Nuptials au Naturel: A Less Expensive, More Flexible Wedding

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Nuptials au Naturel: A Less Expensive, More Flexible Wedding

Park Seong-yeon, a soon-to-be bridegroom, is searching everywhere for a venue where he and his fiancee can exchange marriage vows next month. He has called dozens of wedding halls to see if they have slots available, only to find that all of the dates he wants have been fully booked for months. But even if he found a facility with an opening, it's still doubtful he could afford the fees - renting the cheapest of the wedding halls for a low-budget affair would set Mr. Park back at least 3 million won ($2,300).

According to the wedding halls, some 250,000 couples are planning to get married in September and October, so chances are that many of the engaged are up against the same predicament as Mr. Park.

Their answer may the great outdoors. Seoul has several outdoor sites that can be reserved for weddings, some for practically gratis. The open-air spots can be wonderful alternatives to expensive wedding halls. And being unconfined by walls has its advantages: outdoor space, with its flexibility, can accommodate more guests and can easily be transformed into something that suits the couple's eccentricities. For instance, a couple can choose a flower-covered hill for their wedding site and make a flower aisle on which the bride can stride. Also, at this time of year, the blue skies and enchanting fall colors add elegance to the ceremony.

An outdoor wedding held last week at Hangang Park in Yeouido, Seoul, was not your garden-variety sort of ceremony. About 500 guests witnessed the bridegroom, Kim Byeong-wuk, an avid runner, huffing and puffing his way up to the aisle along with his entourage of fellow joggers, including the officiator and toastmaster of the ceremony.

The men had just completed a brisk 10-kilometer run along the Han River and around the park to mark Mr. Kim's special day. After the unorthodox kick-off, the wedding and same-site reception carried on for three hours. "It took us about one and a half hours to greet all the guests," the groom said, "but nobody complained about having to wait so long or asked us to call it a day." Excluding food costs, Mr. Kim spent just 390,000 won for the event, which went to a professional make-up session for his bride and the rental of her dress and his tuxedo. Renting the site and the nearby facilities was free.

There are plenty of other places for couples who want to have their weddings in natural surroundings, such as Namsan, Boramae and Yongsan parks. Most of the sites don't charge for the basic facilities, such as floral decorations, microphones, speakers and pyebaeksil, a room used for the traditional ceremony of formally presenting the newlyweds to the groom's family. Also, they usually have openings enough at all times of the year to accommodate procrastinating wedding planners.

Namsan Park features a fountain that welcomes the bride and groom. When the couple stride toward the wedding site, the fountain springs higher in honor of the nuptials. Although the park provides the space for the ceremony and the fountain free of charge, it does charge for parking: The first 10 cars of the party park for free, but for each car afterwards it's 300 won per every 10 minutes.

If you prefer a more festive place for your wedding, Childrenpark in Gwangjin-gu is the place for you. Near the park's palgakjeong, an octagonal pavilion, is an outdoor auditorium that seats 300. The only cost to use the site is a 700 won entry fee to the park.

by Kim Seo-hwa

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