Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Guide to Korean wedding gifts

In Korea there is  vicious cycle in place that throws everything out of whack and was a source of culture shock for me. Part of the gift money will go to the parents so they can recoup all of the gift money they have been forced to shell out over years of attending other peoples weddings.

Typically only gift money from close friends will go to the happy couple. In Korea status is important, and one way for a person to improve their status (and show their success) is to invite lots of people to their wedding (or the wedding of their children). The guests will then invite anyone who's wedding they ever attended to their own wedding to show how successful they are, while also getting their hard earned dollars back. You can see how it became a vicious cycle. The amount of gift money is also crucially important and you can actually upset people by giving too much money! Here are some basic guidelines.
  1. The amount of money given should be a multiple of 10. Giving an odd amount is actually seen as disrespectful. 
  2. If the amount of money is less than 100,000 won (~$100), then the first number should be an odd number. i.e. $30, $50, $70. 
  3. Don't give less than 30,000 won (~$30). This is the absolute minimum.
  4. 30,000 won - This is what you should give if you don't know the couple well and have been invited out of courtesy. 
  5. 50,000 won - This is what you should give if you know them well (maybe a work colleague), but you are not super close drinking buddies.
  6. 70,000 won - If you know them well and you socalise on a regular basis, but you are not best of best friends. 
  7. 100,000 won or more - This is for long term very good friends or best friends. If you fall into this category you will know what is an appropriate amount to give.
  8. A house - If you are the parents of the groom, traditionally (and even in modern Korea) you are expected to give the couple a house/apartment. You also should buy gifts for the bride and her parents (jewelry, clothes, etc).
  9. Furnishings for the house. - If you are the parents of the bride, you will have to go shopping with your daughter and let her pick out all the stuff to furnish your house. You also should buy gifts for the groom and his parents (jewlery, clothes, etc). 
  10. The bride and groom should give any close friends who have traveled a long way (more than 2 hours) a small amount of money to go towards the travel expenses of the friends. There are no hard and fast rules here, but 25,000 won per close friend that traveled a long way will be appreciated by them (keep in mind they probably gave you 100,000 won as a gift). 
Below are some photos from when we went shopping for various gifts.


  1. I’m the mother of a son marrying a Korean girl in Gwangju. What would be a proper gift. The bride indicated she wanted a gift rather than money. I was thinking a titanium hand made dinner set. What do you think?

    1. Hi. Thanks for your question. Have a chat with your son to try and work out what she really wants. Personally, when I give gifts I try and make them practical and stay clear of something that may be a decorative furnishing (e.g. a lamp, or orniment). Cutlery sounds practical. Are they intending to stay in Korea permanently, or planning to move to your home country? Consider gifting something that will not be difficult for them to take with them, or alternatively offer to purchase something once the country transition is complete. Hope that helps. Cheers. Phil