Korean Wedding Traditions – All You need To Know!
Korea is rich in history and cultural values, just like another Asian country. If you love history, you will be interested in the sacred Korean wedding traditions in Korea. I will share what I learn about Korean wedding traditions in this article.
Korean wedding is a colorful but traditional affair. Even though these days Western conventions have emerged in Korean weddings, several elements of ancient Korean traditions still occur at most ceremonies.
You will almost certainly witness symbolic rites, gift-giving, bowing, and vows at a Korean wedding. Let’s take a deeper look at Korean wedding traditions.
Table of Contents
Korean Wedding Traditions Symbol
Before proceed to the wedding ceremony, let’s take a look at some of the symbols you might see during korean weddings.
1. Eum/Yang (Yin and Yang)
Marriage represented the perfect union and balancing of the two primary elements of the world: Eum, the dark female element, and Yang, the bright male element (“yin” and “yang”).
Often, the marriage ceremony takes place at dusk, representing a balance between light (day) and darkness (night). The color blue stands for Eum, while red represents Yang.
2. Kireogi (Wild Geese)
A pair of wild geese made from wood represents the new husband and wife. In the Jeonanrye part of the marriage ceremony, the groom gives a single pierogi to his mother-in-law.
The geese symbolize several virtues that the couple should follow in their married life such as.
- Wild geese keep the same partner for life. Even if one dies, the other will not seek a new partner for the rest of their life:
- Wild geese understand hierarchy and order. Even when flying, they maintain structure and harmony.
- Wild geese have the nature to leave their existence wherever they go. People should leave a great legacy for their descendants when they leave this world.
A male and female chicken (one wrapped in a blue cloth, the other in a red one) sit on or under the wedding table.
The rooster’s crowing marked the beginning of the day, a bright, fresh start, just like the marriage should be.
This also symbolizes a way to cast out the evil spirits by shouting the day was coming and they had to disappear.
Overall, the rooster in the wedding ceremony marks a hope that evil spirits will go away and not trouble the new couple.
A secondary meaning represents the hope that the couple will have many children, which is important in a traditional agrarian society.
Productive chickens produce many eggs, thus should the new bride produce many children.
Stages Of Korean Wedding
Here are the five stages of Korean wedding based on traditional rituals and custom in Korea.
1. Eui Hon (Matchmaking)
Finding a prospective wife or husband for one’s child might involved the services of professional matchmakers.
The matchmaker would match prospective partners and have their parents meet each other.
The parents would also meet the prospective mate for their own child, but the future bride and groom would not meet each other at this time.
The groom’s family would send a marriage proposal to the bride’s parents, who would either accept or decline the proposal on behalf of their daughter.
2. Napchae (Date Setting)
After they accept the proposal, the groom’s family would prepare a Saju, which specifies the year, month, date, and exact hour of the groom’s birth, according to the lunar calendar, and deliver it to the bride’s family.
Based on the information in the Saju, a fortune teller determined the best date for the wedding.
The bride’s family then sent a Yeongil to the groom’s family that stated the wedding date and inquired about the groom’s body size.
3. Napp'ae (Exchanging Valuables)
Traditionally, a band of the Groom’s closest friends will bring Korean betrothal gifts (함 Ham) to the bride’s home.
The group, dressed in costume with blackened faces, would arrive singing at the bride’s family home; this group was called Hamjinabi (people who delivered the Ham).
A small group of Groom’s close friends also took a pot of Bongchi Deok (red bean rice cake) from the Groom family.
They would stop just outside the house, chanting, “Ham for sale, ham for sale!”.
The bride’s family would rush out and offer money to the group and hold a small party offering them food and drink for their efforts.
Ham usually contained 3 items:
- Honseo (marriage paper), wrapped in black silk, specified the name of the sender and the purpose (marriage) of sending.
- It symbolized the dedication of the wife to only one husband. The wife must keep this document with her forever, even bury it when she dies.
- Chaedan was a collection of red and blue fabrics used to make clothing.
- They wrap the blue fabrics with red threads and the red fabrics with blue threads. The two colors represented the philosophy of Eum/Yang (Yin/Yang).
- Honsu is a collection of other valuables for the bride from the Groom’s parents.
4. Kunbere (Wedding Ceremony)
In the Korean wedding ceremony, they will vow during the kunbere ceremony. Both bride and groom wear the traditional hanbok, a traditional Korean dress specially designed for the ceremony.
The bride wears a red hanbok, while the groom wears blue, exactly like the South Korean Flag together, representing the balance of complementary entities.
Traditionally, the marriage would occur at dusk, representing the balance between light and dark.
5. Pyebaek (Post Ceremony)
The pyebaek is one of many Korean wedding traditions emphasizing the importance of family within the culture. The bride and groom will visit his in laws home to be their daughter-in-law.
The brides will give her in laws dates and chestnuts as representation of the future kids. Afterwards, the in laws will give them advice about marriage.
At the end of the ceremony, the groom’s parents throw the dates and chestnuts back to the bride and she must catch them in her traditional skirt as a symbol of receiving the blessings of fertility.
Korean Wedding Traditions Ceremony
Here are some of the korean wedding ceremony traditions including.
The wedding ceremony begin with both bridegroom mothers carry a candles. The bride’s mother carries a red candle, and the groom’s mother carries a blue candle. These two colors symbolize the balance of cosmic forces that occur in nature.
