Korean Traditional Wedding
Thanks to my dear friend Soon, I got an opportunity to witness this lavish yet Traditional Korean Wedding. It was an awesome experience for me and luckily the commentators were explaining the rituals in English.
These days Korean weddings are done as per western tradition where the bride and the groom go to a church, walk down the aisle, take the vow and then get married. But this wedding was completely traditional.
In traditional Korea, the marriage between a man and woman represents the joining of two families, rather than the joining of two individuals. As such, the event was often called Taerye (Great Ritual), and people from all over participated.
The traditional wedding ceremony in Korea as seen today is based on ‘Manual for four ceremonial occasions’ compiled by Doam Leejae from late Joseon Dynasty.
Ceremony 1 – Uihon – Discussion of marriage
It has 3 stages namely
- Napchae, is when the marriage is agreed upon after the marriage is discussed through an intermediary. It is the etiquette for the bridegroom’s house to send a wedding proposal through an an intermediary to the bride’s house along with the Bride’s Four Pillars.
- Yeongil, is when the Bride’s house selects a date for the wedding as a reply after receiving ‘Four Pillars’ from the bridegroom.
- Nappae, is when the Bridegroom’s house sends a box containing a marriage letter and necessary articles on the day before the wedding as a proof of the marriage. The person who carries the wedding chest is called Hamjin Abi.
Ceremony 2 – Daerae – Wedding Ceremony
It has 4 stages namely
- Chinyoung, where the bridegroom takes his first steps to the bride’s house for the wedding
- Jeonanrye, is the custom of giving a wild geese to the mother of the bride as a proof of the wedding vow, upon arriving at the bride’s house.
- Gyobaerye, is when the bride and the bridegroom bows to each other upon their first meeting. Bride bows twice and bridegroom bows once as a reply, and this bowing ritual is repeated twice.
- Hapgeonrye, is also called Geonbaerye where geonbae means a gourd dipper. It is the ritual of exchanging a gourd dipper between the bride and the bridegroom. It represents that the man and woman are now united into one-just as it was before birth from separation by means of Hapgeonrye, as the gourd dipper is united into one-just as it was after separation.
Ceremony 3 & 4 – Hoorye – Wedding Celebrations and Parade
It has 2 stages namely
- Sinhaenggil, is the parade where the bride marches to the bridegroom’s house on her own after the wedding ceremony.
- Panbaek, is when the bride bows to her parents-in-law and their family upon her arrival to the bridegroom’s house.
Below are the pictures with detailed description about the rituals from what I remember..
The wedding ceremony was conducted at Samchunggak (삼청각) which is located in one of the most pristine places in the city and has born witness to standout moments in Korean history. SamcheongGak’s proximity to the home of Korea’s president, the Blue House, insured that the wooded forest that surrounds the complex has remained untouched for the last half century. It was the venue for the banquet for the Joint Statement (July 4, 2007) between North and South Korean representatives and has served as a forum for a variety of other political and diplomatic functions. The City of Seoul took over Samcheonggak in 2000 and made it available to the public and the building has been under the management of the Sejong Center for the Performance Arts since July 2009, affording visitors many opportunities to experience Korean traditional culture.
The Ajummas from the Brides family welcoming the guests.
The German Groom Marshal along with his parents welcoming the guests. The Groom is dressed in Korean Traditional Wedding Hanbok – Hollyebok.
The Seating Arrangements for guests at the wedding lawn.
The Musicians playing traditional wedding music.
The Groom bowing in front of the Almighty before the wedding ceremony commences.
The Place of worship where the wedding ritual takes place in presence of the Almighty.
The Most Beautiful Korean Bride in her wedding attire which includes a jeogori (저고리; short jacket with long sleeves) with two long ribbons which are tied to form the otgoreum (옷고름), A chima (치마), a full-length, high-waisted, wrap-around skirt, a Boat-shaped shoes made of silk, a white sash with significant symbols or flowers, the norigae (노리개), the knot on the top is called the Maedeup (매듭). Check Hollyebok and Hwarot to view an elegant and colorful collection of Korean Wedding Costumes.
The red circles on the forehead and the cheeks are called yonji and gonji to drive away evil spirits and give purity and lot of love to the bride.
The Cute Little Maid of Honor holding the Chungso Churong in her hand. ChungSo Churong is the lantern that encapsulates the balance between the yin and the yang.
and her cute little smile… I know what she is thinking… Yes one day even I ll be a bride.. and the whole world will be mine on that big day….
The Korean Ajummas in Blue Hanbok are catching up on the Korean Drama they missed last night.
The Wedding Commentators were explaining each and every ritual to the guests. One was explaining in Korean and the other one in English.
The Bride’s Mother and the Groom’s Mother lighting the candle to wish the Bride with a very happy, prosperous future in her new family and pray that she be bestowed with love throughout by her passionate Husband and her in laws.
The Groom arrives in a Gama (palanquin) led by men. In other Korean weddings a groom may choose to arrive on a horse
The Groom arrives at her Brides House with a Girugi (a couple of wild Wooden Geese). The goose is a supposed to have only one partner in its life time so it symbolises trust, loyalty, purity, monogamy and fidelity. By presenting the girugi to the Brides Family the Groom assures her family that he would always remain loyal to their daughter.
As per Korean tradition, the Bride and the Groom are not supposed to meet before marriage. So the Bride has her face covered as she meets The Groom for the first time. She can reveal her face only after the ceremony is complete.
The Groom walks to the east of the wedding table and the Bride to the west, so that they can face each other.
The Bride and the Groom along with the helpers.
The Bride along with the helpers who help her to wash hands which symbolizes both cleaning mind and body for the ceremony.
Bride and Groom drink liquor in the gourd cups. (These cups are produces by splitting in half a whole gourd, symbolizing that the bride and groom can only be considered as whole if they are together as better halves).
Both the groom and bride drink only half then exchange the cups and drink all. Drinking signifies the destiny of the newly married couple and their harmony.
The bride bows twice to the groom and then the groom bows back to the bride. The bride bows again two more times to the groom, and the groom bows back once more. Bowing represents the promise of commitment to each other. Finally the Bride and the Groom receives the wooden geese (girugi) from the Bride’s mother as a commitment that they will always be loyal to each other.
The Korean Wedding Band entertaining the crowd by singing wedding songs. And the crowd in splits when the Band sings a few funny numbers
The Bride and the Groom now enjoying the Korean Wedding music.
To know more about Korean Wedding read the book – Getting Married in Korea by Laurel Kendall. Kendall attended her first Korean wedding in 1970, soon after she arrived in the country with the Peace Corps. Years later, as a seasoned anthropologist, she began interviewing both working-class and middle-class couples, matchmakers, purveyors of dowry goods, and proprietors of wedding halls. She consulted etiquette handbooks and women’s magazines and analyzed cartoons, photographs, and weddings themselves. The result is an engaging account of how marriage matches are made, how families proceed through the rites, how they finance ceremonies and elaborate exchanges of ritual goods, and how these practices are integral to the construction of adult identities and notions of ideal women and men. The book is also a reflection on what it means to write “Korea” in a complex and ever changing social milieu.
And on an end note I’d like to share a leaf on Traditional Korean wedding from Chad Meyer and Moonjung Kim’s book Easy to Learn Korean Words and Phrases.