1. Thousands of Unification Church members, known as "Moonies," got married in a mass wedding in South Korea Sunday — the first since the death of controversial church founder Sun Myung Moon.
2. Rev. Moon's 70-year-old widow, Hak Ja Han, presided over the "Blessing Ceremony." Men and women from around the world traveled to Cheongshim Peace World Centre in Gapyeong, about 37 miles northeast of Seoul, to have their union blessed by "Mother Moon
3. Mass weddings and arranged marriages have always been a staple of the church, which teaches that romantic love leads to sexual promiscuity, mismatched couples, and dysfunctional societies.
4. Although matchmaking responsibilities have shifted to parents in recent years, many couples still choose to have the church arrange their marriages. Of the followers married on Sunday, 400 were officially paired mere days before the ceremony.
5. Those who choose to be matched by the church must confirm under oath that they are virgins, and after their wedding the couple must refrain from sexual relations for a minimum of 40 days.
6. The church's preference for cross-cultural pairs means that newlyweds will often share no common language.
7. "I've been waiting for him all my life," a bride from Trinidad and Tobago told AFP when asked about her Polish husband. "Language isn't such an issue. We're connected by the church."
8. "We struggle a little to communicate right now," an American groom agreed, referring to his Japanese bride. "We see it as an exciting challenge and proof of our faith."
9. An additional 12,000 couples around the world participated in the ceremony via a live internet feed.
10. Members of the Unification Church acknowledge their "True Mother," Hak Ja Han, who officiated the ceremony.
11. The Unification Church believes that through the "Blessing Ceremony," couples are cleansed of humanity's sin, as are their future children. It can be both a wedding and a rededication of vows.
12. The ceremony consists of a recitation of four vows, an exchanging of rings, and a blessing with holy water.
14. Each couple vows to live a life of purity, follow the example set by Rev. Moon and his wife (who are referred to as the "True Family"), raise children in the church, and become "an ideal family which contributes to world peace."
17. Hak Ja Han, "Mother Moon," sprinkles the church's holy water onto newly married couples.
18. Newlyweds celebrate at the end of the ceremony.
21. Some couples celebrate in different ways than others.
Ellie Hall is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 6055 A264 DADD AADC 347E 5986 547C C11C DD7D 176A.
Contact Ellie Hall at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.