Although weddings have been modernized and are taking a new shape, the Chinese wedding tea ceremony has managed to retain its relevance and remain to be a significant tradition that Chinese couples go through before they get married.
However, many modernized Chinese people do not fully understand the steps involved in a tea ceremony and what is needed of them. That’s why we compiled this guide to answer all the questions you may have regarding a traditional Chinese tea wedding.
Let’s get started.
What Exactly Is the Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony?
Originally called Cha Dao (way of tea), the Chinese wedding tea ceremony dates back to the Tang Dynasty. It is a ceremonial act of showing reverence and respect to the bride’s and groom’s parents. During this tea ceremony, the bride and groom use a Gaiwan to serve tea to both parents, which symbolically signifies the start of unity for the two families.
In Chinese culture, serving tea is a social practice that is highly regarded since it is seen as a way of showing respect for one another. The act of serving tea by the groom and bride to their set of parents act as a way of saying thank you for what they have done to support and raise them.
The Chinese wedding tea ceremony commences with the bride privately serving tea to her close relatives before the actual wedding takes place. After exchanging wedding vows, the groom and the bride jointly hold the tea ceremony for the groom’s parents. However, this is a more modernized way of holding a wedding tea ceremony. Traditionally, the procedure was quite different. We will talk about that later on.
What Is the Significance of the Tea Ceremony In a Chinese Wedding?
The tea ceremony offers a respectful way for the bride and groom to show their gratitude towards their parents for all the love and support they have given them over the years.
Also, it provides a platform where the whole family offers their blessings for the newlyweds and usher them into marriage life where they will now be termed as husband and wife.
In addition, the tea ceremony symbolizes that the groom and bride have officially become part of the extended family.
During this ceremony, the groom and the bride address the relatives with their new titles as they serve them tea.
Why Is Tea Important During a Traditional Chinese Tea Wedding Ceremony?
In China, tea is a national drink and signifies respect. This is the main reason it is served in traditional wedding ceremonies. In addition, using tea is practical during public events as not everyone can drink alcohol.
Tea served during the Chinese wedding tea ceremony comprises of lotus seeds and red dates. The first reason why these are added lies in their names “lotus- year,” “seed-child,” “date-early.”
In other words, it is an ancient belief in China that placing red dates and lotus seeds in tea helps the newly wedded couple get children early in their marriage, every year. This will means that the family will expand, and the parents will have many grandchildren. The red dates signify good luck in their search for children.
Also, the sweetness of the tea served during this ceremony is a wish for a sweet relation between the bride and her new family.
How Is Tea Served During Chinese Wedding Ceremonies?
During this tea ceremony, the bride serves tea by holding the teacup with both hands. Tea is served to bride’s parents at home as they wait for the groom to arrive. According to Chinese traditions, this is done out of respect and to show gratitude to the bride’s parents for raising her well. It is not a must for this tea to have dates or lotus seed, and the bride can serve the tea by herself.
After the wedding ceremony, the newly wedded couple serves tea by holding teacups with both hands. During this event, the newlyweds invite the groom elders to drink tea using their formal titles such as third aunt and first uncle.
Although the process of serving tea slightly varies from one family to another, the general rule that applies during any Chinese wedding tea ceremony is that- the woman must be on the left side of the man. The People being served sit in chairs while the newlyweds kneel when serving them tea. For instance, when serving tea to the groom’s parents, the groom kneels in front of his mother while the bride kneels in front of her father-in-law.
It is also worth noting that the newlyweds follow a certain protocol when serving tea. They start by serving tea to the groom’s parents then proceed to serve the oldest members of the family to the youngest. It is important to note that if a living member of the elder couple is absent in the ceremony, the other elders will drink on their behalf. However, tea is not served for a departed spouse.
Other than serving tea in order of seniority, the couple should also remember to serve their paternal relatives before the maternal ones. During the tea ceremony, male relatives sit in front of the bride while female relatives sit across the groom.
After the tea is served, the newlyweds welcome lucky red envelopes that have gifts stuffed with money or jewelry. The helpers, who are usually women, bless them with wealth or a happy marriage. The helpers are chosen by the bride’s mother or a fortune teller and receive lucky red envelopes stuffed with money. The envelopes are placed on the platter that holds teacups.
What to Prepare Before the Wedding Tea Ceremony?
You will need two red cushions to kneel on- one for the bride and another one for the groom. You can either purchase a new set or use hand-me-down cushions from your parents. You can get these cushions in a variety of designs.
2. Tea set
There is a Chinese tea set for this ceremony and signifies a new life together. You need to take note of the number of people participating in your ceremony to ensure that you buy enough cups for everyone.
Speaking of the Chinese wedding tea set, the bride’s parents pay for the tea set as part of the dowry. The wedding tea set is a significant keepsake of the Chinese wedding. The bride will use it when her daughter gets married in the future.
