Mission Accomplished

Ji and Connlann are officially married.




I don’t have many photos of the event, because my role as the father of the groom was to stay in the background, out of the way, and during the official ceremony I was relegated to a silver chair off to the side, and bouncing out of it would have been indiscreet. So I’ll just summarize the event.

It was short. The mothers of the bride and groom marched in first, bowed to each other and the group, and took their seats. The bride and groom marched in together, bowed to the audience, and then walked to each side and bowed to their parents. Then they stood before the officiant, who was a bilingual army chaplain, who said the nice words in both Korean and English — and I was happy that it was an entirely secular event. The bride and groom had explained that they were unbelievers, and the chaplain respected that.

Then they ‘cut’ a fake cake, there was a flurry of photography from the official photographer, and it was done. I thought. No, this was just the Westernize ceremony.

We went downstairs to the reception at the New York New York restaurant, where there was a huge room filled with a buffet of Korean dishes — one thing we learned is that in Korea, there is no such thing as a small meal. We also learned that few Koreans speak English, and even fewer Americans speak Korean. Our bilingual translator was the bride, who obviously had many other things to do than explain what was going on. Most of our evening was spent responding to gestures.

We were waved into a side room, mysteriously. Just the immediate family members were present. We were directed to sit on cushions to the side and wait. And then…Ji and Connlann showed up in hanbok, and a whole new ceremony started up. There was much bowing. There was the sharing of sweets. There was the flinging of jujubes and chestnuts. It was the traditional pyebaek. It was very nice, although we moved through it in a state of utter cluelessness, and every moment was a surprise.

Afterwards, we had a few bites at the reception, and then the mother of the bride gestured to us to follow her, and led us to her car and drove all the way across Daegu to her home, where the immediate family had gathered for a private party — the kids were not there. Just us two Americans and a close group of aunts, uncles, cousins, and Ji’s parents. I guess we were part of the family.

They then unveiled the centerpiece of the event: they opened a box, and in it was a whole, huge, intact octopus, roughly a meter across, its arms artfully and symmetrically coiled tightly. It was magnificent. I didn’t know whether to weep at the death of this glorious beast, or salivate, so I did both. And then the aunts descended upon it with sharp knives and sliced it into hundreds of little bits.

Suddenly, I wanted to be Korean. They know how to seal a wedding. It was beautiful. Also delicious.

The rest was anticlimactic. Our flight left the next morning, and Daegu is a four hour bus ride from Incheon airport, so we started our journey back in the wee hours. Let me just say that with the bus, multiple long layovers, a trans-pacific flight, and the long drive from the Minneapolis airport to Morris, we were in transit for 34 hours.

So now we’re home at last. We need to go back.


  1. Brother Ogvorbis, Fully Defenestrated Emperor of Steam, Fire and Absurdity says

    That is wonderful. I teared up a little reading your account. Contrats to your son and daughter-in-law. Having two ceremonies is an elegant way to satisfy the cultural expectations of two different familial cultures. Bravo to you and your extended family.

    And I understand the mixed emotions about the octopus.

  2. Menyambal says


    Congratulations and best wishes to the happy couple.

    Congratulations and rest well to all the proud parents.

  3. magistramarla says

    Yes – cutting the cake with a sword is a military tradition.
    I’ve seen it done at military weddings, dining-outs, and birthday cakes for high-ranking officers.
    It’s also fun when the bride passes through an arch made by up-raised swords as her official welcome into the military “family”.

  4. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Congratulations to the newlyweds.

    Catch up on your well deserved rest. The zebrafish can wait.

  5. says

    Oh, it sounds wonderful, and Ji and Connlann must have looked magnificent in their hanbok. Congratulations to all!

  6. Rob Grigjanis says

    What, no Scandinavian rituals? Kidnapping of bride and groom by their pals, the groom pillaging an ancestor’s grave mound for a sword, the days/weeks drinking mead, the insult-contests…

    Oh well, looks like it was fun anyway.

    Tanti auguri per una lungissima vita insieme!

  7. says

    Congratulations. Are American military personnel obliged to be in uniform when they marry, or is this a choice on his part?

  8. says

    From the army regulations:

    13–3. Occasions for wear
    a. All-purpose wear.
    The male service/dress uniform is authorized for wear on and off duty, on and off the
    installation, unless restricted by the commander. The male service/dress uniform is not intended for wear as an all-
    purpose uniform when other uniforms are more appropriate.
    b. Approved wear.
    The male service/dress uniform is prescribed for year-round wear for all Soldiers, unless
    otherwise directed by the commander. Soldiers may wear variations of the male service/dress uniform:
    (1) On duty when prescribed by the local commander.
    (2) At social functions of a private or official nature, either before or after retreat, and while in transit to and from
    such functions. The male service/dress uniform is normally considered appropriate for social or official functions off
    the installation, such as memorial services, funerals, weddings, inaugurals, patriotic ceremonies, and similar functions.
    (3) When designated by the host of an event.
    (4) On other appropriate occasions, as desired by the individual.
    (5) Soldiers may wear the male service/dress uniform for commercial travel per paragraph 3–7
    c. Restrictions on wear.
    (1) Personnel may not wear male service/dress uniform in off-post establishments that primarily sell alcohol for
    consumption on the premises. If the off-post establishment sells alcohol and food for consumption on the premises,
    Soldiers may not wear the male service/dress uniform if their activities in the establishment center on the drinking of
    (2) Commanders may further restrict wear of the male service/dress uniform per paragraph 2–6

    In other words it is not required but it is considered normative. See (b) 2.

