December 6, 2012

Korean Wedding (Part 3)

As I researched and found more information on Korean traditional marriages, there are some interesting points that seem familiar to other weddings I have been to in the past.

I mentioned in the last post that the ceremony is called daerye, or ‘great ritual’. This is important because the wedding is more than two people becoming one, but two families coming together. It also means they are hoping for good harmony between the yin and the yang, with the ying and the yang being represented by the bride and groom.

The wedding is performed at an alter, which is decorated with an assortment of things including: wooden ducks, geese or chickens (some people still use real birds), chestnuts, apples, and other fruits and grains. It is very colorful with plenty of red and blue, representative of the ying and the yang.

At the beginning of the ceremony the parents make their way down the aisle. At the end of the aisle, there is a candle that is usually lit by the mothers. The light of the candles is to wish the new couple a bright future. In this case, though, only the bride’s family lit the candles because the groom’s family is having their own wedding ceremony back in the states.

After the candle lighting ceremony, the groom’s procession begins. Joe was carried in by four men supporting him on a palanquin; in Korea, it is called a gama. He was then escorted to his soon-to-be in-laws where he presented them with wooden geese or ducks. The reason behind offering geese or ducks to the in-laws is because they mate for life, and this is to symbolize that he will never meet another woman.

Traditional ceremony dictates that the mother-in-law receives the geese and then the groom should bow twice to his mother-in-law. The groom should then put his hands up to his head when bowing to show respect to his mother-in-law.

Continuing from there, the bride was escorted in via her gama, but her gama was more of a small box that she had to enter from the front. During the ceremony the bride is supposed to keep her face covered by holding up her hands the entire time so the groom cannot see her face.

When Dahye arrived she entered the alter area and she sat across from her groom on the opposite side of the table. Then the bride and groom both had their hands washed by their helpers as a way of symbolizing a cleansing of the mind and the body for the ceremony.

Then they had a bowing ceremony, and I think I have this right as far as, who gets bowed to and when. The bride bowed twice to the groom first then the groom bowed back once to the bride. The bride then bowed two more times to the groom, who bowed back one more time. Bowing represents the promise of commitment to each other, and the bowing represents the ying and yang as well. After bowing, both knelt down and faced each other.

The bride and groom had a gourd that was split in half and filled with liquor. They drank half of the liquor, and then they exchanged the cups and finish drinking the other half from their partner. There is more symbolism here by using only one gourd they each make up a half of the relationship and by drinking all of the liquor they signified that they are to be man and wife.

Traditionally, after the drinking of the liquor, the helpers supposedly weave red and blue threads into one thread and put it on the wedding table, the blue and red symbolizing ying and yang. The presenter performs a ritual ceremony to announce the binding of two people and two families to the heaven, earth, and all other places. The officiator prays for the prosperity of the two families and asks heaven and earth to bring a bright future to the new couple.

Then the bride and groom received wooden geese from the bride’s mother, and she gave one to each of them. This is to represent that the bride and groom will contribute only to each other during their whole life.

Finishing up the ceremony, the bride and groom bowed to her parents one more time. Then it was time for the bride to be carried down the aisle. In Joe’s case, though, he didn’t just pick her up and carry her he gave her a piggy back ride down the aisle.

Then there were many photographs taken, with the family and then the friends.

The Good: I am very happy that I had the opportunity to attend their wedding, and they both looked great in their traditional Korean wedding clothes.

Special thanks to Bride, Dahye, with helping make sure that I had the proper names to the different parts of the hanbok. As well as making sure I had the process of the ceremony correct.

Image Credit: John Van Uytven

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