For many brides and grooms, the thought of a traditional wedding seems like too much fuss. You’re ready to start your life together, and don’t need all that pomp and circumstance getting in the way of what matters most — your commitment to each other. That can be especially true when it comes to destination weddings. But just because you decide on an elopement doesn’t mean you have to give up romance or style! At first glance, Seoul may not seem like the obvious choice for an elopement but it has so much more than history, culture, tradition, and food – although those things are super important too – Seoul also offers some stunning backdrops for picture-perfect memories of this special day.
It was a chance encounter that brought them together. Two strangers on Tinder, meeting in the bustling city of London – neither Josie nor Chris could have imagined where life would take them! After months of talking online culminating in an unforgettable date at London Bridge, they fell deeper and deeper into each other’s hearts until 8 years later when they finally made it official with their marriage vows. A beautiful love story born from new beginnings!
WHY CHOOSE TO ELOPE?
Josie is an event planner by trade and always had these grand visions of how it would feel and be when planning her own wedding day, quite frankly it was the opposite. It’s much more stressful to plan your own events rather than someone else’s! The cost, the family politics, the pandemic, and general stress quickly meant that a big, traditional wedding lost its appeal.
We were still very keen to do something exciting, and fantastical but also took the pressure off and felt like us. We both have a passion for traveling, particularly around Asia as I (Josie) grew up in the region. We liked the idea of getting married somewhere abroad so that we had a new place in the world to have fond memories of!
We liked eloping because we didn’t have to tell anyone what our plans were. It was actually fun to have a secret together. When deciding what and how to elope we had a few fundamentals we (Josie) weren’t willing to give up. I was keen to get dressed up and wear a wedding dress and take photos to commentate the elopement for them to look back on but also share with family and friends later. This is when we came across the idea of the “pre-wedding photoshoot” something that is very popular in Asia but isn’t a thing in the U.K. We had always seen tourists come to London dressed up and take photos in front of Tower Bridge, we would laugh and say how we could never do that. We did do that, we are one of “those” couples.
HOW TO ELOPE IN SEOUL
We got legally married at Jongno-gu Office at 9 am on the 8th of November. You simply arrive with all your forms completed in Korean (thanks to Korean translators on Fiverr) & your affidavit from your embassy, take a ticket for “foreigner corner” and wait until your number is called. After lots of stamping, roughly 15 minutes and 200 Korean Won later, they proclaim “Congratulations you are married!” After this we got the certificates translated and notarized by a local legal translation service around the corner so they would be accepted back home. We also did an extra step the following day where we got the documents apostilled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Gangnam, Seoul. It’s funny to us that we will forever be in the Korean marriage system and yes our official marriage certificate is in Korean!
After our legal ceremony & translation, it was about 10 am and we made our way back to our hotel (The Grand Hyatt, Seoul) to get ready for our elopement photoshoot
We simply Googled places that were legally recognized in the U.K. and countries that would accept us into their marriage legal system and rather surprisingly that didn’t leave a lot of choice- Korea was the most obvious option for us. Seoul was on the top of our list of places we’d most like to visit so we were delighted that we would be able to do our elopement and honeymoon trip combined! We arranged our elopement within 3 or 4 months of deciding to do it! It was lovely to have something to look forward to especially as by this point we had been engaged for a year.
We love traditional Korean architecture so knew when we were planning the day with Lorryn, that we wanted to incorporate the traditional character of the culture. Again, Google and Instagram mean that you can get a good understanding of many places ahead of visiting and we decided upon Changdeokgung Palace.
The palaces in Seoul offered a variety of different places both modern and traditional backdrops for our elopement. We both have a passion for plants and gardens so knew they wanted to include Changdeokgung‘s secret garden (a place usually only accessible through tour guide-led times lots!) Thanks to Lorryn’s knowledge of Korean and charm we were able to access the garden without a guide which meant it was a really relaxing and fun experience!
