The Wedding Tea Ceremony is one of the most important events at a Chinese wedding. My mum insisted we must have a tea ceremony because we didn’t get married in a proper Singaporean Chinese way. Mr C and I got married in Bath and it was a small wedding with close family and friends only. So when I told some of our friends that we are having a tea ceremony after the registration, no one understood what that meant. As a result of the mix-up, two of our friends went back home after our registration and missed the wedding dinner. Sometimes it is hard to explain to others why we have a Chinese tea ceremony during the wedding day so I decided to write this post.
Why do we have a tea ceremony?
It is to introduce the newly wedded couple and show respect to their families. There are different types of tea ceremonies according to the groom’s dialect like Teochew, Cantonese etc.
When do we have a tea ceremony?
Nowadays, tea ceremonies combine both the bride and groom’s family as it is so much easier to do everything in one. It can be at any location but it has to be held straight after the registration of marriage or when they reach the Groom’s house.
What do we use to brew the tea?
Traditionally, dried longans, red dates, lotus seeds and peanuts are added into the Chinese tea. For our wedding, we didn’t have those ingredients available so we just used normal tea.
As for the tea set, it is a gift from the bride’s family to the newly wedded couple. This will be part of the family heirloom. It is not very common now to keep it to pass down to your children.
My mother had kept her wedding tea set with phoenix and dragons printed and gold trimmings on the side of the tea pot. I put it on the hard floor while we moved house and accidentally broke it into pieces. I just shoved it into the corner and when my mum asked, I pretended that I don’t know anything about it! She was very upset as she would have liked to have passed it down to us. I believe this was just a normal tea set and not an antique, fingers crossed!
What is the order of service?
It is usually parents, grandparents, granduncles/aunties, uncles/aunties, elder siblings and elder cousins. It is always the groom’s first (groom’s dad’s relatives then groom’s mum’s relative) before the bride’s family.
The younger siblings would help to serve tea to the groom and bride.
What is the formation?
The bride stand on the groom’s right. I like to think because women are always right. The male elderly will sit facing the bride and the female elderly will sit facing the groom.
People used to kneel while serving tea but now the bride and groom just need to bow instead. This photo shows my 4th aunty and uncle kneeled in front of their parents. The second photo of my 6th uncle and aunty shows them bowed instead. Times have changed.
Also this is another photo where my sister and brother-in-law served tea to my grandmother only. For other events, tea is served for deceased spouses but this does not apply to tea ceremonies.
Gifts for the tea ceremony
After the elderly drinks the tea, they will present their gifts in the form of red packets with money or jewellery on the serving plate. If you remember last week, I wrote a blog post on Chinese wedding gifts in particular about the red packets and jewellery. This is us serving tea to my parents.
The bride and groom will present gifts to the young siblings and their children (if any) who serve them tea. Mr C and I served my sister and brother-in-law tea and we received a red packet from them instead of us giving them the red packet.
This photo is my uncle and aunty serving tea to his 4th elder sister and brother-in-law (bride and groom).
After the tea ceremony, the bride and groom will also present red packets to the tea helper (who holds the serving plate with tea pots and cups)
Once again, I would like to thank my uncle for sharing with us his precious photos.