‘Weddingflation’ breaks the bank for Korean couples-to-be

Posted on : 2024-04-25 17:03 KST Modified on : 2024-04-25 17:03 KST
One study found that the average cost of a wedding in Korea came to around 62.98 million won, or US$45,730
(Getty Images Bank)
(Getty Images Bank)

A 36-year-old prospective groom surnamed Lee who is planning for a wedding next spring was shocked recently at the price of wedding hall rentals. In the space of just two years, the quotes for renowned halls in Seoul’s Seocho District had risen from the range of 30 million–40 million won to 50 million–60 million won.

A consultant at one of the halls explained that the rate “reflects rising prices,” cautioning that “the situation is the same at the other venues too.”

As the cost of living continues to soar, the sharp spike in wedding costs has led to the coinage of the term “weddingflation.” A portmanteau of “wedding” and “inflation,” it refers to the major rise in prices for things like venue rentals, wedding photography, furnishings and homes for newlyweds.

The jump in prices has been especially steep during the peak wedding season in the spring.

In January, the matchmaking and wedding consultancy Gayeon published a “2024 Wedding Cost Report” based on a survey of 1,000 people who had tied the knot within the last five years. The findings showed average wedding preparation costs of 62.98 million won (US$45,730), not including housing.

In late 2023, Statistics Korea published its “Korean Social Trends 2023” report, which stated that the main reason unmarried South Koreans were hesitant to wed was due to lack of money for the wedding.

Some couples have been attempting to cut costs by seeking out venues provided by local governments or skipping some of the standard procedures — but they agreed that this only goes so far in reducing the expenses.

Kim Ji-a (pseudonym), a 33-year-old who is preparing for an outdoor wedding in September, explained, “We used the city of Seoul’s wedding support service to find a wedding venue for under 100,000 won, but with the addition of things like flowers, tables, parasols and sound equipment, the cost came out to around 30 million won, including food.”

“It’s cheaper than a small outdoor wedding would have been at one of the wedding hall businesses, but it’s still more than we were anticipating, and we’ve had to cut back our spending on things like appliances and furnishings,” she added.

A 33-year-old surnamed Choi, who is getting married this July, said, “We decided to go with snapshot photography instead of studio photography and to wear the dress only for the main ceremony.”

“We also cut out inessential things like wedding presents between families, but with the venue and other fixed costs that can’t be changed, we couldn’t bring the cost down any farther than the high 20-million-won range,” they added.

Some said the opaque nature of the mark makes it difficult to adjust costs.

A 32-year-old prospective bride surnamed Oh, who is currently looking for a dress after contracting a venue last month, explained, “It’s typically impossible to know how much the venue and other wedding-related costs will be before you actually get counseling, so you have to find information by asking around on online communities and applications — but even that is too limited to make any real comparisons.”

“I keep worrying that I’m going to end up getting stuck with a big bill,” she lamented.

In response to this situation, the South Korean government is planning to introduce a price labeling system for wedding service businesses as of next year, stipulating their requirements in terms of indicating how much the studio, dress, makeup and other wedding preparations will cost, as well as related categories and methods.

Additionally, it plans to open up museums and art institutions for use as wedding venues alongside the 120 or so public facilities currently used for that purpose.

Lee Eun-hee, a professor of consumer science at Inha University, suggested, “For the price labeling system to actually prove effective, [the information] needs to be presented so that consumers can see it before making their choice and without visiting the business, and there should also be explicit terms stating that the difference between [the labeled price] and what the consumer ends up paying cannot exceed a certain percentage.”

By Yoon Yeon-jeong, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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