  9. Ray, rude-ass yankee, Bugblatting Flibbertigibbet says

    Add my Congratulations to all involved as well! Best wishes for the newlyweds in their future together.
    Sounds like it was a grueling trip, but welcome back.

  10. voyager says

    Welcome home. It all sounds like a wonderful adventure what with all the not knowing what comes next or for that matter what just happened. My congratulations to the happy couple.

  11. Reginald Selkirk says

    Then they ‘cut’ a fake cake

    This is popular in Japan too. Apparently they like the photo-op aspect of it, but they don’t like Western cake so much.

  12. Reginald Selkirk says

    After the cutting of the octopus to bits – was that the point? Or was there any cooking or eating to follow?

  13. magistramarla says

    Olav @ 10
    To add to what Cervantes said so well –
    My hubby was a retired officer by the time our girls were getting married, but the brides requested that their Dad be in uniform, since his military career had been so much a part of their lives growing up. It made me happy too, since he still cuts a dashing figure in his dress uniform.
    The youngest married an airman, so he and his buddies were also in uniform. It was funny to watch the reactions of those very young airmen as the Lieutenant Colonel “gave the bride away” to an Airman 1st class.
    When the oldest daughter was married at Cal Tech a few years ago, her “Cal Tech Mom”, who was hosting the wedding on campus, insisted that the father of the bride wear his uniform. The mess dress uniform is basically a tuxedo, and many officers have a Hawaiian print sewn into the back of the white shirt, giving them a “party shirt” when the jacket is removed.
    When he did this at the reception it caused quite a stir!
    I hope that PZ’s son and daughter-in-law someday have as many lovely memories from his military career as we have.

  14. astro says

    congratulations, especially since you got to experience a paebaek! that’s what makes it a real “korean” wedding.

    they usually save them for just the groom’s family. when my korean wife and i got married 15 years ago, it was controversial for us even to have a paebaek. but it was wild – we opened the ceremony up to my side of the family (my sister and brother-in-law got a big kick out of throwing the nuts and dates), and let everyone at the reception watch.

    i have never been to a ceremony in korea, though, so it was lots of fun reading about yours. and i hope you’re able to find and post more pictures of the big occasion.

  15. Donnie says

    My question to PZ, or to his Son and Daughter (in-law), is whether the octopus is a standard dinner for a private party after a wedding, or did his Daughter’s family specially serve an octopus for PZ as a settle present to the Father of the Son? I mean, the moment I read that I felt that is was like an offering of love and respect and good wishes to the Son’s family. Maybe Ji’s parents asked her what his favourite dishes would be and mentioned PZ’s affinity of and for cephalopods?

    I mean, it is definitely a fitting tribute for the occasion which crosses the culinary bounds of two cultures. Well, those of us in the West that enjoy cuisine outside of the American and pseudo-American dishes. As an aside, my sushi monger always keeps an eye out for octopus after I told him that I like octopus but it can be a bit rubber. He found some octopus head and told me that the octopus head was the tenderest part of an octopus. Now, I care less what part of the octopus – so delicious.

  16. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    Congrats to the happy (I presume and hope) couple, and their respective parents. :)

    So now we’re home at last. We need to go back.

    Well, you know… you have extended family over there now – if that’s not an excuse for regular visits, I don’t know what is!

  17. Ice Swimmer says

    Congrats to the young couple and may the newly-cast (father-in-law)² recover from the consequences of the long travel.

  18. says

    Congratulations all around (as appropriate)!

    I’m a little amazed that nobody explained the dual-ceremony thing to you in advance, though. I mean, were the situation reversed, and you had Koreans coming to the U.S. to have a dual ceremony with the Korean part first, wouldn’t you get someone to write up at least a bare-bones explanation in Korean of what to expect in the ceremony, and make sure everyone gets a copy, just to make sure nobody accidentally does something wrong that causes a problem? It’s not so much “courtesy” as “let’s make sure there are as few chances as possible for the wedding to be screwed up by accident because we love the people who are getting married and want them to have a happy marriage”.

    @#17, Reginald Selkirk

    Apparently they like the photo-op aspect of it, but they don’t like Western cake so much.

    My mother had a really nice Korean coworker once who wanted to show appreciation to her coworkers and made a cake and brought it in. She was, as a hobby, a high-powered cook of both Korean and western-style cuisine, and so it was a really fancy production, well beyond anything most of them were capable of producing, and looked like the sort of thing you would pay lots of money to have custom-made at a bakery. There was just one little problem: she knew what fancy western-style cakes looked like, but apparently she had never actually eaten one. So… it wasn’t sweet. At all. Not even the icing. It wasn’t actually bad, but the difference between the expectation and the taste apparently shocked people incredibly.