets themselves are far too big to take home. So the flowers just go straight in the bin. The law is bad for business for the flower shops though…