by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
Spring wedding season is here. As engaged couples in South Korea prepare their special day, fake wedding guests are on the prowl for part-time jobs.
For those of you unfamiliar with what a part-time wedding guest is, it’s an individual who is hired to attend a stranger’s wedding and pose as the bride or groom’s friend.
Part-time guests are usually required to memorize personal information of their client, including his or her name, age, career and family relations, prior to the wedding. Once the part-timers arrive at the wedding parlor, they coo and admire the bride’s dress. However, these fake friends tend to not join in on photo sessions in order to not be immortalized in the couple’s wedding album.
Part-timers are also expected to present envelopes containing congratulatory money to the newlyweds. These envelopes are usually prepared in advance by the bride or the person responsible for guest check-in. After the ceremony, the part-time guests discreetly pick up their payment and say goodbye.
Hiring fake wedding guests has been a longtime tradition in Korean wedding culture since the early 2000s. There are hundreds of wedding guest agencies and Internet forums that provide brides and grooms with “characters” to attend their wedding day. Some even offer fake parents or distant relatives if the event calls for it.
One wedding guest agency, Hagaek Friends, told the Korea Times that the main reason people seek part-time guests is because they have few friends to attend the wedding. About 70 percent of the clients are brides who are self-conscious about other guests gossiping about their lack of personal relationships.
“People don’t want to look as if they don’t have close ties with friends,” said Lee Mi-young, the head of Hagaek Friends. “Also, a bride seeks fake guests when the number of her guests is apparently smaller than the bridegroom’s, and vice versa, as the number of guests is often regarded as the family’s power.”
Other clients include people who attended schools overseas and those who are marrying outside of their hometowns.
Regardless of the client’s reason for hiring fake guests, wedding guest agencies provide photos of their part-timers on their websites. By looking at the photos, brides and grooms can choose fake guests who fit the role of their friend. Of course, part-timers who are considered to be particularly handsome or beautiful tend to book more gigs, as clients prefer to have good-looking friends — even if those friends are not real.
Majority of the part-timers are office workers in their 20s or 30s. Since most weddings are held during the weekend, part-time guests attend weddings as an odd job while working their corporate jobs during the weekdays. According to the Korea Times, the wage of a fake guest is about 20,000 to 30,000 won (US $18-27) per wedding.
In an opinion article on Korean media outlet Oh My News, one anonymous part-time guest wrote that his duties vary depending on whether the client is the groom or bride.
“If your client is the groom, there isn’t much you’re usually asked to do. He’ll normally ask you to just come in and act as his friend or co-worker and stick around for pictures at the end of the ceremony,” the part-timer wrote, adding that brides are usually more demanding.
He revealed that some brides request male and female wedding guests to pretend to be a couple in order to make the charade more convincing.
“The modern wedding is no longer about congratulating the new beginning of a couple but an obligatory ‘show’ that new couples must put on for the sake of showing off to others,” said the part-timer. “It’s a reality like that that has made such a job like ‘fake wedding guests’ necessary.”
Although modern Korean weddings have become more of a social event rather than a family event in recent years, the part-timer expressed that he genuinely enjoys attending weddings and congratulating couples for starting a new chapter in their lives.
“While working I’ve met people who were simply in it for the money and others who fed off the positive energy of congratulating someone. I’m the latter, which is why I take out my suit every weekend,” he said. “But I do think that our society would be a much better place if we could all learn to free up our hearts a bit to genuinely congratulate a special day for the people we love.”
H/T to NetizenBuzz. Featured image courtesy of EziWorld