Paebek – Part of a Korean Wedding Ceremony

Someone emailed me recently asking about getting paebek food for her wedding, so I thought I’d write share a bit of info about it.

The traditional Korean wedding ceremony (“honrye”) used to take days and days. The groom went to the bride’s house (bearing a wedding chest filled with gifts for the bride’s family ‚Äì the dowry, of course). Then, his servants carried the bride on a palanquin (along with the “yedan,” gifts from the bride’s family to the groom’s) to her new home the night before the wedding.

In modern society, the only ritual we still perform is the “paebek.” This is when the groom’s family formally accepts the bride into their home (Back in olden times, the bride left her family to go live with the groom’s family. That’s why when a woman gave birth to a girl, they used to say that she was raising a child for someone else!). The ceremony was a way for the new bride to pay respects to the groom’s family.

Since most Korean newlywed couples rarely go live with the groom’s family anymore, the ritual has been modernized to include relatives from both sides of the family.

Modern Korean couples now wear the white dress and tuxedo and have a Western ceremony. Then, the paebek ceremony is performed afterwards as a private affair, often just for close family members while the rest of the guests enjoy the reception.

The bride and groom change into ceremonial wedding hanbok. Red dots are drawn or adhered to the bride’s cheeks and forehead to symbolize youth and virginity.


When my husband and I got married, we wanted all of our guests to witness the Korean wedding ceremony, so we did our paebek for everyone. Of course, most of the Korean guests left before the cake was even eaten.

My mom’s friends even got a dead rooster for the table. One of them knew which direction it was supposed to face and what was supposed to go where.

There is some tea pouring, pretending to drink the wine, bowing and whatnot. Then the elders throw dried dates and chestnuts, symbolic of how many children the couple are supposed to have.

We had a secret plan that when my mom threw the dates and chestnuts for us to catch, we would make sure to move the fabric just in time to let them all fall on the floor. So, of course, my mom runs across the table and throws fistfuls into our catching cloth.

Sorry, mom. It didn’t stick.

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