These Korean wedding ducks were my anniversary present to my husband this year. Carved mandarin ducks are a traditional part of Korean wedding ceremonies. They are a symbol of fidelity, because they mate for life.
Originally, a groom would present the gift of a pair of live geese or ducks to the bride’s family. Eventually, the tradition evolved into the commissioning of carved wooden ducks. The father of the bride would ask a true and honorable friend to carve the ducks. It would be considered a great honor to be chosen to perform this task. The friend would have to possess five “fortunes”: wealth, health, a happy marriage, a good wife, and many sons. Because the carver would be imbuing the ducks with his own spirit and good fortune to share with the couple, he could only perform the task once in his lifetime. A pair of wedding ducks would be handed down from mother to daughter.
At the wedding ceremony, the ducks would be wrapped in cloth with only the necks and heads showing. After the ceremony, the groom’s mother would toss the duck into the bride’s apron. If the bride caught the duck, her first child would be a boy; a miss would presage a girl. I know.
After the wedding, the ducks would be displayed in the couple’s home. Ducks placed bill to bill would indicate peaceful and harmonious relationships. Ducks placed tail to tail would be a sign of discord.
The red-billed duck represents the bride and the blue-billed duck represents the groom. In some duck pairs, a string is tied only around the girl duck’s beak. This symbolizes the need to refrain from criticism or harsh words. Both ducks in the pair I got for my husband have strings around their beaks. Tradition is one thing…but it is 2014 after all!
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