Getting Married in South Korea for 20 cents

Consider this your warning: If you’d rather not see pictures of newly weds beaming with joy and kissing in public, head to the recipe section.

I had never wanted to get married as a young girl. I neither dreamed of my dress nor pictured a prince charming. Call me skeptical, but I thought that being with the one you loved was more important than titles. So what changed? I fell in love with a man from another country. Surprisingly not from Korea where I now reside, but from England on the opposite side of the planet from my home country, New Zealand. If you think it unromantic to say you got married for a visa I’ll make it more palatable, ‘ I got married to the man I love so I can be with him forever, without explanation and without exception in whichever country we choose to live in’.

Having never considered my wedding day, I had no expectations. A few hoorays and a cake would suffice. We chose to met a few friends at the Haeundae-gu District Office and sign the necessary documents before heading to Dongbaek with its stunningly peaceful views of the beach and ocean. We deliberately waited until June when my father and sister would be visiting; throw in four friends with cameras and flowers and you have yourself a wedding day.

My girlfriend Erica brought a hand-made bouquet of flowers with my favourite colours green and purple (knowing full well that I wouldn’t have prepared them myself).

Korean Wedding for foreign residents =

two notarized affidavits of intent to marry + 200 won.

At 1pm we queued at the only English speaking counter in the standard issue government building. I was nervous we’d misunderstood or under-prepared for the procedure. Two documents and pennies seemed underwhelming for the magnitude of the event. There was no speech or oath, no witnesses or signing. Ten long minutes later, we were no longer boyfriend and girlfriend, we were husband and wife with six trigger happy, grinning chums and an entire district office of applause and smiles.

From left, Salome De Preez, John Robson, Erica Mason, David Holt, Frankie Herrington, Philip Herrington, Christina Herrington, Jen Sotham.

Prior to the nuptials Dad and Dave thought it amusing to jest over my dowry. 

The documents settled, we headed to Dongbaek Park for our vows and champagne, joking and drinking. Dave went first and breezed through his lines while I started strong but faltered quickly into a quiet whisper with a few tears. Apparently only Dave could hear me, but I’ve been assured that it still counts.

Simple. Married.

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17 Responses to Getting Married in South Korea for 20 cents

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Love this! My husband I just did the same thing in Thailand, what a nice, stress free way to do it huh :) Congrats!

  2. ruth watson says:

    Cheapest wedding I have ever heard of, now you can spend a lot more money on building a great life of travel together ;) Congratulations! Where do you think you will end up, New Zealand or Europe?

    • VeganUrbanite says:

      Ruth, we’re headed to England next year. We would love to live in London but may need to live in Manchester or Brighton until we have more funds.
      It’ll be exciting wherever we go. Thanks for your well wishes.

    • VeganUrbanite says:

      We’re moving to Europe next year! The hope is London but Manchester is looking good as a jump off point.

  3. Amanda says:

    Congratulations!

    Keep us updated on how much visas for your respective countries cost. If it’s 20 cents, my husband (Korean) and I (American) are moving. ;)

  4. Anastasia says:

    1. Congrats!! Looks like a small nice wedding :)
    I have a question, you might can help me somehow. My future husband and me would love to get married in South Korea. What kind of papers do we need?

    • VeganUrbanite says:

      Hi Anastasia,
      Dave is British and I’m a New Zealander. All we needed were two notarized affidavits proving that there where no impediments to marriage (from our own country).
      We took our passport, ARC (Alien Registration Card which is evidence that we live and work in South Korea) and paid the 200won for the cost of copying and stamping the paperwork. I always have problems with bureaucracy and I was shocked at how simple and straight-forword it was.
      Peace

    • VeganUrbanite says:

      Hi Anastasia, all we needed were out ARC cards (to prove we were legitimately in South Korea) our passports and a notarized document from both countries to prove that we were able to be married. This document goes by different names depending on where you’re from and may take a few weeks and cost a fair amount (~US$100). In New Zealand it’s called ‘no impediment to marriage certificate’ and took 4 weeks to obtain.
      But even factoring that cost into the wedding ceremony, it was super simple and dirt cheap. Good Luck

      • Anastasia says:

        Oh, thank you! Should be easy to get I think :)
        Do you know if I can get married as a tourist there? Or do I need to have a ARC?Actually, I wanna get married there and then apply for a visa to stay there wich is possible but I’m not sure about getting married as a tourist? The embassy does not know how to help me… O.o

  5. Linda says:

    Dear Frances and Dave,
    Congratulations, would loved to have been there with you all. Will join with you in the UK next year, just let me know the area>
    Love you heaps,
    Nana xxxxxxxx

  6. ruth watson says:

    well enjoy all the vegan food in Britain. Manchester is probably the coolest place for vegans :)

  7. Jennie Banks says:

    Congratulations, this looked so relaxed and happy, you look beautiful Frankie. Best wishes with your move to England. xox

  8. sam Stanley - says:

    Fabulous Frank – you are very beautiul . hugs and kisses

  9. Pingback: Korean Gender Reader | The Grand Narrative

  10. Tori Stanley says:

    Lovely photos! Are you Mrs Holt now?

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