Tying the Knot on a Shoestring Budget

  • Photo by Photo by Yaeri Song

    This wedding hall at Konkuk University is popular among graduates for its clean and affordable facilities. Photo by Yaeri Song

Having a wedding in Korea doesn’t have to set you back. In fact, it can be quite affordable if you know where to look. From seasonal savings that everyone can enjoy to corporate discounts and legacy options for school alumni, here are some tried and true wedding deals that may help you save big bucks on your Korean wedding.

Photo from Simincheong Naver CafeWalk down the aisle at the new Seoul city hall next year
The typical city hall wedding conjures up images of drab suits and sensible shoes, but that won’t be the case in Seoul starting next year. On January 12, 2013, the government-subsidized but festive “Citizens’ Hall” will open in the basement of the new Seoul city hall. The cost for the entire ceremony for up to 100 guests is between 100,000 to 200,000 won—about how much it would cost to feed about three to five guests at the average Korean wedding. The requirements? The couple must be Seoul residents who have received premarital counseling and whose total wedding budget does not exceed 5 million won. The caveat? There are no dining options, so your guests could revolt if you don’t provide a separate reception. All things considered, this is the best deal in town and will likely become a lottery once it officially opens. So check the official Naver cafe often to see when applications for the general public open and keep your fingers crossed!

Photo by Yaeri Song for Seoulist
Get married at a newly opened or rebranded wedding hall
Contrary to popular belief, a new venue means a cheap venue for most of Korea’s wedding industry. Early last year, the wedding venue formerly known as the Namsan Freedom Center Wedding Hall renovated and resurfaced as J Gran Wedding Hall and offered wedding packages at unbelievable rates—despite their upgraded and new facilities. So ask a wedding planner about the newest wedding venues in town; renovations or spaces under new management count, too. Chances are, you’ll be able to enjoy steep discounts because new venues are almost always very generous with their first batch of couples.

Get married in July/August
If you’re not too fazed by torrential downpour, extreme humidity and heat wave advisories, then plan your budget wedding during the notorious summer months in Korea. July and August are considered bisugi (비수기), or off-peak season for weddings. Most wedding venues will offer discounts on hall rentals and meals for guests. Some, like Ramada Hotel in Gangnam, will throw in complimentary services such as ice sculptures, if you so desire.

Get married in January/February
Love a good deal, but can’t stand the heat? Then consider a January or February wedding. Plus, this increases your chances of booking a cheaper, more leisurely honeymoon, since you won’t have to compete with the entire nation of vacationers like couples getting hitched in the late-summer. Opt for a winter wedding to avoid the long lines, vacance premiums and to be able to book the flight and destination you want.

Photo by Yaeri SongSee your education pay off
They say education is an investment, and that’s especially true for those whose alma maters offer cost-efficient ceremonies. Many universities have special event venues or dedicated wedding halls where their alumni can get married on the cheap. Tip: If your spouse or parents are educators, you’ll have access to the Seoul Education Cultural Center (서울교육문화회관) in Yangjae-dong. It’s currently home to three affordable wedding halls and one outdoor wedding venue, with two more coming in the late 2013.

Take advantage of your employer’s benefits
If you or your spouse works for one of Korea’s big chaebol and other conglomerates, you may be privy to their wedding halls. Various government agencies, like the Supreme Court of Korea, have their own wedding halls as well. Be sure to ask your employer about other wedding-related benefits and perks. In addition to extra vacation days and wedding bonuses, many companies are part of networked wedding agencies, such as iWedding, one of the nation’s biggest comprehensive and tech-savvy wedding planning agencies that offers 10 to 12% discounts for corporations.

Photo by Yaeri Song for Seoulist
Get married on a yundal (leap month)
Yundal (윤달 or “leap month” according to the lunar calendar) only happens every four years, but it’s a discount worth waiting for. During this year’s yundal (April 21–May 20), one Gangnam area hotel was offering up to 20% discount on meals and complimentary services because many people believe it’s a misfortune to celebrate a quadrennial wedding anniversary and will marry around those dates. Other hotels and venues hold off on additional charges during this surprisingly slow season, wooing cost-conscious couples with services such as free use of the paebaek room (normally 100,000 to 400,000 won), where the traditional ceremony for relatives of the groom takes place. If you’re not superstitious and your family doesn’t abide by the lunar calendar, then 2016 just may be your year to tie the knot.

Plan your wedding entirely from social commerce deals
The world of social commerce can be daunting and overwhelming, but if you have the time, the patience and the ability to sniff out good deals from the shady ones, try your hand at Korea’s many social commerce services. There are a plethora of domestic social commerce sites: Ticketmonster, Coupang, Groupon Korea and We Make Price are the most reliable, and Coupon Moa is the aggregate site where you can search for all your wedding-related needs by searching for key wedding words such as “예식” or “결혼.”

Here’s a sampling of the kind of wedding-related deals you can expect to find on social commerce sites: You can order wedding invitations for a fraction of their published prices. Receive a big discount on hanbok rentals for portraits or the actual wedding. Don’t forget to sign up for portrait pictures, dress and tux rentals, make-up and pretty much everything else you need to complete your wedding package. Since the food for paebaek is mostly for show, you might as well get a 20% discount on it. If you’re having a small wedding, you may even be able to find a few venues on social commerce sites as well. And for the couple that has everything (that Seoul has to offer) one special package offers a full day of photos at Jeju Island. Makeup, hair and dress all included!

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So maybe getting married at your alma mater on ominous dates through social commerce deals isn’t exactly how you imagined celebrating one of the most important days in your life, but it is one way to incur less expenses in one of the most priciest days! Simply doing your research to stay on top of wedding industry news and trends, asking married friends for referrals or contacting a smart wedding planner can ensure that you can walk down the aisle in style and with savings.

What are some of your budget tips for getting married in Korea? Tell us in the comments below.

Yaeri Song

About Yaeri Song

Yaeri Song is a closeted filmmaker based in Seoul who enjoys long walks in the park with her celebrity Pekingese.

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