Traditional Korean Wedding in Seoul

A year ago I had no idea I’d be attending three weddings in three different countries in 2013, but I was fortunate enough to see my dear friends T & J’s beautiful ceremonies in Sydney and Tokyo earlier this year, and last month I was witness to H & D’s traditional Korean wedding in Seoul.  H, a lively Korean woman born and raised in Japan, and D, a fun-loving Aussie, live in Tokyo and were officially registered as a married couple there last year.  But to honor H’s Korean heritage the couple decided to have their wedding ceremony in Seoul in front of their families and friends.

After learning about traditions and proper etiquette for Chinese weddings (谢谢, B & E) and Japanese weddings (ありがとう, T & J), I thought I’d need to find out what/how to prepare for Korean weddings.  I did some internet research and asked local Koreans to see what I needed to do.  I was advised to purchase an envelope that says “Congratulations” or “Happy Wedding” in Chinese characters and put in cash, preferably crisp new bills, in odd numbers – similar to what I did in Japan.  I went to Kyobo bookstore (Barnes & Noble of Korea) and got this rather plain envelop and a cute card to write a few words.  The card was quite cheeky; you had to lift up the skirt (gasp!) to write your message.

IMG_6057I heard that nowadays most Korean weddings are held in large wedding halls or hotels and that these venues host multiple weddings in one day, one ceremony after the other.  Usually guests include everyone from families, neighbors, co-workers, and friends, and invitations are handed out or mailed but some are invited via phone calls and even texts.  It sounded like most Korean weddings are not small and intimate, and it’s entirely possible for someone to attend five or six weddings during “wedding season.”  Since you are invited to so many weddings (and most are very casual affairs), no one raises an eyebrow if you skip the ceremony all together.  In that case, you’d submit your envelop of money to whoever is in charge of collecting them at the wedding venue, sign the register, get a “meal ticket,” go to the restaurant (maybe it’s more like a cafeteria?) inside the wedding hall, eat your lunch quickly, and then leave.  While that sounds like an interesting experience in itself, the wedding I was lucky enough to attend was held at 한국의집 Korea House, a place where traditional Korean ceremonies can be performed.

IMG_6065When I arrived at Korea House at 11AM, H & D were already fully dressed and ready to get married.  Here is the happy couple getting some last minute beautification and smiling for the cameras.


Meanwhile, outside in the courtyard silk screens were being set up.  It was to re-create the bride’s home where Korean wedding ceremonies used to take place in the old days.



The groom seemed more giddy than nervous…  This is the back of D’s 한복 hanbok (traditional Korean costume) with its beautiful embroidery.  I learned later that cranes symbolize longevity.


H brought from Tokyo several extra hanbok(s) for T, Y, and me to wear to the wedding.  If it were a kimono with its tight fit and layers upon layers of fabric, I would have said no (it was awfully hot this summer).  But since I could just throw this hanbok on top of what I was already wearing (and since T & J really really wanted me to wear it, too), I went along.  Mine was actually brand new, intended originally for D’s Mother to wear but she didn’t feel quite up to it in the end.  It was definitely too big and long for me, but I’m glad I got to put it on.  It was a beautiful shade of canary yellow and actually quite comfortable.

With all the musicians in place and guests all seated, the ceremony started…

IMG_6080Here is D, almost ready to make his grand entrance led by H’s two adorable nephews who flew in from Okinawa for the occasion.

IMG_6141Gift of “wild goose”- they say wild geese mate for life.

IMG_6084“Let’s go get my bride!”

IMG_6086And here comes the bride from her house!  No one can see her face yet, of course.   That’s H’s Mom in the pink hanbok, also emerging from “her house.”

IMG_6139D gets his hands washed.

IMG_6095Then waits patiently to see his bride.

IMG_6098Not yet…

IMG_6099First she needs to bows aaaaaaalllllllll the way down…. twice.

IMG_6100 IMG_6101 And then it was D’s turn.

IMG_6102He’s all smiles now because D can finally see H’s pretty face!

IMG_6103They take turns drinking the special ceremonial wine out of gourds to seal their vows.

IMG_6107Hello, gorgeous!

IMG_6112They’re married!  Congratulations!  축하합니다!  おめでとうございます!

IMG_6115I was told that this wasn’t part of a traditional Korean wedding but something H & D wanted to add to their special ceremony- exchange of wedding rings.

IMG_6116Photo time with family and friends…

IMG_6121 IMG_6125
We moved inside for 폐백 pyebaek, which would have taken place a few days after the wedding at the groom’s house. Using a large wedding skirt, the couple tries to catch jujubes and chestnuts (symbolizing children) thrown at them by the groom’s parents. D & H caught 5, so they’ll have 2 boys and 3 girls for sure!

IMG_6126 IMG_6134A big thank you to H’s parents!

IMG_6131With that, we moved on to have a huge Korean buffet lunch.  I abandoned my usual ways and just enjoyed the food without taking any photos, so there aren’t any of the reception. So I’ll finish the post with a photo of the beaming bride H, who changed into her Mom’s wedding dress from 50+ years ago, and T & Y, who were also all smiles from having happily worn hanbok for the first time.  The wedding party and I had an amazing time together in Seoul, which I’ll post about in the coming days.

Congratulations again H & D!!!  And thank you for letting me experience your wonderful traditional Korean wedding!


한국의집 Korea House: 서울특별시 중구 필동2가 80-2; 80-2, Pildong 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul

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