Spouses plucked for Korean ceremony
Stars and Stripes June 12, 2007
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — Between the wooden geese and the flying chickens, it could easily be said that Friday’s traditional Korean wedding ceremony was a bit fowl.
On one side of a table laden with various fruits and beans was a rooster; on the other a hen.
No, they weren’t the bride and groom. In fact, judging by the way they were tossed into the air at the end of the ceremony, they may have been living in sin.
Or maybe the chickens represented the fact that some of the grooms had been hen-pecked into participating in the ceremony.
“Baby, how’d we get involved with this,” Staff Sgt. Rex Bailey asked his wife, Staff Sgt. Shelethia Bailey, when quizzed on how he ended up in the ceremony.
“We volunteered,” she said.
Basically, her husband said, she got an e-mail seeking volunteers for the event and she said, “‘We’re going to get married again.’” Rex said. “I said all right. Sounds like a winner to me.”
Spc. Paul Garzon and his wife, Sgt. Jennifer Garcia, told a similar story.
“I got an e-mail from my platoon sergeant and I asked him,” Jennifer said indicating her husband.
“No,” Paul interrupted. “You told me.”
“I told him,” she agreed.
Even the 8th Army’s command sergeant major wasn’t above succumbing to the demands of his wife.
“We had two days of not talking while he pondered it,” said Pat Wheeler, wife of Command Sgt. Maj. Barry Wheeler.
The ceremony, performed at the Pyeongtaek Traditional Education Center and officiated by Pyeongtaek Mayor Song Myong-ho, was the brainchild of Pat Wheeler.
Wheeler said she decided after wearing hanbok — Korean traditional formal wear — during a Lunar New Year event that she wanted to renew her wedding vows in a traditional Korean ceremony.
After talking 8th Army commander Lt. Gen. David Valcourt and his wife, Diane, into tagging along, she called U.S. Army Garrison-Humphreys Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Kim, who had participated in a similar ceremony in December, and asked him how to go about arranging the ceremony.
To get the ball rolling on the ceremony, Kim needed to come up with five couples to participate. He sent out e-mails to the soldiers on Camp Humphreys and took the first three volunteers.
The Valcourts used the opportunity to renew their marriage vows the day before their 34th wedding anniversary. For the Wheelers, the event was nine days before their 35th anniversary.
For Garcia and Garzon, whose first wedding included only a justice of the peace and a photographer, it was a chance to add memories to their marriage.
“This was an opportunity to give her the ceremony she never had,” Garzon said.
Not every groom at the event had to be hen-pecked into participating.
“This was his idea,” said Staff Sgt. Pamela Fick, pointing to her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Chris Fick.
“I knew if I didn’t she would have got on me about it,” Chris said.
At the end of the ceremony, stewards took a rooster and a hen, which had been sitting in cloth bags throughout the ceremony, unwrapped them, and flung them into the air — a ritual which symbolizes wishes of good fortune to the brides and grooms.
The couples were also given wooden geese as gifts after the ceremony, symbolic of wishes for a long marriage because wild geese mate for life.