"We met up in Seoul for dinner at a taco place," Erica said. Patrick taught at Langcon English Academy in a Seoul suburb, where elementary school students came after their regular school day ended. It was late by the time the bus dropped him in the city. "He was a very nice guy, and friendly," Erica said. "It was not awkward at all."
Their server put Erica's burrito in front of Patrick, who without thinking began eating it. They laughed. She ate his tacos. "We talked about ourselves all night long," Patrick said.
They explored Seoul together - hiking to Nam San Tower, the top of which boasts a panoramic view of the city, attending soccer games, and visiting the aquarium, which inspired Patrick's first gift to Erica: a sea otter Beanie Baby that he asked his mother to mail from the U.S.
How does forever sound?
They had been dating about two years when Patrick's contract expired. "I wanted to go home and to take Erica home to meet my family and friends," he said. He left in September. Weeks later, he picked Erica up at the airport in Washington. They drove straight to South Carolina for a Gamecocks football game with Patrick's college pals. Then it was up to Pennsylvania for a wedding and party, where Erica met his entire family.
That November, Erica left Rosetta Stone to spend three weeks with Patrick in Europe. They met in Barcelona and took a tour of Montjuic Castle, which is accessible by cable car. In the air, looking down at the beautiful Mediterranean and noticing her man had a messenger bag with him, Erica thought a proposal was coming. When they were back on the ground, her heart rate returned to normal. Then, outside the castle, on the edge of the cliff, "he all of a sudden got on one knee," she said.
"Erica, I love you a lot, and I wanted to know if you would marry me," he asked.
She said yes, he stood, and they spotted another couple from Korea. "I asked them to take our picture," Patrick remembers.
After their trip, Erica found an apartment in Seoul and a job as a project manager at Alcon medical company. Patrick returned to Pennsylvania, where he did some tutoring until he landed a job at Hwarang Elementary School in Seoul. He moved into the place she'd found that February.
It was so them
Not wanting either their Korean or their American families and friends to miss their wedding due to the logistics and expense of a 14-hour flight, the couple held one in each country.
On July 6, 2013, they held an American-style, bilingual wedding with 200 guests at the Seoul Marina. Patrick's parents, Bill and Coleen, were there.
The couple left their jobs to move to the United States in February and, about a week later, held their second wedding with 100 guests at the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Exton. This time, they took some cues from Korean tradition. Erica's dad, Hyeon Cheol, and Patrick's made speeches. Patrick and his mom had a mother-son dance. Then, in lieu of the father-daughter dance, the couple sat on two chairs, holding between them a blanket made by Erica's grandmother, Seol Ja. Erica's mother, Gui Hye, her father, and Patrick's parents threw chestnuts and dates that the couple tried to catch with the blanket. Chestnuts represent boys; dates represent girls. They counted more chestnuts, and Patrick announced that their first child would be a boy.
Two days after the wedding, the couple drove their 14-year-old Taurus and all their worldly goods to Charlotte, where they now live.
Erica put so much into planning their American-style wedding in Korea - such as explaining what she wanted in detail to vendors used to doing things the Korean way - that "I didn't really have time to feel everything and get emotional." Not so in Exton. Hearing the music, she knew she was supposed to start walking down the aisle, but "I was actually standing outside crying. I didn't walk into the room until the song was almost over."
In his speech, Erica's father compared the couple to wildflowers - no one ever knows exactly where they'll be found, but they are always appreciated. The sentiment touched Erica and Patrick and led many friends to marvel that Hyeon Cheol speaks in poetry.
Patrick says he'll also always remember everyone going to a noraebang - a singing room - after the Korean wedding. The groomsmen took off their suit jackets, loosened their ties, threw their arms around each other, and belted out Springsteen.
A bargain: The couple chartered a school bus from First Student to take everyone from the Exton hotel to the West Chester bars and back. It was roughly half the cost of a coach company minibus that could hold only 14 people.
The splurge: The couple spent a week in Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan, islands in Thailand, after their Korean wedding. Alas, this was during the Korean vacation season, so the tickets were three times their usual rate.
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