Traditional marriage procedure consisting of gyobaerye (Kor. 교배례, Chin. 交拜禮, lit. bow exchanging ceremony) and hapgeullye (Kor. 합근례, Chin. 合 巹禮, liquor sharing ceremony) held at choryecheong.
Literally meaning “a large and important ceremony, ” the term daerye refers to major ceremonies held at the royal court in which the king participated, but outside the court it meant a ceremony held to conclude a marriage. A wedding ceremony has long been called daerye among the Korean people, and has been described as “the greatest human event, ” because they regard it as the most important event in their lives. For the same reason they call it a “big event, ” “auspicious event, ” or “blissful event.” Also called chorye, the daerye consisted of, in the narrow sense, gyobaerye, in which the bride and groom exchange ceremonial bows, and hapgeullye, in which the couple drink from the same cup. More broadly, it also includes jeonallye, in which the bridegroom brings a wooden goose, lays it on the ceremonial table and bows. For some, daerye means the whole wedding ceremony held at the bride’s house.
According to a widely practiced custom, the traditional marriage ceremony starts with the groom’s procession to the bride’s home, which includes elders from both the bride’s and groom’s families (sanggaek) and the couple’s attendants. The bride’s family prepares the daeryecheong (also called choryecheong) in the wooden-floored hall or the courtyard. Some families prepare an additional venue for jeonancheong for the goose-presenting ceremony in the inner courtyard. On arriving at the bride’s village, the bridegroom and his party stop at a prearranged lodge to take a break. As the time for the wedding ceremony approaches, the groom changes clothes and heads for the bride’s home. He may have to jump over a small bonfire or a sack of grains arranged at the gate as an act of inviting fortune and repelling evil.
The groom takes the wooden goose to jeonancheong, places it on the ceremonial table and makes two deep bows. The bride’s mother receives the wooden goose, covers it with a skirt, and places it in a steamer or in the warmer part of the bride’s room until she gives it back to the groom when he returns home. In earlier times, a real bird was used, but because of the difficulty in obtaining a live goose it was replaced with a wooden one. According to “Jujagarye” (朱子家禮, Family Rituals of Zhu Xi), the goose was chosen because it migrates according to the yin and yang principle and mates only once for life. Korean people accepted this view, as they believed that the bird was a symbol of a happy marriage, fidelity, and trust.
The goose-delivery ceremony is followed by gyobaerye in which the bride and groom see each other for the first time and exchange deep bows. The groom enters daeryecheong and takes his seat east of the ceremony table, while the bride takes her seat in the west. The bride, assisted by her attendant, makes two deep bows to the bridegroom who makes one bow in return. The couple performs the same procedure one more time. The gyobaerye process ends with the bride bowing four times and the groom twice. Some now feel that the difference in the number of bows is discriminatory, while others believe that it is based on the traditional yin and yang principle.
Gyobaerye is followed by hapgeullye, literally meaning “gourd union ceremony.” The name of the ceremony came from the two gourd cups used, one by the bride and the other by the groom, for sharing liquor. The cups are made from two halves of the same gourd. It becomes whole again when the couple share the liquor in the cups. The bride’s attendant, wearing a strand of blue and red threads on the back of the hand, pours wine into a gourd cup and gives it to the groom who drinks from it. Then the same wine cup is delivered to the bride’s attendant who, in turn, gives it to the bride so that she can drink from it. The used liquor is then poured into a libation vessel. This liquor-sharing ceremony is repeated, starting with the bride this time. It is then repeated a third time.
After the daerye ceremony is over, the bride retires to her room and the groom goes to the central wooden-floored hall where he receives a big banquet table full of food. He does not eat from the large table, however, but a smaller table called immaetsang, arranged with much simpler dishes. The food arranged on the large table is carefully removed and sent to the groom’s family. As evening approaches, the bride and groom retire to the bridal chamber where they spend the night together, thus concluding the wedding ceremony.