9 South Korean wedding facts

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Have you ever been curious to know what the South Korean wedding is like? Each country has its traditions regarding marriage ceremonies. And in South Korea it is no different, it has traditions regarding parties, food, clothes, dance, among others.

And with the passage of time not all traditions remain. So let's see what traditional wedding ceremonies were like and what has changed for the present day.

1 - Marriage in the Koryo Period

The Koryo Period was from 918 to 1392. In this period, marriage was nothing more than political and economic interests, so it was not common. The founder of the Koryo Dynasty, King T'arejo, had 29 wives and built alliances with aristocratic families by marrying his daughters to his half-brothers. Successors ended up using the same strategy.

The practice of marrying half-siblings to form alliances came to an end in the Mongol Empire when the Mongol and Korean royal families exchanged princesses. So cousin marriages were also allowed. But consanguineous marriages were prohibited by preventing children from occupying positions in the bureaucracy. In the Choson period it was common for the couple to live together or close to the groom's parents, while in the Koryo period the couple lived in the same house or close to the bride's parents.

This served to form large families and clans. The marriage usually took place in the woman's adolescence phase, the groom was usually older. And it was common for aristocrats to marry younger than commoners. At the South Korean wedding there was an exchange of gifts and a feast with the aim of showing the wealth of the bride's family.

2 - Marriage in the Joseon Period

The Joseon period was from 1392 to 1910. At that time a man could have more than one wife, so the primary wife was distinguished from the others, this would facilitate the understanding of the line of succession.

The first wife should fulfill the requirement of being a virgin, not being of lower class descent (in case of marrying someone of good financial condition). But this first wife was not literally the first, but the main one in relation to the others. Classification also happened from the highest-class to the lowest-class wife.

During this period, marriage between first cousins and people with the same surname was prohibited. In 1427, the age for first marriage was set at 15 for men and 14 for women. If the parents were sick or over 50 years old, the age could be reduced to 12 years old.

3 - Ancient traditions

It was tradition for betrothal gifts to be received well in advance. These gifts were most often delivered to the bride's home. The bright side of the South Korean wedding is this part of getting lots of gifts!

To receive the gifts, the whole family should join the game in which the groom's friends would go to the bride's house with the gifts in a box called "hahm". They painted their faces and shouted: “Hahm for sale! Hahm for sale!”. The bride's family, accepting the joke, ran to the street and offered a certain amount to the group, simulating a form of negotiation to "buy gifts" from the groom's friends.

9 South Korean wedding facts

4 - South Korean marriage laws

South Korean marriage has undergone some changes in the law. Before, people from the bourgeoisie got married very early, but now this is no longer allowed. The male must be at least 18 years old and the female over 16 with parental consent,

At the age of 19 (Korean age, in this case 20 years old) it is permissible to marry both a man and a woman without authorization and is also the authorized age for sexual consent.

There is also the "customary law marriage" which refers to marriages that have not been properly registered, but the couple already lives together and is assumed to others. In South Korea same-sex marriage is not recognized.

9 South Korean wedding facts

5 - Pre-ceremony at South Korean wedding

South Korean marriage is based on the Confucian teachings, who values the family above all else. So marriage is a very important moment in the life of the couple and also to maintain social status.

The first part of the tradition is called the Eui Hon or matchmaking when the bride and groom's families discuss the possibility of marriage. Then after the discussion the groom sends a letter with the proposal to the bride and she returns it with the answer. If the bride accepts, the wedding date is already set.

Then, the napchae (date setting), the wedding information is written on a paper, then it is wrapped in bamboo branches and tied with red and blue threads and wrapped in a red cloth to be sent to the bride's family.

The last step is called nap'ae (exchange of valuables). This should be done as soon as you set the wedding date. The groom must send a box to the bride, known as ham. This ritual is for the bride to marry only one husband. These papers remain with her until her death and must be buried with her. And then there's Honsu, which are gifts sent to the bride's family.

9 South Korean wedding facts

6 - Ceremony

The South Korean wedding is very colorful without leaving aside the traditional part. There is not really a rule about dress, but it is common for brides to wear a hanbok, a traditional garment made of silk, and for the groom to wear a hanbok or suit.

The most used colors during the wedding and for the clothes themselves are red and blue (yin and yang, signify balance of cosmic forces). And it is common for the wedding to take place in the late afternoon. The most common gift for the couple is money inside white envelopes and there is an exchange of gifts between the families that can be different things.

at this party Dates, tteok (rice sweets), almonds and walnuts are consumed. There is also Jeonanyrye, which is the “wild goose show”. The groom gives wooden ducks to the bride's family, but before it was common to be the animal itself in meaning of loyalty.

Hapgeunrye is the name given to when the bride and groom drink from the same copper cup to represent the couple's relationship with each other. And then there's the Paebaek, which is the part of the ceremony where the newlyweds bow. The bride usually gives the groom's parents Korean dates and chestnuts to symbolize children. The bride offers the cup to her father and the groom offers it to his mother.

The older couple gives advice regarding marriage. Then the dates and chestnuts are thrown back at the bride, who must try to catch them with her wedding skirt – the more she catches, the more prosperity the couple will have. Couples usually follow traditions to the letter so that they can have a good marriage.

7 - Current South Korean marriage

Currently not all couples are concerned with doing traditions or at least part of them. But the idea of having “good luck” in following patterns still exists. But the average age of first marriage has doubled compared to 2020 data from the Korea National Bureau of Statistics from around 15 to 33 for women.

For men it was 18 years old to 30 years old now. And to have a South Korean wedding with everything a traditional couple wants, it costs on average 50 million won. But many are opting for weddings with fewer and more common traditions, such as the nice white dress, with veil and wreath and the suit.

9 South Korean wedding facts
Couple wearing masks in Gapyeong, South Korea, on February 7, 2020 (Credit: AFP)

8 - Wedding in drama

If you are a dorameiro or a dorameira you may have noticed that wedding parties are not so common to appear, not even in the "happy ending". drama doesn't put much emphasis on the wedding ceremony, they are more focused on family life. In South Korean wedding some superstitions that are common for us like the groom not seeing the bride with the dress, they choose together.

9 - 2 suggestions for dramas with a South Korean wedding

'Cause this is my first life (2017) This drama is about a woman who is unhappy with his profession and a methodical man with his habits. She is 30 years old and has given up her love life because her finances are bad. So she becomes the methodical man's tenant and at the same time housemates. In the course of everything they end up making a fake wedding just for the interest of the two, but they end up arousing a certain interest in each other.

9 South Korean wedding facts

What Happened to Secretary Kim? (2018) The narcissistic president of a large corporation has a secretary named Kim who is very efficient. But at one point she, after 9 years of work for her boss, decided to resign her position. There is a wedding scene in the middle of the season that shows some of what was read here in the text.

9 South Korean wedding facts

What caught your attention most about the South Korean wedding?

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