Mass Wedding: What is it Like to Marry a Stranger? With AM-South Korea-Mass Wedding
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ What is it like to marry a stranger? Someone who speaks another language? Someone you met yesterday?
On Tuesday, 20,000 couples from 131 nations - including 1,500 Americans -were married in Seoul’s Olympic Park by Unification Church founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
″People think how impersonal a mass wedding must be - all those strangers,″ said Raman Montanaro, 29. ″They are wrong.″
Montanaro, 29, of Portland, Me. and New York City, was in the stands watching Tuesday’s ceremonies with his Japanese wife Tamiko, 28 and some 70,000 others.
Raman and Tamiko were married at a mass wedding in Korea for 1,275 couples in 1989. They could not speak to one another and are still learning each other’s language.
They were matched by Moon - as all couples are - during a session at a New York hotel ballroom about two years before the wedding. Montanaro remembers the matching as one of the most emotional, gruelling experiences he’s ever had.
He said all participants wore badges giving their name, education and age. Men sat on the floor on one side of the ballroom and women on the other while Moon talked about love and marriage and paced the floor sizing people up.
Six hours after the session began, Mantanaro was one of the last left. ″I was thinking anyone is okay. I will accept anything - a rock, a frog. I have no right to have a preference,″ he said.
Moon pulled him out by his lapel, whispered, ″I want you to take care of her’ and pushed him toward Tamiko.
″I didn’t even know her name yet, but my first thought was ’Father gave me a princess,‴ he said. A Japanese elder had to translate their first conversation. But he said he instinctively knew the choice was right.
″Faith does that,″ he said. He said church members believe Moon has divine insight to match couples and that makes them work hard at forming a relationship with their chosen mate.
″It’s like meeting someone from your old alma mater. We follow the same precepts, the same ideals. We care about God,″ he said.
The church requires that the marriage not be consummated for 40 days during which time the couple is to become acquainted and focus on the religious life ahead of them.
Younger people often live separately for several years before they are ready for a Western-style marriage, as he and Tamiko did, he said.
″Father (Moon) always speaks about true love. We get bogged down in money, position, jobs, but our main mission is to love. He wants people to understand it’s a very serious matter and not shopping.″