Asian weddings in the United States represent a magnificent culmination of historic and contemporary traditions. Each element, from traditional wedding dresses to extensive tea ceremonies, showcases the beauty and richness present in Asian culture.
This guide will focus specifically on Korean wedding traditions.
For those interested in Asian cultures not included in this guide, we’ve also created Chinese and Vietnamese wedding tradition guides. Please keep an eye out for our future cultural wedding photography guides. While each of these Asian cultures incorporate many wedding traditions from Western culture, especially during weddings performed in the U.S., the unique traditions they preserve truly distinguish them from one another and allow them to introduce their heritage into U.S. culture. From the playful antics of Chinese door games to the structured pyebaek ceremony observed during Korean wedding receptions, each tradition further enriches the wedding day.
In this post, you will learn about several Korean wedding traditions, like those mentioned above.
PLEASE NOTE: The information shared in this guide has been culled from our own experiences photographing Korean weddings and does not proclaim to be a definitive guide that includes every possible Korean wedding tradition. We recognize there may and likely will be traditions, however frequently or infrequently observed, that are not represented within this guide.
Korean Wedding Timeline
While photographers do not usually create wedding timelines (a job handled more often by wedding planners & coordinators), they should familiarize themselves with the timeline so that they can anticipate the major events that are scheduled to occur throughout the day and plan accordingly.
PLEASE NOTE: The timeline presented below is intended to serve only as an example of what a timeline might look like for a Korean wedding. Actual timelines for all weddings will vary.
09:00 am – Bridal party hair and makeup begins
10:00 am – Photographer arrives | Prep & details
Individual portraits of bride & groom
10:45 am – First look/Couple’s daytime session
11:15 am – Bridal party portraits
12:00 am – Photographs of ceremony details
12:30 pm – Processional & ceremony
01:15 pm – Recessional
01:30 pm – Family formals
02:30 pm – Couples session
03:15 pm – Cocktail hour
03:30 pm – Reception details
04:30 pm – Doors open to reception
04:15 pm – Grand entrance
04:20 pm – First dance
04:30 pm – Dinner, speeches
04:45 pm – Table visits
05:45 pm – Pyebaek ceremony
06:15 pm – Open dance floor
06:30 pm – Sneak away couples session
07:00 pm – Cake cutting ceremony/dessert
07:15 pm – Dancing continues until conclusion
**Although not included in the timelines above, each of these weddings may or may not feature a grand exit.
Korean Wedding Glossary
Here is a quick reference list of terms you should know before photographing a Korean wedding:
Dates & Chestnuts
Dates and chestnuts play a key role during the pyebaek ceremony. The bride and groom offer dates or chestnuts to their parents and are given sake or wine in return. The parents then throw the dates onto a blanket held by the couple to symbolize how many children they’ll have.
Hanbok is the traditional dress worn by both the bride and groom during the wedding ceremony.
Jongi & Gongi
Jongi & gongi are red dots placed on the bride’s forehead and cheeks, respectively, to ward off evil spirits and symbolize love.
Jung jong is a special wine shared between the bride and groom to seal their vows during the kunbere.
Kireogi is a wild goose, or more often in modern weddings, a wood-carved goose that the groom presents as a gift to the bride’s family in a presentation known as jeonanry.
The kunbere is the ceremony for the wedding vows. For modern weddings, couples typically share their vows during a traditional Westernstyle wedding ceremony.
The pyebaek ceremony represents the more traditional portion of a Korean wedding. During the pyebaek, the couple shares wine and exchanges vows; they also receive advice from their parents. Dates and chestnuts are used in an activity meant to determine how many children the couple will have (see ‘Dates & Chestnuts’).
Don’t look for red envelopes at a Korean wedding. In Korean culture, white envelopes are used for giving gifts of money to the bride and groom.