Tying the Knot Around the World: 4 Unique Korean Wedding Traditions

5 Unique Korean Wedding Traditions

Have you ever wondered about wedding traditions from other countries or cultures? Maybe you’re learning Korean and it piqued your interest in worldly affairs. In this article, you’ll learn about neat traditions practiced for Korean weddings…

While Korean wedding traditions are both unique and interesting, not all couples choose to incorporate these rituals in their wedding day. In fact, Korean superstar Lee Na-Young got married in May of 2015, and she clutched a small bouquet and wore a long white gown during the simple outdoor ceremony. Her new husband, fellow actor Won Bin, complemented her modern look in a tailored suit with white flowers in the front pocket. Western wedding traditions have gone global, and even South Korea has adopted some of these wedding day rituals.

Today, most Korean couples follow this famous couples’ lead and plan westernized wedding ceremonies that have more in common with Hollywood movies than ancient Korean rituals. Some couples, however, choose to incorporate older Korean rituals into their special day.

From pre-wedding events to ceremony rituals, here are four unique Korean wedding traditions.


1

Eui hon (matchmaking) is an old Korean engagement tradition, and may not be as common in Korea as it was in the past. In 2014, however, there were 2,500 matchmaking companies in Korea.

Professional matchmaking in Korea is generally based on education level, social status, and family lineage. Before the potential bride and groom meet in person, the matchmaker introduces the families and introduces the parents to the potential mates.

If all goes well, the groom’s family sends a marriage proposal to the bride’s family. The bride’s family can approve or deny this proposal on their daughter’s behalf.


2

Hanbok refers to a traditional Korean clothing style that men and women have worn for more than two thousand years. Silk, simple lines, bright colors, and high collars are common characteristics of this festive fashion tradition, which almost always includes long sleeves and a sash around the waist.

Today, hanbok is shorthand for the custom-made costumes that Korean women wear on very special occasions. These colorful tops and full-bodied skirts are usually reserved for weddings or national holidays.

Though white wedding dresses are now much more common than ceremonial hanbok, many Korean brides pay homage to their heritage by incorporating this traditional dress in their wedding day activities. Some slip into their hanbok to pose for photos after the wedding. Others wear a hanbok for a smaller, separate ceremony on another day.

When a South Korean man or woman marries a partner from a Western country, like the United States or United Kingdom, hanbok allows them to integrate both cultures in their ceremony. Hanbok is also a stylish but nostalgic nod to the union of past and present; if the bride and groom wear a gown and tuxedo, their parents might choose to wear hanbok and white gloves to honor their roots.


3

Modern wedding traditions usually focus on the bride and groom, but in South Korea, family still plays a central role in weddings. The pyebaek is the best example of this. Originally, the pyebaek was a patriarchal tradition that officially integrated the bride into the groom’s family. She would bestow gifts upon her future in-laws and ultimately bow in subservience as she left her family for theirs.

Today, the pyebaek celebrates the union of both families. This family ritual is one of the most popular remnants of ancient Korean wedding traditions, and some original elements remain. For example, the bride still presents the groom’s family with a gift of Korean dates and chestnuts, which symbolizes fertility. The bride and groom also wear hanbok as they bow to their families in unison, a gesture of gratitude and respect.

Though the pyebaek began as a long, pre-wedding ritual, modern couples often hold their pyebaek immediately after the wedding. During this small, private ritual, the parents share advice for married life and accept gifts of wine.


4

During the marriage ceremony, the groom gives his mother-in-law kireogi (wooden geese/Korean wedding ducks). The kireogi symbolizes structure and harmony, keeping the same partner for life, and leaving a great legacy.


A Note on Gifts

The gift registry is one Western staple that still hasn’t found a place in Korean wedding traditions. Instead, the vast majority of modern Korean couples receive cash in special envelopes. Because odd numbers are associated with good luck, many guests make sure they give an amount that begins with an odd number, such as 50,000 or 90,000 won.


Koreans don’t always incorporate ancient traditions in their weddings, however, ceremonial clothes and gifts are still popular ways to honor Korea’s past on this special occasion. Nowadays, Westernized weddings are becoming more prominent while ancient Korean traditions still remain preserved. I hope you had fun learning about Korean wedding traditions!

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