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During the Jeonanrye ceremony, a kireogi or a wild goose was presented to the prospective groom. The groom was expected to bow twice before presenting the kireogi to his future mother in law. In modern Korean weddings, a wooden goose may be given in place of a traditional kireogi. This Korean tradition is respected as a symbol of harmony and structure. Wild geese mate for life, so by giving the mother a goose, the groom is promising a life of love and care to the woman’s daughter.

After the ceremonies, it is traditional for the groom’s family to purchase a house for the newly married couple, and the brides’ family will provide the furnishings. Korean children are becoming more independent these days, and may already have homes of their own when they get married, so this tradition isn’t practiced as much as it used to be. Both families usually discuss and agree upon what wedding gifts will be given to their newly married children.

Pre-Wedding Korean Traditions

During the Korean wedding ceremony, vows are taken in the kunbere ceremony. Both bride and groom wear the traditional hanbok, a traditional Korean dress specially designed for the ceremony. The hanbok represents thousands of years of tradition and is usually made of a lightweight material with bright colors, simple lines, and no pockets. The bride will wear a pink or purple hanbok, while the groom’s mother wears a blue hanbok. Female members of the family may also wear the hanbok, but they may choose more modern clothing in place of the traditional dress.

The pyebaek is one of many Korean wedding traditions emphasizing the importance of family within the culture. During the pyebaek, dates and chestnuts are given to the bride. Together, the bride and groom will visit his family’s home to gift the nuts and fruit. The dates and chestnuts are a Korean representation of the bride’s fertility. After the fruit and nuts are offered, the parents of the groom will serve sake in return. At the end of the ceremony, the parents of the groom throw the dates and chestnuts at the bride as she tries to catch them in her large, traditional skirt. The number of dates and chestnuts she catches symbolize the number of children she will later have.

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Kim goes on to elaborate that the pye-baek is a “post-ceremony tradition that is actually very fun and gives everyone a good laugh. But most importantly it is a way for the groom to introduce his new wife to his older family members. During pye-baek, the parents sit behind a table where there are nine foods, each representing fullness and the bridal couple’s lifelong union. The couple pays their respects by deep bowing and they get served tea or soju followed by being offered advice and blessings. Then the parents throw dates and chestnuts and the couple tries to catch as many as possible with a cloth that is part of the bride’s outfit. Dates represent future sons and chestnut represent daughters.”

Historically, Korean betrothal gifts were brought to the bride’s home by a band of the groom’s closest friends. The gifts were placed in a box called a hahm. The group would arrive singing at the bride’s family home and they would stop just outside the house, chanting, “Hahm for sale, hahm for sale!” The bride’s family would rush out and offer money to the group. Through fun negotiation and laughter, the bearers would be bribed until at last the hahm was delivered.

In the United States, the pye-baek is most often held at the reception, with the bride and groom in full Korean attire. It is usually a family-only affair, hosted by the groom’s side. The throwing of dates and chestnuts is the highlight. Family members also offer gifts of money in white envelopes to the bride. Beyond family gifting the couple money in white envelopes, this is something guests should do as well, explains Kim. “When attending a Korean wedding, bring cash as gifts in white envelopes,” she advises.

7. Gourd of Wine

Historically, the pye-baek took place a few days after the ceremony. The couple would visit the groom’s family for another wedding ceremony, the pye-baek. Here the bride offered dates and chestnuts to the groom’s parents, while sitting at a low table filled with other symbolic offerings. The parents offered sake in return, and as a final gesture, they threw the dates and chestnuts at the bride, who tried to catch them in her large wedding skirt.

To show their commitment to each other, the couple ceremonially bows during a part of the wedding ceremony known as gyo-bae-rye. Later, the couple will bow toward their parents during seong-hon-rye as a declaration of their marriage.

Blue and red are two of the main colors seen in Korean weddings. Traditionally, the bride will wear red and the groom will wear blue. Additionally, “the bride and groom’s mothers will also wear specific colors to symbolize their familial relationship with the bride and groom. The groom’s mother will wear a light blue hanbok specifically and the bride’s mother will wear pink or purple,” notes Shim. “Since the mother-of-the-groom wears light blue or green and the mother-of-the-bride wears light pink or purple, guests should avoid wearing colors similar to those,” adds Kim.

“Wild geese mate for life, so as a symbol, a pair of wild geese are brought from the groom as a promise that he will take care of the bride for life,” adds Shim. “Before presenting the goose the groom is supposed to bow twice to the mother-in-law as it represents the lifelong promise to his mother-in-law and his lifetime commitment to her daughter,” adds Kim. “You can generally find these wood geese on display at the newlywed’s home to symbolize their faithfulness for each other and inviolable vows.”