Welcome to Wedding Hell: Episodes 1-3 (First Impressions)
KakaoTV’s latest drama is here, and Welcome to Wedding Hell is like an actual blast from the past. With an old school feel, a simple plot, and mediocre production all around, I’m not exactly sure what to make of this drama.
Editor’s note: Continued drama coverage is pending based on Beanie feedback.
EPISODES 1-3 FIRST IMPRESSIONS
My favorite Lee Jin-wook is a desperate and bloodstained one (a la Nine: Nine Time Travels and Bulgasal: Immortal Souls), but a rom-com about getting married? Willing to try.
However, Welcome to Wedding Hell doesn’t feel like a fresh take on a couple in their 30s deciding to marry, and hitting obstacles on the way. Instead, it feels like a drama from a decade ago — the kind where characters talk aloud to themselves in the bathroom for our benefit, where the only way the plot progresses is with the leads talking to their friends at random locations daily, and where there’s always a part of you that can’t forget you’re watching people act. But quality and production value aside, it was still strangely watchable?
We meet our happily dating couple right out of the gate: the smiley and sweet hero SEO JUN-HYUNG (Lee Jin-wook), and our overthinking heroine KIM NA-EUN (Lee Yeon-hee). They’ve been together for a few years, and we get some cute flashbacks to their college days when Jun-hyung tried to hit on Na-eun with some ultra cheesy pick-up lines.
First and foremost on Na-eun’s mind right now is marriage, and when we first meet her in the present, she’s eagerly observing all the married couples around her, dreaming of that for herself. And while her desire to get married to Jun-hyung is not only sweet but entirely reasonable (I mean, that would be me too), what’s troubling is that for someone in her 30s she seems unable to actually have adult conversations with him.
But it’s not entirely her fault. We get insight on Na-eun’s position with the help of her two work friends, who offer solicited and unsolicited advice all about men, marriage, money, etc. And Na-eun is so green and naive that she basically takes their jaded worldviews as gospel, and then takes all that back to her relationship with Jun-hyung.
This seems to be the primary way the plot moves along, and after three episodes it occurred to me that if Na-eun got some different friends, she wouldn’t have any misunderstandings with Jun-hyung at all. And hence, there would be no drama. (That’s not to say her friends don’t offer some good advice as well, it’s just that Na-eun can’t seem to field it at all.)
The first plot point where we see this in action is Na-eun, hungry for marriage with her awesome and devoted boyfriend, and trying to broach the subject with him. Rather than bring it up naturally and see what he says, she’s crippled by the warnings from her friends — namely, that marriage won’t ever happen unless the man wills it so.
So, Na-eun tiptoes around the idea of marriage (eventually shouting out the word in frustration in the middle of a fancy restaurant date) and doesn’t like what she finds. Jun-hyung avoids, coughs, sputters, and at every turn, he seems to be ignoring all nuptial discussions.
But we’re not left thinking Jun-hyung is a jerkface for too long — it turns out, he’s been hatching an elaborate proposal event which Na-eun nearly ruins several times due to her misunderstandings and overthinking. In the end, the proposal is a success, and Jun-hyung good-naturedly says their nearly-ruined night will make for a better story one day. And thus they’re blissfully engaged.
The proposal was the focus of the first episode, and in the second episode, we move to the next hurdle for our couple: the official meeting of their parents. Here, it’s more of the same. Warnings from Na-eun’s friends, and her overthinking how their parents will interact with each other, makes the formal dinner so much more awkward than it needs to be.
Despite the unnecessary stress, our couple is really cute together. They’re supportive, understanding, and clearly in love. And Na-eun isn’t the only one who takes bad and/or highly subjective advice from her friends — Jun-hyung does the same with his set of pals (although with a little more maturity and ability to call out BS), which leads us into the topic of Episode 3. What are they going to do about their finances?
Here, again, a simple conversation between Na-eun and Jun-hyung about their salaries, savings, and budget for the wedding could have made everything simple. Instead, they both approach the topic with their opinions colored by the jaded advice of their friends.
Na-eun and Jun-hyung spend most of the episode dancing around conversations about money, until eventually, Na-eun comes clean, and the episode ends with a more straight-forward conversation about how they should be open with each other regarding their financial situations. Can you guys just talk and say what’s on your mind, instead of thinking other peoples’ thoughts? Even Na-eun recognizes how much energy she is wasting worrying about things that were just in her head.
Anyway, after three episodes of the same general format, I’m expecting this to repeat as we progress through the drama. Right now, after wobbling around and eventually working their way through each issue, our couple seems to find each other in the end, and land on their feet. While the drama makes you sometimes question how these two have managed to negotiate the adult world thus far, it’s clear both of their hearts are in the right place.
I’m left not exactly sure how I feel about this drama, though. Lee Jin-wook’s eye smile and the short episodes help things along, but there’s nothing particularly compelling about the setup or the writing. The drama feels like something that could have worked okay several years ago, but now, it’s outdated — and not in the charming way I was hoping (because then I’d be all in).
On paper I should love this — I’m a sucker for “old school” dramas, from the cookie cutter format to the predictable writing and cheesy moments. Welcome to Wedding Hell has all those elements, but it’s somehow missing the charm of a drama from ten-ish years ago that might have done all the same things. Usually I find these sorts of dramas comforting and fun to get lost in (despite the cheesiness), but for some reason this one isn’t pulling me in. Even with Kim Mi-kyung playing yet another epic drama mom.