Saying ‘I do’ costs an arm and leg

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Saying ‘I do’ costs an arm and leg

A wedding should be anticipated as a day of roses and romance, vows of lifelong commitment and a celebration with loved ones.

In Korea, though, a wedding can be dreaded as a huge financial burden.

According to a report released by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, the average husband-to-be is now spending an average of 80.9 million won ($72,196) on his wedding, while his dearly betrothed has to shell out 29.4 million won. And the figures go up if the couple is planning to live in Seoul.

On the ministry’s request, Daegu University and Nielson Company Korea surveyed 2,500 households, or 4,754 people, from August to October last year asking them how much they have spent on a wedding. The costs include everything from the wedding hall to the bridal gown.

But the biggest cost of all - 80 percent of the budget - is the house or apartment the couple will live in after the wedding day. It’s Korean custom for the groom to provide a house or apartment, while the bride has to fill it up with furniture and household goods.

And the recent hike in rental deposits, or jeonse in Korean, because of a shortage of apartments available for long-term leases, is making weddings even more stressfully expensive for grooms.

Kim Jin-su, a 33-year-old securities company employee who is getting married next month, secured an 85-square-meter house in Seongdong District, Seoul, with a jeonse of 230 million won. A bank loaned Kim 60 percent of the jeonse and he borrowed the rest from his parents. Kim will have to pay interest in the amount of 1 million won per month to the bank.

“It costs too much for men in Seoul to get married,” Kim said. “That’s why more and more men are getting married late. It’s uncomfortable starting a marriage with so much debt.”

Brides-to-be are also complaining.

An office worker surnamed Sohn, 30, was introduced to a researcher at a large company by her parents last summer. After five months of dating, the couple finally set a date for their wedding. Then came the financial problems.

Sohn’s fiancee told her that because his parents were turning over their house in Gangnam, southern Seoul, to the couple, she should pay the real estate transfer tax and buy home appliances. That bill totaled about 100 million won but Sohn didn’t have it.

When Sohn told her betrothed that she would borrow the money from her parents, he coldly replied that if she was indebted to her parents they would expect the couple to support them when they were old. He told her to get a bank loan for the money. Sohn was shocked and heartbroken, and after months of quarrels, she broke the engagement.

“I’m from the countryside, where housing prices are relatively affordable compared to Seoul,” she said. “My friends who were settling down in the suburbs never mentioned such costly wedding preparations. But the houses in Seoul are so expensive, it’s a burden on the brides-to-be as well.”

By Shin Sung-sik []
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