Howdy! Welcome back to my blog! I just finished up my midterms and am back to my usually-scheduled blog posts. In this one, I will be recounting my first experience attending a Korean wedding in South Korea (+ it was also my first wedding experience ever)!
For context, I was invited to this wedding by the bride a while back during the summer. Since it was my first wedding, I came dressed in a simple formal top and dress pants and I seemed to blend in with what everyone else was wearing (formal wear with fall jackets on top). When I arrived, I first went to the two front entrance areas where the bride and the groom’s families have their separate wedding registries and was the first one to sign. *For more context: I came extremely early so the wedding was still being set up during this time*
After that, I gave a card and “축의금”, which is a congratulatory wedding gift of cash money for the bride and groom, to the bride’s father and signed the usual Covid Check Sheet.
After being given a meal voucher ticket for the dinner ceremony later, I walked around the venue itself. The weather was perfect and – since it was an outside wedding – there was a food truck outside giving out free drinks to the guests! Yum!
Sooner or later, more guests started arriving and I got to take photos with the bride and groom outside. Unlike what I though the wedding would be like with the more modern weddings being a popular thing to do in Korea, this one was a more traditional wedding ceremony (전통혼례식).
Here is a quick breakdown of everything that went on during the ceremony:
- The pre-ceremony performance happened first called “samulnori / 사물놀이” which includes a percussion quartet of the kkwaenggwari (a small gong representing thunder), the jing (a larger gong representing wind), the janggu (an hourglass shaped drum representing rain), and the buk (a barrel drum representing clouds). The bride and groom got into traditional chairs and were carried to the front of the aisle as these traditional Korean instruments were played. They each got out of their chairs separately and walked down the center of the venue which was where their families were waiting on each side.
- Jeom-chok Rye (점촉례): Both the mothers from each family came together and lit a red and blue candle. They then bowed towards each other and then towards the guests as a sign of respect between the two families.
- Young-seo Rye (영서례): Next, the groom entered the gate area of the bride’s side holding a red flag, while his attendant carried a wooden goose, and met the bride’s father.
- Jeon-an Rye (전안례): The groom and the bride’s father both bowed to each other and the groom proceeded to put the wooden goose on a small table in the middle. The wooden goose represented what the couple would be modeling after the three virtues in Confucianism which are: keeping the promise of love forever (love), following the hierarchical order (manners), and leaving traces like how wild geese do (legacy). It also represents the yin and yang principle.
- Kwan-sae Rye (관세례): This was where both the bride and groom turned and bowed to each other to pay homage to their union as a couple and pledging their respect for each other.
- Kyo-bae Rye (교배례): The bride and groom then washed their hands in bowls to symbolize the purification of their minds and body. They each had attendant helpers move things around as the bride was wearing a huge traditional hanbok and the groom was wearing gloves and a male hanbok.
- Chin-young Rye (친영례): They then both went the main table that had various fruits and things on it and sat down – bride (sitting west) and groom (sitting east).
- Hap-geun Rye (합근례): Next, the bride and groom raised halves of a gourd containing liquor to the sky and then poured it out, filled it up again, poured it on the ground, and ate some of the food on the table. With a gourd that had been split in two and filled with liquor, the bride and groom performed this ritual again by exchanging their halves and drinking from them. This ritual showed them becoming one body and one mind.
- Seong-hon Rye (성혼례): Lastly, the bride and groom got up and bowed to the wedding guests to thank them for coming, walked down the aisle, kissed, and then walked back to the center gate. This declared their marriage and the ceremony was over!
- Post Wedding: Once the ceremony finished, all the wedding guests headed to the inside area where there was a buffet of various Korean dishes. I had to wear a plastic gloves for Covid reasons and was given free reign of the buffet! From Kimchi, japchae, noodles, and fruits, it was pretty great. I had an entire plate full of diverse food flavors and tastes. Some of the older guests began to toast loudly with bottles of soju at a nearby table and it overall a very delicious meal~~
At this wedding, I had the pleasure to meet the bride and groom’s mothers and the bride’s father. They were very excited to meet me as the bride and I are good friends and they told me that they were happy that I could make it to the wedding. The mothers of both sides were also wearing traditional Korean hanboks at the wedding. When they introduced themselves, I bowed quite low and said hello and nice to meet you to be respectful. They showed me around the venue and showed me a cute table where the bride’s friends put together a photo collage of her and her husband. Etiquette at a Korean wedding is just saying congratulations to the parents of the bride and groom, giving some type of monetary gift (doesn’t have to be too expensive), and being there to wish the couple a happy future together.
At the beginning of the wedding, once you give your money gift to the parents, this is also when you receive your “ticket” for the meal reception. You are essentially paying for your seat and your meal. All of the money that is collected usually goes to the parents to pay off the wedding or help the newlyweds buy things for their new lives together.
*The writing and photos here are meant for use on finsupabroad.com and are not to be copied or redistributed by other entities without permission from the author.