TRADITIONAL KOREAN weddings are a
microcosm of Korean culture. They contain traditional music, dance, costumes,
and etiquettes: when Samulnori (traditional farmers?feast music) is performed,
guests dance to celebrate the wedding. Then a bride wearing Hwal-ot and a groom
in Danryung appear and the wedding proceeds with an official's Chang (a
traditional narrative song) following specific procedures.
What we consider
as a traditional Korean wedding today is Chinyoung. As the last step of Sarye
(the Chinese four procedures of marriage), it was adopted during the Koryo
Dynasty and generalized during Joseon Dynasty. Though Korea followed the form of
Chinese weddings, it transformed them to fit its culture. With its own wedding
procedure developed, Korean Chinyoung is truly distinctive when compared to that
Chinyoung basically includes three steps: Jeonanrye, Kyobaerye, and
Hapkuenrye. When mothers of a couple light candles, Jeonanrye follows and the
groom put a wooden wild goose on a table. Since the wild goose is known not to
mate again with a different partner, it represents fidelity in Korea. Then
Kyobaerye follows and the couple bows to each other to promise that they will
live happily together. During Hapkuenrye, they drink wine in the halves of a
gourd and then the halves are bound together with threads to signify the unity
of the two. Last, people release a chicken to show that the couple is not under
their parents' roof anymore and ready to make a family.
Though Joseon Dynasty
was a male-dominated society under Confucianism, formalities of a family were
based on respect for women's role and the same went for Chinyoung. "While
Chinese traditional weddings were held at the groom's house, Chinyoung was held
at the bride's," said pres. Yoo Han-kwon of the Institute of Korean Wedding
Culture. Different etiquette between a bride and a groom is rather for balancing
the Uem and Yang (the positive and negative energy based on principles of
Chinese philosophy): during Jeonanrye, a bride bows once more than a groom to
make up for a deficiency of Uem and during Kyobaerye, she puts her hands under
the table while the groom puts his above it.
Today, Chinyoung is held more
than 140 times a year at Korean House, but it has rather degenerated to an
event, focusing more on visual appeal. "To keep pace with the times, terms used
in Chinyoung such as Jeonanrye should be given modern names through explanations
of the procedures for authentic succession. In addition, as the number of
international couples who hold it increases, explaining the terms in English is
also required," said Yoo.
Han Yu Chi, who married a Japanese woman at Korean
House said he and his bride decided to hold a traditional wedding in Korea
accepting his family and friends' advice. "It's good to learn the tradition and
have an opportunity to have my family and friends in my homeland," he added. Not
only to international couples, but to Korean couples, Chinyoung shall be a
meaningful way to cherish their new start recalling the meaning of marriage that
has been passed down for more than 200 years.
※ Special Thanks to Han Yu Chi and Mikami
The Yonsei Annals
congratulates your marriage.
Q: At the end of the
modern wedding, guests throw confetti towards the couple to offer
congratulation. Then what would guests of a traditional wedding do at the
end of the ceremony? A: They throw red beans. Since
Koreans believe that red beans ward off the devil, they throw them to wish
a happy life.