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Last Saturday, one of my friends asked me about the significance of the Korean wedding ducks. While I shared the meaning and some of my fond stories relating to the wedding ducks with her, I thought you might be interested in learning the history and symbolism of Korean wedding ducks.
Symbol of Fidelity
Incorporating a pair of wooden ducks in the 결혼식 (wedding ceremony) was derived from the old Korean 전통 (custom). Initially, a man would gift a pair of live ducks or geese to his soon-to-be bride’s 가족 (family) in order to express his wish to get married. In Asian countries, 기러기 (geese) and 원앙 (mandarin ducks) symbolize 신의 (fidelity), 사랑 (love), 평화 (peace), and 자손 (offspring) because they are known to be monogamous animals that mate for life.
Later on, the wooden ones replaced live ducks and geese. A prospective couple would carefully select a carver for their wedding ducks, and the completed ducks would be wrapped in a colorful cloth before the wedding ceremony. During the wedding ceremony, the wedding ducks were placed on the table, and the couple unwrapped the ducks upon their marriage.
Visual Marker of the Couple’s Relationship
The wedding ducks should be kept somewhere in the couple’s 집 (home), facing 부리 (beak) to beak. Usually, a duck with 빨간 색 (red color) represents a 신부 (bride) and 파란 색 (blue color) represents a 신랑 (groom). My favorite part of this tradition is that the position of ducks signifies the couple’s 관계 (relationship). When ducks are facing beak to beak, this signifies that a couple is having a 화목한 관계(harmonious relationship), on the other hand, when ducks are faced away from each other, this means a couple is having an 말다툼(tiff).
Traditionally, female ducks had a red string tied around the beak as a reminder that a 아내 (wife) should keep silence (not become a nagger) and support her 남편 (husband). Nowadays, wedding ducks are not only popular wedding favors to Korean people but also a popular 기념품 (souvenir) to foreigners who visit Korea. You will often see both male and female ducks would have strings tied around their mouth, as a reminder to a couple that 인내심 (patience) and 침묵 (silence) are virtues in their relationship: Interpretation of this would symbolize the 존중 (respect) to each other.
Although many wooden ducks are mass-produced these days, many Korean people still value the meaning of the Korean wedding ducks. When you visit Korea, you will realize that Korean wedding ducks are one of the popular items for sale at souvenir stores.
감사합니다! (Thank you!)
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