The Korean people are known for their courtesy, their decorum, and their propriety
Their history is steeped in tradition and it is especially evident in their wedding ceremonies. Like so many other cultures, the matchmaker had a pivotal part in the history of their nuptials. In the old days, the matchmaker would take the resumes and precise lineage of the young people and make the perfect match. Like so many of the historical traditions, this one is no longer practiced today.
Korean young people have been influenced by the styles and traditions of the west and their ceremonies have evolved to include both Korean and western elements. Many couples today choose to wear the tuxedo and white wedding dress styles of the west. In the old days, the Hanbok, made out of white silk, cotton, or hemp, was worn by the men, women, and children. Although modernized, this clothing is still worn today by some couples. The bride’s traditional dress includes a long sleeved jacket, called a chogori, with two long ribbons which are tied to form a otkorum. This jacket is worn with a wrap skirt and is sometimes tied with a white sash decorated with flowers. The groom wears a jacket, called chigori, a pair of trousers, called paji, and an overcoat, called turumagi. He may also wear a vest over his shirt and top off the outfit with a black hat, called a moja.
The wedding ceremony, called Pae Baek, like other Korean traditions, has changed over the years. In the old days the bride would have the wedding at her home. The groom would come by horse and cart to get his bride and take her to his parents home, where she would be officially welcomed into the family. Hand lanterns were placed along the route from the bride’s home to the groom’s home. Today many Korean couples have the Pae Baek ceremony either after or before a traditional western ceremony as a symbol of respect to both families. The Pae Baek ceremony is generally held at a Korean style table with two wooden ducks facing each other. Ducks symbolize fidelity and are known to mate for life. The couple bows and pours tea for the parents and the parents offer their words of wisdom to the couple. The groom gives piggyback rides to the bride, the mothers, and the grandmothers around the table, symbolizing the journey of the new couple ahead. Chestnuts symbolizing the male gender and dates symbolizing the female gender are thrown at the bride for her to catch in the skirt of her dress. The tradition is that the number of dates and chestnuts caught will be the number of children that will bless the family of the couple. One of the ancient traditions still practiced today is the negotiation of the gift box, called Hamgap, which is delivered to the bride’s house by the groom the night before the wedding.
The wedding reception and feast are usually a delightful mix of traditional and western cultures. Traditional Korean foods are served, such as barbecue beef strips, pickled cabbage, sticky rice, gimbap rolls, dumplings, soups, sticky rice cakes, and a large variety of fruits and pastries for dessert. The only required traditional food is noodle soup, which symbolizes a long and happy life together. The western style tiered wedding cake is often the center of the food table.