January 21, 2020
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Tea Ceremony Traditions
What is a tea ceremony?
A tradition for most Chinese weddings, the tea ceremony represents the formal introduction of the couple to their respective families, and demonstrates respect to their families for all the years of love and care.
Traditionally held at the couples’ respective homes, the tea ceremony for the groom’s family is typically in the morning, while the bride’s side is held in the afternoon, once she returns from the groom’s home.
Most of the couples I work with however, choose to have the tea ceremony for both families at the wedding venue (groom’s family first), just before the dinner reception. This option works well for relatives who may not be able to make it early in the morning, and also allows the couple to have more time to themselves on the wedding morning.
What is involved?
Traditionally, tea is served to the groom’s family using a tea set in the bride’s dowry, gifted by her parents. This tea set will then be passed down and used for the same tradition someday. As such, the bride will use her mother’s own tea set to serve her family.
Sweet tea is usually used during tea ceremonies because it symbolizes happiness in the newlywed’s marriage, and fosters good relations between them and their in-laws. Herbs like lotus seeds and red dates may be added to the tea because the Chinese pronunciations are synonymous to blessing the couple with fertility.
During the ceremony, the groom’s sister or a female relative will assist in the pouring and serving of the tea, rinsing the used cups in a basin of warm water, before serving the next relative.
Who is involved?
As a sign of respect, the couple serves tea to the elders in their family in order of seniority, and is served by their younger siblings. It is important for couples to note that paternal relatives are served before maternal ones.
Traditionally, tea is served to elders while kneeling in front of them, though some families consider bowing to be sufficient.
Typical ceremony order:
3- Uncles / Aunties (in order of seniority)
4- Elder Siblings
5- Elder Cousins (if present)
6- Younger Siblings
7- Nieces and Nephews (if present)
During the tea ceremony, the groom should be on the right, with the bride on the left side. Female relatives should seat themselves across from the groom, while male relatives are seated in front of the bride.
Gifts such as red pockets or jewellery, will be presented to the couple during the ceremony. If jewellery, the couple will often wear the pieces. Other gifts are placed on the tea tray, to be kept by the Maid of Honour, or Best Man.
I hope this helps if you’re considering a tea ceremony on your wedding day!