Though weddings have been modernized and are following more trends from Western culture, the Chinese wedding tea ceremony today still remains the most significant wedding tradition that every Chinese couple must go through when they get married. Planning a proper tea ceremony and going through all the steps can take a bit of work especially with all the details of each tradition. Let us simplify the process for you! Read on to learn more about this traditional Chinese wedding ritual and what to do if you're planning a tea ceremony for your wedding day:
What is the significance of the Chinese tea ceremony?
The tea ceremony is a significant way for the bride and groom to pay respect and show their gratitude towards their parents for all the years of nurture and love. In turn, the family will express blessings for the newlyweds as they start their marriage as husband and wife. The tea ceremony also symbolizes that the bride and the groom officially belong into a new, extended family. During the ceremony, the bride and groom will address the relatives with their new titles while serving them tea.
When and where does the Chinese tea ceremony take place?
The tea ceremony is usually hosted before the wedding on a lucky auspicious engagement date - or on the wedding day at the couple’s respective homes. Traditionally, the tea ceremony for the groom’s family is usually performed in the morning after the groom has fetched the bride home to his place. Then the tea ceremony for the bride’s side is conducted in the afternoon after she returns home from the groom’s place. Nowadays, particularly in Hong Kong, the couple will perform the ceremony right after the groom fetched the bride, taking place at the groom’s family home for another tea ceremony for the groom’s side. It is advised to check with elders of both families at the beginning of planning to confirm if they have a preference on the ceremony time and who is served first.
What do you need to prepare for the ceremony?
Things you need to prepare are, of course, the tea. Chinese tea such as pu’er, tieguanyin or jasmine tea can be used. Two lotus seeds and red dates may be added into each cup, as they are said to bring fertility and offspring for the couple. A tea set is used for the ceremony which is meant to be a meaningful keepsake for the wedding. You can either use the tea set in the bride’s dowry or you can use a hand-me-down from the family. If you have a bigger family, make sure you have prepared enough cups for everyone. You will also need two red cushions – one for the groom and one for the bride – to kneel on while serving the tea.
What are the appropriate procedures?
The couples will have to kneel down while serving tea to their elders. The groom should be on the right with the bride on his left side. The male elder should sit in front of the groom while the female elder should sit facing the bride. It is suggested to have a “fortune woman,” or maid of honor, and two bridesmaids to assist during the tea ceremony: One person to hold the tea and gifts on the serving plate while the other person hands the tea. Another person can stand behind to ensure there is always enough warm tea to refill the small tea pot.
After everything is ready, the bride and groom will start serving tea to their relatives in order of seniority. Usually this begins with the parents first, followed by grandparents, uncles and aunties, elder siblings, and then elder cousins. (Note: Some families will prefer serving the grandparents tea first and then their parents.)
For each serving, the groom is the first to serve tea and then the bride takes her turn. They should serve to the father and then the mother. For every couple you serve, there should be four tea cups on the tea tray. Always serve the tea cups with both hands and greet them by their formal title in the family. For example, “Father, please drink the tea.”
After drinking the tea, the parents will present gifts in the form of red packets or jewelry to the couple. At the same time, they will give words of blessings and put the jewellery on you. The tea ceremony is finished when all relatives of both families are served.