Korean wedding traditions you should know

From vibrant attire to throwing chestnuts at the bride and groom, Korean weddings are an experience like no other. Although many Western conventions have been adopted through the decades, contemporary couples are once again embracing tradition and incorporating customary Korean wedding traditions into their special day.  

See also: Dear Kiki: I’m getting married and my family doesn’t approve. What should I do?

Here are five wedding traditions that you may see at a Korean wedding. 

Hanbok

Attire is incredibly significant at a Korean wedding, particularly for those directly associated with the bride and groom. All members of the parties will dress in hanbok—traditional Korean formal clothing, with every minute detail holding importance. 

A hanbok. a traditional garb worn during Korean weddings.
Photo credit: Johen Redman on Unsplash.

It’s common for the bride to wear a red hanbok, and the groom to dress in blue. Their marriage would then culminate in taegeuk — the elements within the Korean flag that symbolize nature’s duality.

As for the respective mothers, they too will dress in significant color palettes. The groom’s mother often sports light blue, while the mother of the bride is decorated in pink or purple tones. Of course, they will coordinate amongst themselves who will wear what, but it’s best to stay away from all of these colors in order to avoid potential confusion.   

Chug ui-geum

Wondering what to give the couple on their wedding day? You probably won’t need to check a registry for a Korean wedding, as the most common gift is an envelope of money (chug ui-geum).

Envelopes of money, otherwise known as chug ui-geum - a Korean wedding tradition.
Photo credit: The Korea Times

The amount of money is relevant to how close you are to the couple, and is meant to one day “be returned.” Not in the sense that the bride and groom will provide a refund, but rather it is customary for them to gift that same amount to one of their newly wedded friends in the future.

Paebaek 

This is perhaps the most important (and also most enjoyed) of the Korean wedding traditions. Paebaek starts with both sets of parents sitting behind low tables stacked high with a plethora of foods. Traditionally, the tables would be much more bare, with only dates and chestnuts dispersed about.

Paebaek, a Korean wedding tradition.
Photo credit: Lin and Jersa

Once the families situate themselves, the bride and groom enter. They receive their blessings, and take a seat in front of the tables. Armed with just a thin piece of white fabric, the couple will have dates and chestnuts thrown at them, and must work to catch as many as they can. 

In Korean culture this practice reflects fertility, with the more dates and chestnuts caught representing how many children the couple will have.  

Hahm 

What do you get when you mix dried squid masks with gift giving? Hahm! Technically, hahm usually happens before a wedding, but it’s so fun that it just had to be mentioned on the list. 

Hahm boxes, a Korean wedding tradition.
Photo credit: The Kraze

Hahm is when the groom’s friends bring a box of gifts (money, jewelry, clothes, etc.) to the bride’s house, and playfully negotiate with her family. They will stand outside chanting until the bride’s family offers them something in exchange for their lavish goods.  

As for the dried squid mask, it was used for a couple of reasons. Dating back many years, this mask had been used to ward off evil spirits. It was also used ostentatiously to gain attention for the upcoming wedding. 

See alsoFilipino wedding traditions you should know  

Jeon-an rye

Jeon-an rye is the “presentation of the wild goose.” Corralling and gifting a wild goose isn’t the most humane activity, so many modern weddings use a wooden replica.

A wooden duck, a korean wedding tradition gifted to the couple.
Photo credit: Lin and Jersa

This practice involves the groom offering up a wooden goose to the bride’s family, symbolizing his commitment to his new wife. Fun fact: geese are notoriously loyal creatures and will often mate for life.

See also: Indian wedding traditions you should know

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