Singaporebrides | Weddings 101

November 2015

The Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony Guide

The Chinese tea ceremony (敬茶) is a tradition that every Chinese couple must go through when they wed. Find out the significance of this long-standing tradition and what you need for your own wedding tea ceremony.

A quintessential tradition for every Chinese wedding, the Chinese tea ceremony is an age-old tradition that represents the formal introduction of the couple to their respective families and demonstrates respect to their families for all the years of love and care.

When and Where is the Tea Ceremony Held?

A Rustic-Retro Garden Destination Wedding by TY Lim & Kitoki from Mocco Photography

The Chinese tea ceremony is usually held on the same day as the wedding at the couples’ respective homes. Tea ceremony for the groom’s relatives is usually done in the morning after the groom has fetched the bride home to his place, while tea ceremony for the bride’s side is held in the afternoon, after she returns home from the groom’s place.

Some couples may choose to have the tea ceremony for both families before dinner reception commences at the hotel. In cases like this, the groom’s family will be served tea before the bride’s in a private room. This option may be good for couples whose relatives may not be able to make it early in the morning.

Tea Ceremony Necessities

The Greatest Adventure of John and Sher by Jonathan Ong // Visual Storytelling

Two sets of wedding tea sets and sweet tea with or without herbs are staples in every Chinese tea ceremony. Tea will be served to the groom’s family and relatives using the tea set in the bride’s dowry (嫁妆), given to her by her parents during the Guo Da Li (过大礼) ceremony, while her mother’s own wedding tea set will be used for the ceremony for her side. The tea set included in the bride’s dowry is a keepsake from her parents and will someday be used for the same tradition in her daughter’s wedding.

Sweet tea is usually used during tea ceremonies because it symbolises happiness in the newlywed’s marriage and fosters good relations between them and their in-laws. Herbs like lotus seeds and red dates may be added to the tea because the Chinese pronunciation is synonymous to blessing the couple with plentiful of offsprings.

The groom’s sister, the bride’s bridal party or a female relative will assist in the pouring and serving of the tea on the tray, and rinsing the used cups in a basin of warm water before serving the next relative.

The Tea Ceremony

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The couple is typically required to serve tea to the elders in their family and is served tea by their younger siblings. Tea should be served to their relatives in order of sequence, starting from their grandparents and ending with their younger siblings, as a sign of respect for their place in the family. However, some families may require the couple to serve tea to their parents before their grandparents.

Traditionally, the couple serves tea to their elders while kneeling in front of them. But some families only require them to kneel before their grandparents and parents, and simply bow before their relatives during the ceremony.

Here’s the order you should serve tea to your relatives:

  • Grandparents
  • Parents
  • Uncles/Aunties (in order of seniority)
  • Elder Siblings
  • Elder Cousins (if present)
  • Younger Siblings
  • Nieces and Nephews (if present)

Other than serving their relatives tea in order of their seniority, the couple should also bear in mind to serve tea to their paternal relatives before their maternal ones. During the tea ceremony, the groom should be on the right with the bride on the left side. Female relatives should seat themselves across from the groom while male relatives are seated in front of the bride.

Gifts, in the form of red packets or jewellery, will be presented to the couple during the ceremony. These gifts are either placed on the tea tray to be kept by the maid of honor or best man, or worn by the couple in the case of jewellery.

Learn more about other essential Chinese wedding traditions and how to prepare for them, including where you can shop for your Guo Da Li (过大礼) items and Xi Bing (喜饼).

Credits: Feature Image from To Love and To Cherish by Multifolds Photography.