Then we simply walked around and found spots we liked and had a bit of fun and enjoyed the sights. We had never had a professional photoshoot like this but Lorryn made it super easy, giving us direction but also just snapping away whilst we enjoyed each other’s company!
The Korean legal ceremony is very… well legal so there were no vows or ring exchanges. Therefore we did this ourselves!
We wanted a wedding that felt like us. We still wanted some glitz and glamour but without the hefty financial and emotional price tag! By going to Seoul for our elopement and honeymoon we were able to enjoy 2 weeks of pure bliss, joy, and excitement. We kept our marriage to ourselves for a week before sharing the news with a few pictures Lorryn kindly turned around quickly for us to spread the news! By doing it this way, it felt personal, it was about us, and we did the things we enjoyed and wanted to do. We have absolutely no regrets!
TAKE ON TRADITION
Whilst eloping isn’t exactly a traditional way of doing things, there were a few traditions we knew we wanted to keep!
I wanted a wedding dress which she got from London designer Sassi Holford. Chris was suited and booted but brought along cufflinks that displayed the Cornish flag. Cornwall is a place very important to Chris and his family and is somewhere I have also fallen in love with. We both had matching wedding rings again from a Cornish ring maker called Wearnes which both include a tiny stamp of Cornwall and some tin from a Cornish shipwreck in the center of the rings. A local Cornish tradition.
There were a few things traditions that we decided not to incorporate such as the wedding veil. Josie tried a few on and even had one accessible on the day, but it just didn’t feel right and so opted not to include it!
I loved my crown which came from U.K. small business Honey & Ember! Chris loved his Cornish cufflinks, nice to bring a little piece of home along with you.
After deciding at short notice to elope, many traditional wedding shops weren’t going to work, however, I had always wanted a Sassi Holford wedding dress having fallen in love with her designers since starting working in events. Having tried lots of high street options, there wasn’t anything that felt impactful enough. After lots of searching and calling around, the Sassi Holford team in Taunton, U.K. explained that they had sample dresses available to buy that still fit your body shape. I took Chris along to the fittings and fell in love with the ‘Amber’.
Sassi Holford describes the dress as: “Amber is a long-sleeved wedding dress that’s subtle but also makes a charming statement. Made from luxurious silk satin chiffon and crepe, the fluid movement of this dress is bewitching. The bateau neckline elegantly accents the curve of the collarbone, but the back scoops down to the waist. Its defining feature though is the beautiful, billowing bishop sleeves with an exaggerated cuff.”
I paired the dress with some pointed white block heels from ASOS, Pearl drop earrings from Kiri & Belle, as well as a handmade golden “Primrose Petite Halo Headband” from Honey & Ember.
Chris had a suit from Hugo Boss, his Cornish cufflinks, and Clarke’s shoes.
WE’RE GLAD WE…
Eloped. If you are a couple out there considering it – do it! It was the most special two weeks of our lives, it wasn’t just one day. Do whatever is right for you, no wedding is worth getting upset, stressed, or financially ruined for! You can still make the day special and incorporate the things you want. There are no rules when eloping! That’s what’s so great about it!
A WORD OF ADVICE…
Call the Jongno-gu office in Seoul and your embassy in advance to make sure you have everything they need with you for the big day. Embassies are notoriously tricky to get an appointment with, so make sure to book one a day or so in advance of the date you want to go to Jongno-gu because if you are picky about the date like we were, you won’t be happy if you haven’t got the right form with you!
One thing to bare in mind when getting married in Korea is that you need two witnesses (must be Korean and write in Korean) to write their details on the form, don’t worry they don’t need to come with you! We asked the two lovely reception team members we had befriended at our hotel Grand Hyatt Seoul, who kindly accepted to be our witnesses! Big shout out to Minji who helped us greatly- you are the best!
Dress: Sassi Holford
Make up: Karla Anahissa
Wedding Rings: Wearnes Cornwall