There are both Chinese and western-style tea sets. Tea sets with modernized, western-style cups are becoming more popular.
Some of the popular wedding tea sets designs you will find include dragon and phoenix, double joy, peony, and those with gold trimmings and flowery motifs.
Tea sets designed specifically for use in Chinese wedding tea ceremony do not have containers for sugar or creamers. The teapots used to serve tea come in various sizes and shapes- they can either be oval or round. Usually, each table should have four cups and a serving tray to complete a wedding set.
This can be any normal Chinese tea, such as Pu-erh or tieguanyin. It is recommended that you don’t use diet tea since in Chinese culture, skinny equates to bad fortune.
Add one unpeeled lotus seed and one red date in each teacup. As mentioned earlier, lotus seed symbolizes quick and yearly childbearing while red dates symbolize good luck.
Where and When Does the Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony Take Place?
The tea ceremony is hosted before the wedding ceremony starts- this can be on a lucky auspicious date or on the wedding day at the couple’s homes. Traditionally, the tea ceremony was usually performed in the morning on the groom’s family after the groom had picked the bride from their home and sneaked her into his place.
Afterward, the tea ceremony was conducted in the afternoon in the bride’s place after the bride returns home from the groom’s place.
However, nowadays, most couples perform the ceremony right after the groom picks the bride. This takes place at the groom’s home. It is important that you check to consult the elders of both families before the tea ceremony is organized to confirm if they have a preference for who is to be served first and when the time the ceremony should be held.
A Quick Overview of Wedding Tea Ceremony Steps
As mentioned earlier, traditionally, the tea ceremony on the groom’s side should be conducted in the morning hours while that of the bride’s side takes place in the afternoon when the bride has returned to their home from the groom’s home.
However, today, newlyweds often hold one ceremony for both sides together. For those who are experienced with the steps, here is a simple tea ceremony script you can follow;
- Organize position. As we mentioned earlier, the groom should stand on the right and the bride on his left side. Parents from both sides should sit on chairs and wait to be served tea by the newlyweds on their knees.
- Order of serving. During a Chinese wedding tea ceremony, the order of serving tea should be strictly followed. It shows how newlyweds respect their relative’s seniority. The parents should be served first, then the grandparents, followed by grand uncles and aunts. Afterward, siblings are served with the order of their seniority as well.
- Serving etiquette. Here are some of the traditional serving etiquette that should be followed;
- Serve tea with both hands holding the saucer and bow slightly forward while on your knees. Make sure that the parents do not move or bend when receiving tea in the Gaiwan
- Those receiving the tea should hold the saucer and not the cup as the Gaiwan cup can be hot. Let everyone know this in advance.
- It is also important to educate people on how to drink tea from a Gaiwan cup. The traditional way of doing this is to hold the saucer and move the cup close to your mouth and then lift the lid slightly. When lifting the lid, you can hold the nob of the lid as it is not hot.
- Once they have finished drinking the tea, you need to take back the Gaiwan cup with both hands, while holding the saucer
- Afterward, gifts are presented. The gifts can be in the form of jewelry or red packets. Some relatives prefer the groom and bride to wear the jewelry gifts immediately. Unmarried elder siblings do not present the couple with gifts. The groom and bride present gifts to the younger cousins and siblings who serve them tea.
This is just a simple script on how to conduct a Chinese wedding tea ceremony.
What Should You Wear During The Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony?
During these ceremonies, most brides choose Qun Kua- the Chinese wedding gown. Kuas are normally heavily embroidered with silver and gold threads; the more elaborate the embroidery is, the less red color you will see. Traditionally, the amount of embroidery put on the Kua symbolized how wealthy a family was.
The history of Kua is not well known. However, it was believed that the Chinese wedding gown originated from Guangdong, China, with records tracing it back to the Ming Dynasty (1369-144).
If you look closely at the Kua, you will spot several motifs that pop up on them. These motifs have different meanings, and the design depends on the couple.
The most popular motifs are the dragon and phoenix, which symbolizes perfect harmony between the yang (male) and yin (female) forces. It also symbolized royalty.
Another popular motif is a pair of mandarin duck as they tend to mate for life. This represents faithfulness.
There you have it- the ultimate guide to the Chinese wedding tea ceremony. We hope to have covered everything you need to know about this ceremony and what you need to have.
In a nutshell, you should have two sets of wedding tea sets preserved for serving the bride’s and groom’s parents, sweet tea, and two pillows. Also, know the traditional etiquette followed and how the order in which the tea is served.
Also, ensure that you have enough teaware to cater for everyone. There are a variety of wedding tea sets you can choose from. Make sure to choose style sets to crown the occasion.