The Korean Wedding Ceremony and Customs

3 Aug

After my ridiculously simple look at Korean wedding and getting bewildered looks when I asked my bf to explain things like while the groom give te bride a piggyback ride- I decided to stop being lazy and google it. I found a lovely site to answer all my questions and hopefully yours too. i’ve copy and pasted it in full~ check out the site if you have more questions. 

Korean Wedding Customs & CeremonyDuring the course of discussing wedding plans with my parents, my Dad suggested that we demur in conducting a traditional Korean ceremony, in deference to Western custom. That’s when I had my first Bridezilla moment, and exclaimed “I’ve been waiting 40 years to do this!” So, we’re going to incorporate a traditional Korean wedding custom on our special day, called the “Paebaek.”The actual Korean wedding ceremony incorporates several stages:The first ritual is the Junan-nyeh: the groom offers a goose to the bride’s family. Historically the groom delivered a live goose, but in modern times, this has been replaced by a colorful, carved wooden bird. The goose is a symbol of marital fidelity, as geese couples mate for life. It is a pledge made by the groom to be faithful forever.

This is followed by the Gyobae-ryeh. In olden days, Korean weddings were arranged by matchmakers, and the parties were most often betrothed sight unseen. The Gyobae-rye was a very dramatic moment, because it was the first time that the bride and groom would meet each other face to face. Needless to say, Frank and I are past this drama. During the Gyobae-ryeh the bride and groom perform deep, grand ceremonial bows to each other. Because women are associated with “yin” and even numbers, and men are associated with “yang” and odd numbers, the bride bows twice to the groom and the groom bows once to the bride.

The Gyobae-rye is followed by the Hapgeun-nyeh: the bride and groom exchange ceremonial toasts using two halves of a gourd as drinking vessels. As the bride and groom sip from their cups, the two halves of the gourd are symbolically reunited and made whole. Thus, it symbolizes the union of the bride and groom into a single union. The bride and groom then stand and face the audience as husband and wife.

The Paebaek, which we will perform during the wedding reception dinner for your viewing pleasure, was traditionally held a few days after the official ceremony, with only family members present. Originally, the purpose of the ritual was exclusively for the groom’s side of the family to be introduced to their new family member, the bride. However, in modern times, Korean weddings have incorporated the Paebaek ceremony immediately after the reception, and include the bride’s side of the family. We will incorporate elements of the Junan-ryeh, Gyobae-ryhe, and Hapgeun-nyeh during our Paebaek.

The Paebaek is conducted on a woven straw mat in front of a decorative screen, before a ceremonial table laden with symbolic food. The bride and groom wear traditional costumes. The bride dons a heavily embroidered, rainbow-hued silk jacket with flowing white sleeves over a bell-shaped skirt. On her head, she bears a decorative crown. Her hair is parted in the middle and tied in a low bun with a long hair pin threaded through. Hanging on the pin are long flowing embroidered ribbons. The groom traditionally wears a long blue embroidered robe fastened with a belt, and a black hat and boots.

The ceremonial table holds several symbolic items: red and blue silk cloth, a rooster and hen (symbolizing fertility), bamboo and pine branches, red and black beans, wine flask and drinking cups, and finally and most importantly, chestnuts and dried red jujubes (a type of date), which symbolize children. These are all arranged artfully on the table.

Family elders from both sides of the family are seated on cushions behind the table, with the newlyweds opposite them. The newlyweds traditionally perform a deep bow: it begins standing up, then a slow kneel, and ends with pressing their foreheads on their hands on the floor (depending on our flexibility, we may just do a modified standing bow).

The newlyweds and elders offer and exchange small cups of Korean rice wine. The elders then impart words of wisdom to the couple. From the table, the elders grab handfuls of jujubes and chestnuts to toss at the couple, who have to try catching them with a decorative white wedding cloth. The elders exclaim, “have many children!” The amount of nuts and fruit caught by the couple symbolize how many children they will have. The chestnuts represent male children, and the jujubes girls. We hope to catch just 2.

After counting the “children,” the bride and groom toast each other with more rice wine. Then, “Lady and the Tramp spaghetti style,” the groom takes a single jujube in his mouth to feed to his bride. It looks like a kiss J. However, in actuality, it’s really a power struggle! Like a wishbone pull, whoever gets the seed is the one who will supposedly be “in control” for the rest of the marriage. So help me, we will bite the seed in half.

Finally, the groom is supposed to give the bride a piggy back ride twice around the paebaek table: this demonstrates that he is able to support her, and represents the journey to their new home. To spare Frank’s back (and my dignity), we will forego the piggy back ride, and instead, shall opt to walk hand in hand together around the table, as best friends equally supporting each other throughout our marriage.

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