Being a wedding photographer here in Southern California we are exposed to many different types of wedding ceremonies and receptions. Being that our market is so entrenched in different cultures and backgrounds has allowed us to take part in witnessing some amazing traditions. Regardless if we are shooting here in Orange County or if we go to Los Angeles, we truly value the traditions and rituals of the various cultures. Three16 Photography honors Chinese Wedding Traditions, including Chinese Tea Ceremonies.
Tea has always been part of a traditional Chinese wedding dating back to what is believed to be around the year 1200. And although the Chinese wedding began to follow the ways of the west in the early 1900s, the tea ceremony has remained a constant. We take for granted that when a bride and her groom marry, the parents are just now in-laws to each other. But, in Chinese tradition, and generally on their wedding day, the groom and his bride will serve both sets of parent’s tea in a Gaiwan. This actually represents the moment when the two families are introduced and become relatives.
Typically, a tea ceremony for the groom's family is done in the morning, while the bride’s side’s ceremony is always in the afternoon once the couple have completed her visit home. In today’s society, many couples will now host one tea ceremony for the two families together.
There are various aspects to a Chinese Tea Ceremony, which includes:
Decorations is always a good idea to decorate the room in the colors of gold and red, and with various objects throughout, such as phoenix and dragon motifs, ‘Double Happiness’ symbol and strands of decorative firecrackers.
Hiring a Host is a great idea, especially if you invite all your guests to the tea ceremony. Hire someone that can explain the significance behind the tea ceremony that will help educate those unfamiliar with the wedding tradition.
A Dress Code for the tea ceremony includes a suitable dress. The couple needs to dress in red silk and that includes the tulle veil. The most known traditional costumes in China is the Tang suit and Hanfu.
The Bride and Groom’s Positions during the tea ceremony generally will have the groom standing to the right of his bride and she should be on the left. Meanwhile, their parents will be sitting on chairs. They will wait there until the couple kneels for the tea serving. Don’t be surprised in a more modern ceremony if the couple by-passes the kneeling and just bows while serving the tea.
The Order of Serving the Tea is very important. Doing it orderly allows the couple to show the couple’s respect for their elders. The order in which they are to be served their tea is:
• Grand-Uncles and Grand-Aunties
• Uncles and Aunties
• Elder Brothers and Sisters
• Elder Cousins
In some instances, families may prefer to have the grandparents served first, followed up by the parents. The groom’s relatives within each generation is served first, then the bride’s side.
The Type of Tea you serve is important to know. The preference is any kind of sweet tea as it is a symbol for sweetness. Sweetness is a good sign for the Chinese Tea Ceremony wedding. The sweetness is believed to bring the couple happiness and to have good relations between themselves. A couple of recommended teas include:
• Pu erh tea
• Tieguanyin oolong tea
• Jinjunmei black tea
If you are wondering what Tea Set to use, traditionally, the bride's parents will hand down their wedding set. If they don’t have one, they will pay for the tea set which is actually part of the dowry. The Chinese wedding tea set is very meaningful and is a keepsake from the wedding in which the bride will hand it down to her own daughter when she gets married down the line. That way this very important traditional set now becomes a family heirloom.
One important item to note for those not familiar with the culture, these tea sets that are designed specifically for Chinese Tea Ceremony Weddings will not have containers for sugar or creamer, but it does include the tea pot itself, typically four teacups and a serving tray.
Who doesn’t love Gifts? Upon completion of drinking the tea, the gifts are presented on the serving platter to the new couple. Generally, the gifts will come as red packets/envelopes or as jewelry. The pro to giving jewelry is that the bride and groom can wear the items immediately. More often than not, the gifts will be the red packet or envelope. Inside is where you leave the couple cash that generally range as little as $50 up to $500.
We hope the next time you have the chance to partake in a Chinese Tea Ceremony Wedding, or witness one, these tips of information will be useful.