The Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony Explained

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The Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony is an integral part of the Chinese marriage tradition, steeped in history and symbolism. The ceremony is usually held on the morning of the wedding day, and involves the formal introduction of the bride and groom and expression of respect to the elderly. Here, we’ll explore the rich history and traditions of the Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony, and discover why it’s such a meaningful part of the marriage tradition.

What is a Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony?

The Chinese wedding tea ceremony is a traditional part of a Chinese wedding where the couple serve tea to both sets of parents and relatives. A beautiful way to honour their families, it is also an opportunity for the couple to express gratitude to their parents on their wedding day.

Who Attends The Chinese Tea Ceremony?

The Chinese Tea Ceremony is attended by all family members of the bride and groom, both immediate and distant relatives, the wedding party – that is the groomsmen and bridesmaids. Occasionally close friends are invited to participate in the livery.

What Items To Prepare For The Tea Ceremony?

1. Tea Sets 

Ideally tea sets should be festive red colour and decorated with auspicious patterns such as double dragons, phoenixes, mandarin ducks, double happiness character “囍”, peonies or lotuses

2. Tea 

Traditionally most people would opt for good quality tea such as Long Jing, Bi Luo Chun, Tie Guan Yin as the base and add in a combination of dried fruits and seeds.

Jujube (red dates) symbolises the sweetness of marriage and fertility. The Chinese character for jujube dates, 枣 (zǎo) is a homophobe of the the Chinese word -early or -soon. It is a wish for the newlyweds to conceive soon. 

Longan. The Chinese character for the longan fruit “桂圆”(guìyuán) is a homophone of “贵”, meaning precious. “圆”is also a popular character in Chinese culture, meaning round and full- representing completion. These are commonly factored in as well.

Lotus seeds. The Chinese character for lotus seed is 莲子, the ‘子’ word sounds like the mandarin word for children and has similar connotation to wishes for fertility. Furthermore, the lotus flower symbolises innocence and true love due to the way it grows in mud yet is unstained by it. 

In South Chinese culture, tea is sweetened with honey or sugar to ensure a sweet union.

3. Kneeling Pad 
Photo by Arch and Vow Studio theweddingnotebookcom

Couples can either kneel while serving tea or take a bow. For the former, prepare festive red cushions with auspicious patterns to match. 

What is the Order of the Tea Ceremony 

Customs differ slightly according to various regions. In general, basic etiquette should not differ. The tea ceremony starts with the bride’s parents and relatives, followed after by the groom’s family. The groom kneels in front of his father-in-law and the bride before her mother.

After pouring out the tea (often the bride and groom are assisted and the tea has already been drawn out by a young relative), the groom will present the first cup of tea to his father-in-law, formally addressing him as ‘father’ followed by a short expression of his gratitude. He then does the same for his mother-in-law, addressing her as ‘mother’. The bride follows in the steps of her newly wedded husband.

Photo by Arch and Vow Studio theweddingnotebookcom

The parents, after having accepted and drank their teas present the newlyweds with monetary gifts in an ang pow or red packet. Some parents also give valuables such as jewellery or watches along with their advice and blessings. The process repeats itself with grandparents and other relatives. 

The couple then leaves the bride’s home to make their way, entourage in tow to the groom’s home where the whole tea ceremony repeats itself. Before leaving the bride’s home, it is customary for certain dialect groups to prepare a bowl of noodles (symbolising longevity) with eggs (symbolising fertility) for both the bride and groom.

To mark the end of the ceremony, the couple enjoy a bowl of glutinous rice ball soup, 汤圆 that symbolises a successful and marriage togetherness since the 圆 means round and full – representing a certain completion.

How To Plan A Tea Ceremony

  1. Prepare a list of relatives who will be attending the ceremony. Start with the parents of the bride and groom, their grandparents, followed by uncles and aunts and finally married cousins, in the order of their birth.
  2. Prepare ceremonial decor, a pair of formal looking chairs, ceremonial tea set, tea, disposable paper cups, kneeling pads and red umbrella.
  3. Hire a master of ceremonies. Alternatively for a more laidback event, enlist help from enthusiastic relatives for the roll call and to host the event.
  4. In Asia, families can be big. Therefore, enlist someone to pour out the tea as the ceremony is ongoing ensures a seemless transition. He or she could be a cousin or someone from the wedding party. They should prepare four cups of tea for each couple.
  5. Estimate the number of unmarried cousins and young children who will be present and prepare red packets that will be handed out by the bride and groom.
  6. Glutinous rice ball soup or longevity noodles for the newlyweds are prepared according to family’s origin and background.

UP NEXT: GUO DA LI – THE CHINESE TRADITIONAL BETROTHAL GIFT GUIDE

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