An Elegant Korean Wedding with Inclusive Design Touches at a New York Castle
In January 2020, Grace Jun and Greg Lee were connected by mutual friends. Despite living in different states, the pair started chatting via text and phone. After about a month, Greg flew from Atlanta to New York City to take Grace on their first official date. â€śI asked her to meet at Via Carota in Greenwich Village for dinner,â€ť he remembers. â€śBut, I was foolish and didnâ€™t realize how long of a wait it would be.â€ť They called an audible and decamped to Rosemaryâ€™sâ€”but from that first date, â€śsomething felt right.â€ť
Shortly after Greg returned to Atlanta, the pandemic grounded travel to a halt. So, the duo set up date nights via video and synced the start of movies to watch them together, all the while getting to know each other better and better. As travel became safer, they began visiting each other in person and a relationship blossomed.
Their wedding on August 26, 2021, combined their Korean culture with an impeccable sense of style (Grace is a graphic design professor and the CEO of Open Style Lab, a nonprofit dedicated to making fashion accessible to people of all abilities). Every decision was intentional, especially the vendor choices. â€śLots of small, minority-owned businesses were hit hard [during the pandemic], and for us to support that through our special day was a goal of mine,â€ť Grace says. She pegged local Korean-owned businesses for the wedding planner and photographers, and Asian Americans for graphic design, fashion, and music.
Read on to learn more about the couple's traditional Paebaek ceremony and the wedding of their dreams, planned by White Collections Bridal Atelier and photographed by Don Hwang Photography and Haseok Chung Studio.
Design was an important element of wedding planning for the bride, from the typography on the invitations to the symbolism of the color palette. â€śThe design had to have meaning and be both beautiful and functional,â€ť she says. â€śOur graphic design for print, invitations, menu, and gift bags was very personalized.â€ť
The typography, which included the bride and groomâ€™s names in both Korean and English, was set with metal plates and pressed in gold foil. â€śI loved working with DWRI Letterpress because we knew how to talk to each other about print and consistency in branding,â€ť Grace adds.
The two-day event began with a rehearsal dinner and traditional Korean Paebaek ceremony at Crown Shy in New York City. They kept decor minimalâ€”the ceremony items brought enough color and dimension without the need for additional floralsâ€”and focused on print and graphics that made the wedding week feel cohesive. Dinner began with family-style appetizers like watermelon salad and olive pull-apart bread; the main course was grilled citrus-marinated chicken with house hot sauce.
Underneath their ceremonial robes, Grace and Greg donned traditional attireâ€”with a twist. â€śTraditionally, the brideâ€™s hanbok consists of two pieces that are pink or a similar shade,â€ť Grace says. â€śYet I had mine designed completely the opposite: bold mustard yellow and deep indanthrene blue.â€ť The chosen tones complemented her skin tone better, but there was more to it than that. The bride worked with master designer Agnes Jung of Hanbok Story: â€śShe works with artisans in Seoul who told me [that] Korean hanbok textiles are colored using natural dyes, and the bold yellow and blue shades I chose were uncommon and rare.â€ť
Honoring their parents throughout the festivitiesâ€”both the Paebaek and Western weddingâ€”was an important detail for the couple. â€śWe are lucky our families have been so supportive of our careers and lives, so it was great to be able to honor their sacrifices and hard work,â€ť Grace says.
In front of a colorful decorative background panel, a host of traditional items displayed on a Korean rosewood table set the stage for their modern Paebaek ceremony: wooden ducks, chestnuts, dates, money envelopes wrapped in silk, and gold cups for rice wine.
Grace met almost all of her bridesmaids through Open Style Lab so it was only fitting that their wedding-day prep paid homage to the nonprofitâ€™s mission and values. â€śMy maid of honor, Leaâ€”who couldnâ€™t come from Koreaâ€”overnight shipped our bridal party red and cream pajamas, designed by a brand in Seoul called Big Biba Collection,â€ť Grace says. â€śThese pajamas were perfect because they not only fit every diverse size for my bridesmaids, but they also had motifs of Paris, which was our first trip together for promoting Open Style Lab.â€ť To prep her skin for a natural but long-lasting beauty look, the bride used serum from Sulwhasoo, a Korean holistic skincare line, and an instant detox mask from CaudalĂe.
One of Graceâ€™s bridesmaids (and her partner at Open Style Lab), could not hold a bouquet due to paralysis of her arms. As is the mission of their company, the two created a solution: â€śShe had an adaptive bouquet holder tied around her waist and neck to have her arms supported,â€ť Grace says. â€śI made this for her twice, first at her own beautiful wedding.â€ť
For the big day, Grace chose the Marthe Dress from Vera Wangâ€™s Fall 2019 collection. â€śI fell in love with the macramĂ© lace and the neckline details,â€ť she says. â€śIt had a long skirt that really made me feel larger than life in a venue as big as Oheka Castle.â€ť Her veil was custom beaded, and her hair worn in a high bun to hold the weight of the pearls and showcase the high neckline of the dress.
She paired the look with earrings and a diamond tennis bracelet gifted from the groomâ€™s family. Even her Louboutins were thoughtfully chosen: "Red in many Asian customs is a symbol of luck, so the iconic red sole was perfect.â€ť She also loves the brand's commitment to justice and equity with its â€śWalk A Mile In My Shoesâ€ť campaign.
