Traditional Korean Wedding

In 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.

Steeped in traditional Confucian values, the ceremonies and events surrounding the actual marriage were long and elaborate, from the pairing of the couple to the rituals performed after the ceremony.

In the traditional Korean marriage, the elders of the prospective bride and bridegroom's families decided on all matters regarding the wedding, including the decision of whether or not to marry their son and daughter to each other.

Traditional Korean Wedding

Traditional Korean Wedding
(Arrival of the bridegroom)

Napchae (Date Setting)

After confirming each family's decision to marry their son and daughter through a matchmaker, the familiy of the bridegroom-to-be sent the hour, day, month and year of his birth by the lunar calendar (known as the Four Pillars) to the family of the bride-to-be and, in return, her family informed the family of the bridegroom-to-be the date of their wedding. The family of the future bridegroom then sent a letter of marriage and wedding presents to the family of the future bride.

Napp'ae (Exchanging Valuables)

Before the wedding, the groom's family sent presents to the bride and her family in a box called a Ham. Additionally, the Hamjinabi (person who delivered the Ham) and a small group of close friends of the groom also took a pot of Bongch'i Deok (red bean rice cake) from the groom's family. The bride's family would have a small party for the group, offering them food and drink for their efforts. The ceremony of delivering the Ham has evolved into a major event for friends of the groom, with the bearers "selling" the contents of Ham to the bride's parents. 
The Ham usually contained 3 items. The 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 was to keep this document with her forever, having it buried with her when she died. Ch'aedan was a collection of red and blue fabrics, used to make clothing. The blue fabrics were wrapped with red threads, while the red fabrics were wrapped with blue threads. The two colors represented the philosophy of Eum/Yang (Yin/Yang). The Honsu was a collection of other valuables for the bride from the groom's parents.

Traditional Korean Wedding, wedding box Ham
(Wedding Box, Ham)

Wedding boxes, bridal chests and rice chests where often elaborated with beautiful Chinese characters which can be found on prominent places and give each item a special touch.

Wooden Goose/Wedding Ducks (Kireogi)
Traditional Korean Wedding, Gänse und Enten Kireogi A pair of wild geese made from wood represent the new husband and wife. In the Jeonanrye part of the marriage ceremony, the groom gives a single kireogi to his mother-in-law. The geese symbolize several virtues that the couple should follow in their married life:
  • Wild geese keep the same partner for life. Even of one dies, the other will not seek a new partner for the rest of his or her life.
  • Wild geese understand hierarchy and order. Even when flying, they maintain structure and harmony.
  • Wild geese have the nature to leave their existance wherever they go. People should leave a great legacy for their descendants when they leave this world.

In a traditional Korean wedding which was held in the bride's house, a bridegroom's first act after arriving at the bride's house was to offer a wooden goose to the bride's family as a token of lifelong fidelity which was the beginning of the wedding ceremony.
Still nowadays, wooden ducks are nice wedding presents appreciated not only in Korea but also in the western world.

Traditional Korean Wedding, Gyobaerye Gyobaerye (Bowing)

This often marked the first time that the bride and groom saw each other. The groom and bride each had two attendants who helped them throughout the ceremony. First, the groom walked to the east side of the wedding table. 
Then the bride walked to the west end. The groom's helpers spread a carpet or mat out for the groom, then the bride's helpers did the same for the bride. The bride and groom then faced each other across the wedding table. The helpers washed the hands of the bride and groom. The washing of their hands symbolized cleansing themsleves for the ceremony. With the aid of her helpers, the bride bowed twice to the groom. With the aid of his helpers, the groom bowed back once to the bride. The bride then bowed two more times to the groom, who bowed back once more. They finished by kneeling down and facing each other. The bowing represented the promise of commitment to each other.
Eum/Yang (Yin and Yang)

Eum and yangMarriage 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 took place at dusk, representing a balance between light (day) and darkness (night) The color blue stands for Eum, while red represents Yang.
A male and female chicken (one wrapped in a blue cloth, the other in a red one) sit on or under the wedding table. One meaning is the symbolism associated between roosters and the morning. The crowing of the rooster marked the beginning of the day, a bright, fresh start, just like the marriage should be. The crowing of the rooster also told the evil spirits that day was coming and they had to disappear.  Traditional Korean Wedding Chicken

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 hopes that the couple will have many children, very important in a traditional agrarian society. As productive chickens made many eggs, thus should the new bride produce many children.

Hapgeunrye (Drinking)
This part of the ceremony had two main variations, due to regional differences. The first variation had the couple drinking from the same cup, with their assistants passing it back and forth between bride and groom. The second variation had them drinking from separate halves of a gourd. The drinking signified the destiny of the new husband and wife, as well as their harmony together. Using two halves of the same courd further symbolized that the bride and groom each made up one half and only together could they be considered whole. Traditional Korean Wedding drinking

First, one of the helpers poured alcohol into a small cup for the groom, who then drank it. Another helper poured for the bride who sipped it or only pretended to drink. The groom's helper then poured into the cup again (or used the gourd in the other variation) and the groom drank again. The bride's helper poured again, with the bride sipping or pretending to drink again. Finally, the grrom and bride joined together and bowed three times: once to their parents, once to their ancestors, and once to the guests.

Modern Weddings
Traditional Korean Wedding, modern wedding Although Koreans have kept several aspects of the traditional ceremony, most modern ceremonies resemble Western marriage ceremonies more than traditional Korean ones. However, many folk villages and museums across the country regularly perform ceremonies to keep the traditions alive.




Help to Navigate:


Asian Rarities

Japanese Woodblock Prints ukiyo-e Japanese
Stone Lantern

Contact InformationSend Email

Daniela Jost
Asian Rarities, Ukiyo-e, Ikebana and Japanese and Chinese Stone Lantern

Address: Huebwiesenstrasse 52a
8954 Geroldswil/Zurich,  
Phone: 0041-(0)44-747-0371

Copyright © 1998-2023 by Daniela Jost, All Rights Reserved.
This page was last updated May 2023


Ikebana in der Schweiz: Ikebanazubehör und Unterricht
Ikebana en Suisse: Arrangement floral japonais, Accessoires d´Ikebana
Ikebana in Switzerland: Ikebana Japanese Flower Arrangement
Ikebana in Deutschland: Ikebanazubehör
Ikebana en Allemagne: Arrangement floral japonais, Accessoires d´Ikebana
Ikebana in Germany: Ikebana Japanese Flower Arrangement
Ikebana in Österreich: Ikebanazubehör
Ikebana en Autriche: Arrangement floral japonais, Accessoires d´Ikebana
Ikebana in Austria: Ikebana Japanese Flower Arrangement Ikebana Information
Asien-Zuhause: Ihr Asienspezialist in der Schweiz, Webshop
Steinlaternen in der Schweiz: Steinlaternen für japanische und chinesische Garten- und Teichanlagen Steinlaternen Information Stone Lantern for Chinese and Japanese style garden
Lanterne-japonaise: Lanterne en pierre japonaises et chinoises Japanische Holzschnittdrucke Ukiyo-e Ukiyo-e, Angebot für japanische Holzschnittdrucke