“It would be a lie if I said I was not concerned at all about the infection,” Choi Ji-Young, 21, told Agence France-Presse (AFP). “But I feel like I will be protected from the virus today.”
The 21-year-old, who met her hubby only two months ago when matched by the church, added: “I am overwhelmed that I am getting married today.”
South Korea has recorded 24 cases of coronavirus, which emerged in neighboring China, where more than 31,000 cases have been confirmed after first emerging in the city of Wuhan.
Seoul has barred entry to foreigners who have recently been to the ravaged epicenter city.
Festivals, graduation ceremonies and concerts have been canceled in South Korea amid fears that large events could lead to virus transmission, and authorities have asked religious groups to cooperate in preventing its spread.
The church decided to proceed with the event because it had been “four years in the making,” as part of the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of church founder Sun Myung Moon’s birth, spokesman Jang Young-chul told the AFP.
But followers from China were asked not to come, he said.
The church also distributed face masks to the 30,000-strong crowd — but only some actually wore them at the Gapyeong event, where a festive mood prevailed.
Kim Chang-seong, 27, who was marrying a woman he met only 20 days ago, said he was not worried about infection because the mass wedding had “special meaning” for him.
“By marrying a fellow church believer, I am taking a path paved by our church leaders,” he told AFP.
Mass weddings have long been signature events of the church, whose followers have been dubbed “Moonies” after its founder, who died in 2012.
People who choose to be matched by the church must confirm under oath that they are virgins — and must refrain from sexual relations for a minimum of 40 days after their wedding.
Evelyne Chimfwembe, who flew in from Botswana to attend the ceremony with her husband of 28 years, said she threw coronavirus cautions to the wind because she believed the event would be “under God’s control.”
This story was originally published by the New York Post.