Grace had visited Oheka Castle several times with her mom since the age of 13 for tea and brunch. â€śIt also happened to be a wedding venue, so this was a deliberate choice by my mom,â€ť Grace laughs. For her mother, Oheka Castle represented a part of the American dreamâ€”relaxationâ€”and symbolized why she had moved to Long Island, immigrating from Seoul in the 1980s. â€śGoing to brunch at Oheka was a moment when clothes became fashion, and fashion became an experience,â€ť Grace remembers. So, years later, it made a stunning and fitting setting for portraits in her wedding gown.
For his part, the groom looked dapper in a black Canali tuxedo with satin peak lapels, Drake's faille silk bow tie, and Salvatore Ferragamo calfskin leather oxfords. He accessorized with a rose gold IWC chronograph watch, gifted by the brideâ€™s familyâ€”a traditional groomâ€™s gift in modern Korean weddings.
The outdoor ceremony space at Oheka Castle was nothing short of regal. The ceremony decor focused on simplicity, with white floralsâ€”lisianthus, roses, and hydrangeasâ€”fresh greenery, and hints of purple. â€śThe aisle runner had lots of white roses and babyâ€™s breath to give it a light airy vibe,â€ť Grace says. "We tried to keep true to Gatsby vibes of the castle and compliment the landscape outside where our ceremony was held." (Psstâ€¦ If the venue looks familiar, hereâ€™s why: Itâ€™s where Taylor Swift filmed her â€śBlank Spaceâ€ť video.)
One of the couple's favorite moments of the day was when Grace walked down the aisle with her dad, who "took care to walk slowly and give her all the support she needed to make sure she wouldn't trip."
After â€śI do,â€ť the newlyweds recessed out to â€śSetting Sailâ€ť by Gary Clark, the opening song for Amazonâ€™s â€śModern Loveâ€ť series. â€śWe had a live band that made a world of a difference,â€ť Grace remembers. â€śKeyboard, bass, drums, guitar, two female vocalists, two male vocalists, and a sax player.â€ť
Keep everything in perspective, don't let any stressful situation get in between you.
While the bride and groom hit a few snags due to Covid, they managed to stay calm together through the entire planning process. "I was really lucky to have Greg," shares Grace. "He is super detailed-oriented, so the guest list and reception planning was the easiest to manage."
Her advice to others getting married? "Keep everything in perspective, don't let any stressful situation get in between you. Things can be quite unpredictable (like a pandemic!) and so try to keep each other from stressing about any one detail or drama, and just appreciate that friends and family are coming together to celebrate your relationship on this special day."
Bridesmaids chose their own dresses in shades of plum, and groomsmen wore tuxedos with silk bow ties, plum pocket squares, and custom sunglasses. "I tried to give as much freedom to my bridesmaid in choosing their dresses," adds Grace. A variety of white florals made up the bouquets and boutonnieres.
Matching the invitation envelopes, the wedding guestbook was rendered in plum. The color was chosen for its cultural meaning: â€śMany Korean noble families wore plum purple, including scholars,â€ť Grace says. â€śBoth our families have strong values of education.â€ť
I was so inspired by learning about the cut and seams in hanbok, that I applied a high waistline to this white dress.
Grace changed into a second dress for the reception, one sheâ€™d custom designed with NOEL Studio, a Korean-owned factory in Manhattanâ€™s Garment District where she herself had learned many sewing techniques. â€śI wanted something simple yet refined,â€ť she says. Details like pearl beads along the top edge of the bust lent an elegant airâ€”and it had cultural meaning, too.
â€śI was so inspired by my visit to Hanbok Story in learning about the cut and seams in hanbok, that I applied a high waistline to this white dress,â€ť Grace says. â€śThe high waistline seam was designed close under the bust in a straight line and adorned with clear white beads in geometric figurations that echoed the wrapping experience of wearing a hanbok.â€ť
"We had special musical selections that included a little jazz and k-pop," shares the bride. "We entered in as a couple to BTS's 'Dynamite!'" For their first dance as newlyweds, Grace and Greg took a turn to â€śCrazy Loveâ€ť by Van Morrison, performed to perfection by their band The Eleven.
When, at the last minute, travel restrictions prevented Graceâ€™s maid of honor from attending the wedding, the couple knew her speech would be missed. â€śSo one of my bridesmaids, Anna, and her husband Jose, figured out how to Zoom Lea in for her speech,â€ť Grace remembers. â€śThe two MIT geniuses figured outâ€”with little noticeâ€”how to get the speakers and mic connected, projector and laptop ready, while coordinating all of this to match Korean Standard Time.â€ť
The traditional mother-son and father-daughter dances and the rest of the night out on the dance floor was a special memory for the couple. â€śOur parents on both sides had moves we didn't realize they had,â€ť Grace remembers with a laugh.
For the couple's wedding cake, Oheka Castleâ€™s in-house pastry chef, Daniel Andreotti, created a chocolate and pistachio confection with edible pearl beading, and the florist topped it with fresh purple flowers.
After their perfect wedding, Grace and Greg headed back to Manhattan for a minimoon. â€śWe stayed at the Baccarat Hotel, had their famous afternoon tea, and went to eat around NYC while getting inspired by the MoMA,â€ť Grace says. Shortly after, she made the move to Atlantaâ€”and they officially began their lives together.