In a traditional Chinese wedding, the tea ceremony is one of the most significant events. It includes very formal introductions of the bride and groom and shows respect to their families. Historically, after they exchanged vows, the couple would serve tea to the groom’s family (the bride would have served tea privately to her own family that morning). Today, many couples choose to show respect to both the bride and groom’s families by hosting tea ceremonies for both sides.
Chinese tea ceremony history
The earliest written record of tea ceremonies emerged during the Tang Dynasty over 1200 years ago. It was initially called cha dao (茶道）or the way of tea. Some Japanese monks travelled to China and brought it back to Japan. Influenced by Japanese culture, the tea ceremony became more grave and formal.
Since the early 1900s, Chinese weddings have modernized and partly following western practice. However, the tradition of tea ceremonies in Chinese weddings has remained, and is still highly treasured today.
What is the meaning of a Chinese wedding tea ceremony?
In China, serving tea when guests come is a very traditional propriety. It is a significant way to show respects. In the wedding, this act is in respect and gratitude to her parents for all the years of love and care. Besides this, tea ceremony is much meaningful in a wedding. Tea is the symbol of purity, stability and fertile. The purity of tea represents the love is pure and noble; the stability of tea stands for faithful love; the fertile of tea represents the family will have many children.
Traditionally, red dates, peanuts, longans and lotus seeds are added in the wedding tea ceremony. Because in Chinese, reading these four ingredients the above order sounds like “to have baby as soon as possible”, which is a very good wish for new couples.
What are the Chinese wedding tea ceremony steps?
The tea ceremony for the groom’s family is usually done in the morning while the ceremony for the bride is always done in the afternoon when the bride and groom have completed the bride’s home visit.
During a Chinese wedding tea ceremony, the groom should stand on the right and the bride should be on the left side. Their parents should sit on chairs and wait for the new couples’ kneel and tea serving. The order of serving tea is very important. It shows how the couple respect their seniority. The parents will be served first, then the grandparents, grand uncles and aunts, uncles and aunts, and then elder siblings.
After the drinking of the tea, gifts for the bride and groom will be presented. Gifts are usually in forms of red envelopes with money or jewellery. And the couple should use the jewellery immediately. To the younger siblings and cousins who help them serve tea will be blessed with a happy marriage or abundant wealth. These helpers also receive lucky red envelopes filled with money, called “lai see” which means “lucky”, from the bride and groom.
What kind of Chinese tea and ceremony tea set is used?
Any sweet tea that symbolizes sweetness is good for the Chinese wedding tea ceremony. It is believed to bring happiness to the couple and to foster good relations between the newlyweds and her new in-laws. You can use sweetened black tea for simplicity sake, but some traditional Chinese black teas are preferred because of the good sound of their names. Other herbs are added such as lotus seeds and red dates tea symbolizing that the couple will have children quickly and continuously.
The Chinese wedding tea set is a meaningful keepsake of the wedding and an important gift from the bride’s family. It can be a family heirloom as well. In the future when the couples’ children get married, the tea set will be used and presented. Tea sets are available in modern or traditional Chinese styles. Chinese wedding tea sets with ‘double happiness’ character, phoenix, dragons, peony or flower designs and gold trimmings are popular for Chinese wedding tea sets. See for example our Chinese wedding tea ceremony set on the right.
Other useful tips for Chinese wedding tea ceremonies
Dress for Chinese wedding tea ceremony
In a Chinese wedding tea ceremony, a suitable dress is necessary. Bride and groom need to dress in red silk and the tulle veil should be red too. Tang suit and Hanfu (Most famous traditional costumes in China and known to the world) are most popular. Some popular design such as dragons and phoenix on the dress would be suitable for decoration.
Decoration for Chinese wedding tea ceremony
To decorate the room for the Chinese wedding tea ceremony is also a good choice. Gold and red colors ‘Double Happiness’ symbol, Chinese marriage gods, phoenix and dragon motifs and decorative strands of firecrackers are all suitable for the ceremony.
Host for Chinese wedding tea ceremony
If you do plan to invite all your guests to the tea ceremony, don’t forget to invite a host who can explain the significance behind the ceremony to those unfamiliar with the tradition.