A Multicultural Couple In A Traditional Korean Wedding Ceremony
The ceremony started ten minutes earlier than we’d put on our invitations and even though I tried to feign misunderstanding and go for a wander so my friends could make it in time the attendants got the mothers up to begin.
I don’t really know what time everything got under way as I had no watch to look at, and even if I did the sleeves on my Hanbok were two feet longer than my arms so I couldn’t check all that easily.
To begin the ceremony my mother along with Jae-oo’s mother performed the Jum-chok Rye. They lit candles to invoke the god of heaven to be present at the ceremony by sending up candle flames. Jae-oo’s mother lit a red candle and my mother lit a blue candle. They ended by bowing toward each other and then toward the guests. I told my mom before they went up, who wasn’t sure how low to bow or for how long to keep one eye on Jae-oo’s mom the whole time so they’d get it right. It seemed to work out well.
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Next was Jae-oo’s entrance, or Young-seo Rye. The groom enters with his attendant, who is carrying a goose. Usually the bride’s father would meet the groom at the front gate, but as my own has already passed away Jae-oo just entered with his attendant. Once they got to the front they would perform Jeon-an Rye, which would be the handing over of the goose from the groom to my father. They requested that my mother accept the goose instead.
The wild goose symbolizes that this couple will model after the three virtues of wild geese. First, wild geese keep the promise of love forever. If a wild goose loses its mate it lives alone and never seeks another mate. Second, wild geese follow the hierarchical order. When they fly, they fly in the V formation. If the leader cries, the rest cry in response. And third, wild geese leave traces when they come.
Jae-oo had to take the goose and ensure that its head was facing left, my mother was positioned to stand to face the west and then Jae-oo had to kneel toward the north. The goose was placed on the table with its head still facing west and after Jae-oo bowed to floor twice my mother took the table with the goose back to wear my family was seated. I walked down the aisle during the Chin-young Rye to take my position on the west with Jae-oo on the east side of the table.
We washed our hands to symbolize that we purify our minds and body before the sacred ceremony in Kwan-sae Rye and then move on to Kyo-bae Rye. This portion of the ceremony was something I’d been joking about for weeks. I was to bow 6 times deeply to the floor while Jae-oo was only going to bow twice. I’m all for fairness and though we should just split it in half, four and four. We’re equal partners after all. Though according to that goose at the beginning I’m probably below Jae-oo in the hierarchy so 6 bows it was. We were to bow to each other to pay homage to our union as a couple and pledge our respect for each other throughout our lives. I bowed twice, followed by once from the groom, twice more from me, once more from him, and rounded it out with two more from me. I had two attendants helping me so it wasn’t difficult at all and with the multiple layers of hanbok on no one could see how I was getting up or down. But it was smooth and I got claps after my first go by those apparently surprised by my bowing technique.
The rest of the ceremony was a lot of drinking and eating. With the Seo-cheon-ji Rye we pledged to the gods of heaven and earth that we would fulfill our obligations as husband and wife. We raised our cup of wine to the sky and then poured it out, and then filled it again to pour on the ground and then we put some of the food on the table. We filled up the cups again in the Seo-bae-woo Rye and this time pledged to each other and then drank from the cups. And finally in Keun-bae Rye a gourd that had been split in two was filled with wine, we exchanged our halves and drank from them. This ritual declared us as becoming one body and one mind. When a gourd is split in half each half has only one other half in the world and these two unite together to form the whole.
And finally we bow to our guests to thank them for coming. This ends the wedding ceremony though not the whole ceremony as next was paebeck. But I’ll get to that in a later post.