Help! How does tea ceremony work? Not to worry, I hope this blog post will help shed some light on how tea ceremonies usually go and some tips on how to have a smooth and organised tea ceremony.
When I first started shooting weddings, I was clueless. But after a while I started getting the flow of tea ceremony and it’s practices. One thing I can say is that while there is a general idea, there is no ONE CORRECT way of doing it. Let’s start with the basic structure:
Chinese Tea Ceremony
So of course, if you have to do a tea ceremony, it means that one of your spouse is Chinese. This tradition is to signify the welcoming of the bride or groom to each side of the family by serving tea and addressing family members as a couple.
Bride and groom will serve tea to the elders and address them accordingly.
Here’s the list:
- Groom’s parents
- Groom’s paternal grandparents
- Groom’s paternal uncle and aunties starting from the oldest in the family
(At this juncture, I’d like to point out that some relatives like to be called the traditional names like “da sao” while some are just ok being called by name “Uncle James”)
- Groom’s older siblings (if any)
- Groom’s younger siblings serve tea to Bride and Groom (if any)
- Groom’s older cousins (if any and usually optional, most people skip)
- Groom’s younger cousins serve tea to Bride and Groom (if any and optional)
- Random children serving tea and receiving hongbao from Bride and Groom (optional)
Then it repeats on the Bride’s side!
- Bride’s parents
- Bride’s paternal grandparents
*OPTIONAL: Optional means whether or not your parents or someone in the family wants this to happen. From what I observe, some people (parents or elderly) don’t know about it so they don’t request or some choose not to.
Serving the Tea
Ok so serving tea can be done in a couple of combinations:
- Bride and Groom both hold one cup of tea and address elder together (1 cup/pax)
- Bride and Groom both hold one cup each and address elder individual (2 cups/pax)
What to say
Bride and Groom can say “Dad, have some tea.”
Elders will then drink their tea, say some blessing or congratulations and give an hongbao or a gift.
Some people kneel, some people stand.
Sometimes it’s Boys on the Left and Girls on the Right and sometimes….never mind lah.
If you are receiving tea, then it is customary to prepare an hongbao. So for the Bride and Groom, this will be for younger siblings, cousins or any small children.
To help the process run smoothly, here are some helpful tips to note.
- Inform relatives on arrival time: Sometimes this happens where the information is not disseminated properly and a relative is not aware of what time the tea ceremony is held. A simple message like “Report at Hotel Ballroom B at 10.15am for tea ceremony.” is useful. So if your tea ceremony is starting at 10.30am, a 15 minute advance gathering time would be good.
- Have 1 person in charge of calling the next relative in line: This can be a parent or preferably someone familiar with the relatives and of the sequence oldest to the youngest. This helps facilitate the tea ceremony and get it going.
- Bridesmaids or Groomsmen can assist Bride and Groom with the rotation of the tea cups (a small basin of water to rinse the cups to be refilled again is usually used or some people use paper cups with nice chinese designs on them too) and one trusted friend or family to help keep all the hongbao and gifts that the Bride and Groom will receive.
I hope I’ve covered everything and I’ll add more if I think of anything!