Thousands of nearly identically-dressed couples tied the knot in a mass wedding in South Korea on Wednesday, part of an event organized by the Unification Church.
Some 2,500 couples took part in the ceremony at the church’s global headquarters in Gapyeong, east of the capital Seoul, but in total about 20,000 couples were married around the world by watching proceedings live on the Internet.
Couples traveled from all over the globe to take part in the ceremony. From the United States, Ilseuk Masuda and Rachel Curtin exchanged vows in the crowd – he wore a red tie; she donned a traditional white gown. The couple’s parents, who were also married through the Church, exchanged vows in a mass wedding in New York in 1982. Their children are proud to follow in their footsteps.
“From an American culture stand point it’s not normal to be married with hundreds of other couples, but really objectively we don’t think it’s that strange,” Masuda said.
Sun Myung Moon, a media and business mogul turned self-styled messiah, founded the church in 1954 in Seoul. He preached new interpretations of lessons from the Bible, raising eyebrows for what critics have characterized as a cult.
The church gained fame in the 1970s and 80s for holding mass weddings of thousands of followers. The first mass weddings began in the early 1960s, with the numbers of couples participating mushrooming over the years. In 1997, 30,000 couples tied the knot in Washington, and two years later around 21,000 filled the Olympic Stadium in Seoul.
Moon was often the one who matched up couples from different countries for the Church’s nuptials, in a bid to build a multicultural religious world—even when, in some instances, the paired couple didn’t share a common language. Since Moon’s death in 2012, his 70-year-old widow, Hak Ja Han, has been presiding over the ceremonies.