This weekend, I was at another wedding, this time at a small church in Ann Arbor. The church building was owned by a Lutheran congregation, but was used by a Korean community. The ceremony was in Korean and English; the prayers, the sermon, the vows were all done in both languages. There were no bridesmaids or groomsmen, no flower girl or ringbearer. They served simple Korean food: japchae, bulgogi, kimchi. There was no fancy silverware—tables were laid out with plastic cups, wooden chopsticks, paper plates. There was no dance, no big toasts, no instagram hashtag. There entire wedding lasted about two hours.
What this wedding did have was a strong sense of community. Church members decorated the space and served the food. People laughed and talked across the long tables, children running around to play. After it was over, the younger guests stayed behind to clean up the tables and pack away the metal folding chairs.
This wedding reminded me of the role that marriage plays in an immigrant community. In a community that has few resources, everyone has to chip in. The wedding is not just the celebration for the newly married couple, but is a declaration of the vitality of the community. Marriage is connected with family, both in bringing forth children and in joining two families together, thus strengthening the community. This is true for all people, but is more valuable for an immigrant community trying to cement a place in a new country.