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Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony Guide

What is a tea ceremony?

Tea ceremony is one of the most important events in a traditional Chinese wedding. It symbolizes purity, faith and fertility. It is a formal introduction for the bride and groom to show their respect and gratitude towards their families, especially to their parents for all the years of love and care.

When and Where should the tea ceremony take place?

Traditionally, the tea ceremony for the groom's family is usually done in the morning at the groom's home. The following is the bride's home visit. Then, the tea ceremony for the bride's family is done in the afternoon at the bride's home.

In today's weddings, most bride and groom often have just one ceremony for both sides of the families together. It is commonly held at the family home of the bride or groom, hotel, restaurant, or at your wedding venue.

What do the bride and groom wear at the tea ceremony?

Traditionally, the bride and groom need to dress in red, and their costumes must be embroidered or designed with dragons and phoenix on the dresses. The bride typically wears a red Chinese traditional dress called the Qun Kwa or Kwa, and the groom wears a red Chinese traditional suit called the Changshan.

Nowadays, there are more options for dressing at the tea ceremony. The traditional Chinese Qun Kwa is available in various colors and designs such as gold or light blue, and the groom Changshan is also available in black, gold, and blue as well. Besides Qun Kwa, the bride can also wear a floor or ankle-length Cheongsam or Qipao dress, and the groom can also wear a tux or suit to match with the bride.

What are the bride and groom positions at the tea ceremony?

During a tea ceremony, the groom should stand on the right side, and the bride should be on the left side. Their parents should sit on the chairs and wait for the couples to kneel down and serve tea. The groom then serves the tea first, and the bride goes after the groom. Both the bride and groom serve tea to the same person.

What are the orders at the tea ceremony?

The order at the tea ceremony is very important, and it shows how the bride and groom respect their seniority. The groom's parents will be served first followed by the bride's parents, then the grandparents, the rest of the extended family including uncles/aunties, elder siblings, elder cousins in the order of their seniority.

Below are several things to be considered in preparing for the tea ceremony.

  • Before the tea ceremony, the bride and groom can prepare a list of the orders and practice a run through with their relatives.

  • It is suggested to plan out the space of the tea ceremony to make sure that there is a good enough space so the parents and families don’t have to move or stand up while receiving the tea.

  • The tea cup can be very hot. It’s recommended to let the parents and families know in advance not to hold the cup, but instead, they should hold the saucer.

  • Prior to the tea ceremony, the bride and groom assign a person or their maid of honor to hold and prepare the teas. The assigned person then stands next to the bride and groom holding a serving tray with 4 tea cups filled with tea. After each round, she will bring over a new set of tea cups filled with tea for the rest of the families.

  • The bride and groom should prepare enough tea to make at least 3 pots of tea.

  • The night before the tea ceremony, the bride and groom can pack everything they need so they can be ready to go the next day.

Below are the Steps by Steps guide on the day of wedding.

  1. To begin the tea ceremony, the maid of honor or an assigned person prepares a tray with 4 cups filled with tea. She then stands next to the bride and groom. The parents can then sit down on the chairs.

  2. The groom stands on the right side, and the bride stands on the left side. When ready, both the bride and groom kneels down and take a cup of tea from the tray.

  3. The bride and groom then serve the tea with two hands holding the saucer and bow slightly forward. Typically, the bride and groom say “Mom, please drink the tea.” in Chinese Mandarin, Cantonese, or English.

  4. While the tea is served, the parents can hold the saucer to move the cup closer, then they lift the lid slightly to one side and drink the tea.

  5. Once they finish drinking the tea, the parents then return the saucer back to the bride and groom by holding it with two hands.

  6. In return, the parents give the bride and groom red envelopes or HongBao as a symbol of blessing to the newlywed couples.

  7. The bride and groom stay in their kneeling positions for the next round of tea serving.

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