Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony

Quite a few of our non Chinese friends asked me the significance of tea ceremonies held during Chinese weddings. We had our wedding tea ceremony in my parents house immediately after the jip san leong ceremony in July. The tea ceremony is probably one of the most important parts of a Chinese wedding. This is when the bride is formally introduced to the grooms family and vice versa. When we serve tea to the elders, it is a sign of respect. The act of drinking the tea shows that you are accepted into the family.
What kind of tea do you serve? Is there a specific kind? Well, my aunt made some 'special wedding tea' for our tea ceremony. It's made from longans and red dates. Traditionally, any sweet tea will do, as it symbolizes sweetness in the new union. There are various practices when it comes to the wedding tea set. Most people agree that it's a wedding gift from one family to another. The question is, who buys the tea set? Kevin's family bought the tea set and it was part of the dowry to our family. Popular designs includes the double happiness designs, peony flowers, dragon and phoenix and gold trimming. Our tea set didn't have any dragons or phoenix for obvious reasons.
Our tea ceremony started off with a prayer lead by my father. It's not traditionally done in a tea ceremony but we started this tradition in our family. Being Christians, we believe that we should thank God for all He has done and what better way than to start the ceremony with a prayer. It is also to explain why we have this ceremony, it's more cultural and not religious. In many chinese cultural practices, there is a very thin line between culture and religion. We would like to make it clear that we do this because it's part of our heritage and culture and not because we see is as part of a religious practice.

The tea ceremony begins by serving tea to your parents, followed by grandparents, granduncles and grandaunts, uncles and aunts, married siblings and married elder cousins. All this is according to hierarchy in the family. Some people kneel down when they serve tea, but we just bow down as a sign of respect. Also, you are supposed to address the person by his/her full title in the family. For example, if I were to serve tea to my eldest aunt in my mom's side of the family, I would have to say "Tua Ee, lim teh" which means "eldest sister of my mother, drink tea". Then I would bow down and hand her a cup of tea with both hands.

The person would then drink the tea and hand back the empty cup with an angpow. An angpow is a red envelope filled with money. Parents, godparents as well as other close relatives of the bridal couple might give gold jewellery on top of giving an angpow. Once the bridal couple is done serving tea to all the elders, it's their turn to sit down. Younger unmarried siblings and cousins would come up to congratulate them and the bridal couple in turn would give out angpows to them.

This signifies the end of the tea ceremony. The whole family would usually then have lunch together. The tea ceremony usually takes about an hour but can sometimes can go on and on for a few hours, depending on how big your family is. Here is a picture of my cousins, nephews and nieces.

Yup! Big family. Our tea ceremony took a little over an hour. Not too bad, considering the size of the family! To view more photos from our tea ceremony, click here and you will be directed to our album on Facebook.


ShAKirA CHOONG said...

Thank you so much for sharing.

Charlene n Kevin said...

Thanks! Glad you like it!! :D

Gupse D said...

Wish you luck!