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Korean Marriage Traditions: A Cultural Guide
For centuries, Korean couples have been exchanging vows of commitment, unity and love in marriage ceremonies. But, as with most other aspects of life, the customs and traditional practices surrounding marriage vary greatly from one culture to another.
In this blog post, we will explore the cultural nuances of Korean weddings, offering an insider’s look at the unique practices and rituals that have been practiced for generations. In addition to outlining the common aspects of these ceremonies, we will also address modern adaptations and explain how certain aspects may be altered as time progresses. So, if you are looking to learn more about Korean marriage traditions, you’ve come to the right place!
Korean Wedding Traditions – A Quick Overview
Before delving into the intricacies of the ceremony, let’s take a closer look at the basics. Many Korean weddings are conducted using the traditional Korean ceremony, Jeonanrye, which is also referred to as the Big Day.
In most cases, the traditional Three & Six Rituals will be conducted. These involve a series of rites prior to the actual ceremony, including using special rice cakes and whisky to ask for the blessings of the gods upon the couple.
During the ceremony, the bride and groom will exchange vows in the presence of their families and a ceremonial painting known as the Dokbae will be erected in the center of the tent. Finally, the groom will formally receive the bride’s hand in marriage as the ‘Dokbae’ is set up in the form of a wooden archway.
After the ceremony, the couple will be gifted various ceremonial items to mark their union, including a copy of the Dokbae, their wedding rings and two wooden staves. They will also be presented with a set of coins to signify the union of their two destinies.
Korean Betrothal Gifts – A Celebration of Love
In Korea, a delightful tradition is for the groom’s family to send a series of betrothal gifts to the bride’s home as a symbol of their commitment and respect for the union. This custom is called “jih dancing”, or the ‘exchanging of wedding gifts’.
During the exchange, the groom’s family will send a critical piece of the bridal trousseau along with money. These gifts typically include clothing, silverware, fabrics and in some cases, jewelry. The gifts are typically given in predetermined patterns or wrapped in special, intricate wrapping paper. The presentation is of utmost importance – the family sending the gifts take great care to make sure the items are wrapped in a way that conveys sincere respect.
Korean Parents’ Blessing – A Universal Ritual
After the betrothal gifts have been sent and received, the next important ritual is for the couple to receive blessings from their parents. Known as ‘Sum’ in Korean, the couple kneel before their parents and bow deeply, expressing their gratitude and appreciation for all the life lessons, support and love they have received up until that point.
This is a powerful ritual that conveys just how important the union is – not just to the family, but to the entire Korean culture. It’s a mental and emotional connection that goes beyond the physical feel of the marriage ceremony itself, since it symbolizes the joining of two families over multiple generations.
Wedding Reception and Dinner Banquet – Toasting to a Bright Future
At the end of all the ceremonies, the couple will host a grand wedding banquet for their families and friends. Drinks will be served with toasts, and a lavish dinner will be enjoyed by everyone in attendance. After dinner, the party will continue with a night-time celebration that includes traditional dancing and live music.
Korean Red Wedding Dress – The All-Important Color
The outfit worn by the bride is often considered to be the most important part of the wedding. In Korean tradition, brides will typically wear a red dress. Though the color of the dress will vary depending on the bride’s preferences, it’s important to note that red is typically the preferred choice.
This color has cultural significance in Korean tradition, signifying love, joy and strength. Additionally, the red dress will often be embroidered with symbols of happiness and good health, such as cranes, clouds and dragons.
Honeymooning – An Opportunity for Adventure
After the wedding ceremony and banquet have concluded, the happy couple will often embark on a honeymoon. While some couples prefer to spend this time resting and exploring the local area, others may choose to go on an adventure and explore something new.
A popular honeymoon destination for newlyweds is the rail-biking tour on the Jeong Dongjeon Trail. This is a beautiful and romantic adventure, as the couple will explore the area by bicycle. With stunning views, historic sites and a variety of activities to do along the way, romance and a time of relaxation for the newlyweds is guaranteed.
Wedding Gifts – An In-Depth Guide
Gift giving in Korea is also a highly important part of the wedding tradition. Oftentimes, the bride and groom will receive a large amount of money from close family and friends, which they can use to cover the costs of their honeymoon or to purchase items for their home.
Gifts are typically presented in a bundle of red and white fabric or paper—the colors representing luck and longevity. Furthermore, the gifts come in the form of money, not objects—symbolizing that the couple is in charge of making their own decisions moving forward.
The Last Step – Living Out the Marriage
Finally, it’s important to remember that the cultural expectations for a long and successful marriage are high in Korean culture. Brides and grooms are expected to stay married until death and to maintain a positive relationship with each other’s family.
Furthermore, having children is seen as a blessing from God. Couples are expected to give their children a traditional upbringing so that they may continue the rich culture and traditions of Korea.
Q: What are the main aspects of Korean marriage traditions?
A: The main aspects of Korean marriage traditions include the Three & Six Rituals, jih dancing, the parents’ blessing, the wedding reception and dinner banquet, the bride’s clothing, the honeymoon, and, last but not least, living out the marriage.
Q: What is jih dancing in Korean tradition?
A: Jih dancing is the custom of the groom’s family sending a series of betrothal gifts to the bride’s home, typically including clothing, silverware, fabrics, and in some cases, jewelry.
Q: What is the parents’ blessing in Korean marriage traditions?
A: The parents’ blessing, which is known as ‘Sum’ in Korean, involves the couple kneeling before their parents and bowing deeply, expressing their gratitude and appreciation for all the life lessons, support and love they have received up until that point.
Q: What is the significance of the bride wearing a red dress in Korean marriage traditions?
A: The color of red has cultural significance in Korean tradition, signifying love, joy and strength. Furthermore, the red dress will often be embroidered with symbols of happiness and good health, such as cranes, clouds and dragons.
Q: What gifts are typically given in Korean marriage traditions?
A: Gifts are typically presented in a bundle of red and white fabric or paper—the colors representing luck and longevity. The gifts come in the form of money, not objects—symbolizing that the couple is in charge of making their own decisions moving forward.
Q: What are the cultural expectations of married couples in Korean culture?
A: Couples are expected to stay married until death and to maintain a positive relationship with each other’s family. Having children is also seen as a blessing from God, so couples are expected to give their children a traditional upbringing.