And she was exquisite. Black boots calf-high, black leggings, purple dress knee-length, black beads elegantly wrist-and-neck wrapped, hair pulled back, felt flower dress-matched. Arresting, to be sure. The ensemble brought together by the two most distinguished pieces by mine bride’s own hands: that omnipresent button bouquet and a black bird-cage veil. When you think bird-cage veil, think widely-spaced netting, a nod to 1940s femme fatale opposite Humphrey Bogart. Bogart I am not, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not even years from now…not even some day. Certainly, a fedora for me would have complimented Nic’s look. Alas, though. It will be the end of me (and my bank account) if I try to match my stylishly unique wife. At least on this day, I am a little better than a shabby accessory thanks to that three-button boutonniere.
Nic’s superb assemblage often comes with a price: exquisite tardiness. Or so it seemed to me, as I fidgeted over the newspaper and waited impatiently, nervously my third cup of coffee jangling in my nerves. Oh, for a pencil so I could attempt (and fail miserably, as usual) at the crossword. Despite her total lack of regard to my usual comments on any old day about how she needs not do much with that splendid face of hers, the lack of punctuality is a right of the bride.
We bolted down a few bites of food and left the hotel at 845. Fortunate for us, the hotel is a five minute walk to the US Embassy. We arrived right on time, our married friends waiting outside. I thought Nic and I would be left to our own devices at the gate, what with Lindsay being a Canuck and HunJong being from this fair land. However, a rascally, impatient adjoshi allowed us through security after temporarily confiscating cameras and cell phones.
After a short wait, our name was called, we paid $150 USD, showed the necessary and superfluous documentation (three of the seven documents I filled out went unneeded). Then we took those documents past security and the rascally adjoshi gruffed and moaned about having to do his job. “Yes, sir. We need everything now even though we are returning shortly. Please give us our cameras.” Cameras were needed because it is at the mayor’s office around the corner where we were legally married, unceremoniously for 8.67 USD (10,000 KRW). Without further ado, we returned once more into the adjoshi breech (though not his breeches, mind you). After stamping the appropriate documents, the notary said, “OK. Thank you.” And Nic responded, “So we’re married?” The notary’s blasé response: “Yes.” No “congratulations” or “You’re married” or anything like that. Nic turned to me and said so everyone in the waiting-room could hear, “We’re married!” I wasn’t expecting anything from the document signing; Nic wasn’t expecting much either, but she was a little surprised at our countryman’s lack of verbiage for this occasion. Didn’t he know this was the most important day in the world?
We stepped outside the embassy and, with the flair for the dramatic, I decided we should exchange a few quiet words as we put the simple wedding bands on each other’s fingers. Of course, that rascally middle-aged man was much more dramatic, flying out the door, interrupting, saying there were no pictures allowed in front of the door. With riot police standing around outside the embassy gates and an armored, black personnel carrier around the corner, we complied. Crossing one way of traffic to the center of one of the most important roads in the city, we stood before a massive gold likeness of his highness King Sejeong. With his palace in the background, it was Sejeong who presided over Nic’s and my quiet, hopeful vows.
Around us, the third largest city in the world rushed on. Around us circled HunJong with his camera and Lindsay with her artistic direction. In spite of the cold, we doffed our coats for a while, took pictures throughout that notable square, in the palace, beside the period-piece imperial guards. Thereafter, we walked to Sam-Cheon dong, a well-to-do neighborhood with traditional but renovated Korean homes. With remarkable, large wooden doors and exposed tile and brick walls, the neighborhood rises gently above downtown. All of this provided spectacular backdrops that captured the essence of Korea. The essence of our Korea: the land where we met, the land where we fell in love, the land where we grew happier because of each other. The land from whence we launch our next adventure.