At the end of this rituals, they will light the candle to invoke the god of heaven to be present and it marks the beginning of the Korean wedding ceremony.
Jeonanrye is known as the “presentation of the wild goose”. This is when the groom will give a wild goose as a git to his in-laws as a symbol of his commitment to his wife.
Wild geese is loyal to their mates, even after one of them die. This gift shows that he would be loyal to her just like wild geese. The groom will bow twice before presenting the kierogi to his in-laws.
Historically, a Korean wedding was an arranged marriage in which the bride and groom would see one another for the first time at this point.
Gyobaerye begin with both bridegroom (with the help of their assistance) wash their hands as a symbol of cleansing of the mind and body before start the sacred ceremony.
Afterwards, they face one another to show respect by bowing to one another. The bride will bow twice to the groom and the groom will bow once. They will do this for three rounds which makes the bride bow for six times.
Hapgeunrye is the step when the bride and groom drink from the same copper cup. They drink from two halves of a gourd connected by a thread from the same cup. This step symbolize their unity as a bride and groom.
Seonghonrye is the last step of the ceremony where the bridegroom showing respect and appreciation to both of their parents and their guest by bowing down to them.
Bride's Clothings For Korean Wedding
Here are the clothings and accessories for bride in korean weddign traditions including.
1. Wonsam or Hwalot
The bride wore an elaborate topcoat with flowing sleeves over her other clothes. Wonsam was made with blue silk on the inside and red silk outside.
The front and back had embroidered flowers representing wealth, longevity, and nobleness.
The billowing sleeves had blue, yellow, and red fabrics, with a wide strip of white at the cuffs, which also had colorful embroidery.
The wonsam replaced the hwalot during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), and many brides followed suit. Princesses wore green ones. The wide sleeves often had 4 or 5 colors, with wide white strips at the cuffs.
Daedal (belt of red woven silk with gold embroidery) is wrapped around the wonsam and tied at the back.
The Jokduri serves as the last accessory after the cap. Previously, the royal family’s jokduri contained 7 different colors.
4. Yongjam and Daenggi
The bride’s hair was pulled back tightly and tied at the back of her neck. A Yongjam (long hairpin with a dragon head at one end) was placed through her tied hair.
A Doturak Daenggi (a long, wide piece of dark silk embroidered with gold lettering) was attached to the Jokduri and hung down the bride’s back.
A thinner Ap daenggi hung from each side of the Yongjam, resting along the front of the Wonsam.
5. Dangui and Hwagwan
The queen, princess, or wife of a high-ranking government official wore a Dangui during minor ceremonies in the palace. Women of the Yangban (noble) class also wore it as a wedding costume.
It was usually made with green silk outside, red silk inside, or purple silk outside and pink silk inside.
The costume had narrow sleeves and a half-moon shape on the bottom hem. Similar to the jokduri but more ornate, a hwagwan was worn for a headdress with a dangui.
Groom's Clothings For Korean Wedding
Here are the clothings and accessories for bride in korean wedding traditions including.
Called Samogwandae, the groom’s costume closely resembled the clothes worn by the lowest-ranking court officials during the Joseon Dynasty.
The color and belt decoration symbolized the person’s position within the court hierarchy.
As marriage represented the most important event in a man’s life, the groom was allowed to wear this uniform, even though he did not hold any position in the palace.
Those of higher rank would wear different clothes during their own marriage ceremony.
2. Paji and Cheogori (Traditional Pants and Jacket)
The Paji had wide legs as baggier pants were more comfortable sitting on floors than narrower pants.
Two cloth straps (called Daenim) bound the cuffs of the Paji around the ankles. This prevented the cuffs from covering up the boots. A Cheogori was the traditional shirt worn by men of the time.
3. Dalryeongp'o (Jacket)
This jacket, usually of blue or maroon color, contained an embroidered picture (hyungbae) of two red-crested white cranes on the middle of the chest. A gakdae (belt) tied the dalryeongpo together, similar to the bride’s daedae.
Completing the costume were a pair of black cloth boots (Mokwha) and a Samo (a stiff cap with “wings” on the sides).
Korean culture is limitless and there’s always interesting stuff to learn from korean history and traditions.
These are all I can share about Korean wedding traditions in South Korea. If you have any questions or somethings I can improve, let me know in the comment sections below!
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F.A.Q about Korean Wedding Traditions
The bride and groom wear red and blue colors, the same as the color of “taeguk.”
The bride wearing a red hanbok, while the groom wearing blue, exactly like the Korean Flag, represents the balance of complementary entities.
Traditionally, the marriage would occur at dusk, representing the balance between light and dark.
In addition, the bride’s mother will wear warm tones, including pink, purple, or orange, while the groom’s mother will wear cool tones, like blue, gray, or green.
The contents on the table usually include Mandarin-style wooden ducks (won-ang seteu), pinecones, bamboo, dates, chestnuts, persimmons, red beans, gourd cups, and a copper bowl.
The copper bowl is for the handwashing of the bride and groom as a symbol of their cleansing and purity for one another.
Pinecones and bamboo represent loyalty to life, while dates and chestnuts represent fertility.
Most Korean weddings in modern society are a mix and hybrid of Western and Korean traditions, so there can be a drinking activity there.
You can put cash inside a white envelope; this is a classic wedding gift at a Korean wedding. The amount of money should correspond to your closeness to the couple.