Monday, April 02, 2012

Who Takes the Wedding Money Gifts?

Dear Korean,

With all the monetary wedding gifts, who does that belong to? Does it go to the couple? Or does it go to the parents? Traditionally in the US, the money is suppose [sic] to go to the couple regardless who it came from and meant for them to pay off their wedding expenses and use for their future living or towards buying a house etc...

J


The Korean's first caveat would be that no Korean custom is as hard-and-fast as it seems. Instead, the application of a Korean custom depends heavily on the situation and the people involved. This should be an obvious point, but for a lot of people, it is not. Even though it is usually out of good intentions to be respectful of Korean culture, too many people treat Korean customs to be this monolithic, unchanging thing that must be strictly followed no matter what the circumstances. Relax! If you are not a Korean person, always remember the Foreigner Rule.

Standard envelope for
wedding gift money
(source)
Having said that, here is a quick recap. In Korea, giving cash for major occasions, including weddings, is perfectly fine. Therefore, it is not uncommon to have a large pile of cash after the wedding is over. Then a question could arise -- who takes the cash? Technically, the answer is:  the parents. But it is more important to understand why the parents take the money.

The parents take the money because in Korea, the parents of the newlyweds generally pay for the wedding. In fact, this question is rarely actually raised because, in most cases, even the huge pile of cash is still not quite enough to cover the wedding expenses. Even if the cash were somehow enough to cover the wedding expenses, Korean parents generally shoulder a much greater burden than wedding expenses -- the groom's family usually buys a house for the newlyweds, while the bride's family buys the furniture and electronics with which to fill the house. The two families exchange expensive gifts for the immediate and extended family as well, again usually out of the parents' dimes.

Another consideration is that the parents are essentially receiving a return on the many, many cash gifts that they have made throughout their adulthood. By the time they are marrying off their children, Korean parents have paid an untold sum of money to their families, relatives and friends for every major occasion. Those gifts are made with an implicit expectation that someday, they will get them back in some measure by the same families, relatives and friends.

But of course, like everything else in Korea, this custom is constantly in a state of flux. If the newlyweds ended up paying for the entire wedding themselves, there is some room to say that a portion of the cash gift belongs to the newlyweds. However, in most cases, the cash gifts will be gone by the time they were applied to the wedding expenses, making this a non-issue.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

20 comments:

  1. The second to last paragraph also applies to funerals as well. During one family funeral I attended, I saw my uncle and cousin carefully track the exact amount each person gave so they would know at minimum how much they had to give if they were to later attend a wedding or funeral of that family. To give any less would be both an embarrassment to the family and a slight against the giver.

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  2. What I heard was, "the person who pays for the wedding venue, keeps the cash" .... and often the cash is just enough to cover the venue, and not a lot more.

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  3. When I go to a wedding I tend to put more bills into the envelope if I know that it's the bride and groom paying for the wedding rather than their parents. I'm not sure if this is common among my Korean friends here as well because I'm not really comfortable asking.

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  4. It really depends a lot on the wedding. Two of my friends got married here in Korea, a Korean woman and a British guy. They had a traditional wedding at the Korea House. The wedding expenses only came to about 8,000,000 won. The guy obviously didn't have a lot of guests giving him money since he doesn't have any family here and had been out of the country for a while, so didn't really have many friends to attend the wedding either. The woman made out with about 20,000,000 won. So, after all the little expenses like hanbok rentals and hotels for parents visiting and things, there was still about 10,000,000 won left over. In the end, that's not a whole lot, but imagine if he had been Korean... he would have made a lot more money since he would have had family, friends, co-workers of parents etc etc that get invited to these things. Oh, and since they paid for the wedding themselves, of course they kept 100% of the cash. Of course, this is just anecdotal. But, seriously, some people seriously rake in the cash at these weddings.... depending on how much they spend on the wedding, there should be some money left over at the end... even if the parents keep it all...

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    1. Vb, less on the hysterics would be more helpful and would make you sound a wee more credible.
      Statements like "great majority of Americans are neurologically miswired and have ADD and ADHD" make your stream on consciousness-like proclamations levitate on the same level with "most foreigners are terrorists and live in huts" gems, espoused by the same rednecks you allegedly bemoan.
      Plus, I seriously doubt you posess a degree in Psychiatry to diagnose any mental disorders...
      For the sake of the thread, let's concentrate on the wedding gifts topic here.
      At my brother-in-law's wedding, we also had money envelopes, but the tradition was a bit Americanized: the money went to the couple, as they were the ones footing the wedding bill. Funny thing, we used the same envelopes as on TK's picture.

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    3. If that's true, I'm guessing it's cultural.. Korean kids have a way higher rate of autism than the US. I'm not sure you can draw great conclusions from either fact. Or, I suppose, you could say one culture goes one way with its mental illness, the other culture the opposite way.

      And, if you're seeing the numbers of students you say, you're not seeing that many from any particular country? Over 100 but spread out over 64 nations?

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    4. Please stay with the topic of the OP. If you want to discuss the shooting, there is a post for that. Thanks.

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  6. I wonder who can easily afford to buy a house like that these days. Just wish your son doesn't work in Seoul!

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  7. How much money is customary to give for a wedding? I have a Korean coworker's wedding later this month. I am going with a date if that matters.

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  8. Ashley,

    The short answer to your question is: at least 30,000 won.

    I've heard that's the generally accepted standard, and depending on the nature of your relationship with that person (e.g. how close of a friend you are) you would add more.

    If he or she is a mere acquaintance, I'd say 30,000... but if a friend (and/or if you're feeling generous), perhaps around 50,000?

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  9. I've heard 30,000 won as well. It's not a close acquaintance. Do you think 30,000 is enough from two people?

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  10. I would say 30,000 from two is not enough. I'd aim for 50,000 at minimum, and probably more like 100,000, for a coworker, but maybe my workplace was unusual. Can you check in with a trusted Korean coworker that will give you a straight scoop?

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    1. I had a relative give me this run-down (worked for me, but not set in stone, of course and might be different for other peeps):
      50k krw - acquaintance
      100k krw - co-worker
      150k krw - close friend or important colleague boss?)
      200k krw and up (or whatever you can afford) - close family member

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    2. I was close? HAHAHA!

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    3. I agree, the safest way is to ask another coworker. I think the standard for wedding gift varies just like it does for any regular gift-giving. (e.g. Maybe Gravel's coworkers are slightly nicer, better-paid, and/or more well-off than the average people that 애정남 below is referring to? Haha... Just a speculation. But maybe this applies to Ashley's workplace too.)

      I'd say ditch the "system" or the "rule" or whatever. Other than the conventional minimum, give as much as you feel compelled to / obliged to give as a wedding 'gift' to this person... But if you want to avoid feeling too stingy or too generous, ask a close coworker for sure.

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  11. How much to give was explained by 애정남

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bk7P5-RtZrg

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    1. I love that you quoted 애정남 on this. I love that show. (Technically just a corner of a show.)

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