Singaporebrides | Weddings 101

June 2020

The Essential Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony Guide

Ace your Chinese wedding tea ceremony with this essential guide on the meaning behind this age-old tradition and what you need to prepare for your tea ceremony.

An essential for every Chinese wedding, the Chinese tea ceremony is arguably one of the most important wedding traditions in the Chinese culture. It represents the formal introduction of the newlyweds to their families and shows their respect and gratitude towards them. In return, the newlyweds are welcomed into the family and receive blessings for their union.

To help you understand this time-honoured tradition and prepare for your own tea ceremony, we’ve put together an essential guide on everything you need to know about the Chinese wedding tea ceremony.

The Purpose of The Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony

For most couples, the Chinese wedding tea ceremony (敬茶) is where they get to meet most or all of their respective family members. Therefore, the tea ceremony serves as a formal introduction of the newlyweds to their respective families where they pay their respects by addressing their elders by their formal titles and serving them a cup of tea, and receive blessings for their union and an official welcome into the family.

When and Where Is It Held?

Jessica and Jun Wen’s Cosy Wedding at Arbora at Faber Peak by Knotties Frame

The Chinese tea ceremony usually takes place on the day of the wedding in the homes of the bride and groom respectively. The groom’s family should always be served first, so the tea ceremony for his family is usually held in the morning after he has fetched her home. The tea ceremony for the bride’s family will then take place in the afternoon when she has returned home from visiting the groom’s place.

Alternatively, some couples choose to combine both sessions of tea ceremony into one and hold it at a later time at their wedding venue to have more time to themselves in the morning. There is no right or wrong way to conduct your tea ceremony. As long as both families are agreeable and you remember to start with the groom’s family first, both options are acceptable.

Who Is Involved In The Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony?

Amanda and Stephen’s Elegant Chinoiserie Wedding at The St. Regis Singapore by Andri Tei Photography

The guest list for your tea ceremony can be as short or as long as you want it to be. As the tea ceremony serves as a formal introduction to your families, all your family members are expected to be present. However, some couples choose to keep the tea ceremony an intimate and simple one by inviting only their immediate family members and elders in their extended family.

What Do You Need For The Tea Ceremony?

Si Ling and David’s Modern Peranakan Wedding at EMPRESS by Kelly Fan from Studiokel Photography

If you are hosting your tea ceremony separately, then you should prepare two sets of tea set and tea at your respective houses. Remember the tea set included in your dowry during your Guo Da Li ceremony? That tea set will be used to served tea to the groom’s family during the tea ceremony, while your mother’s own wedding tea set will be used for the ceremony for your family. If there isn’t one, you can choose to get a new one that is meant for weddings, or a non-wedding tea set that you like.

Although any type of tea can be used during the tea ceremony, sweet tea is usually preferred because it symbolises happiness in the newlywed’s union and fosters good relations between them and their in-laws. For additional blessings, brew the tea with lotus seeds, red dates and longan to bestow the newlywed’s union with fertility and plenty of offsprings.

Typically, the groom’s sister, a female relative or someone from the bride’s bridal party will assist in the pouring and serving of the tea on the tray, as well as the rinsing or washing of the cups. You should also prepare a basin of warm water to rinse the cups used during the tea ceremony if you do not have access to a sink or time to wash the cups thoroughly before the next person’s turn. You should also assign a few more helpers to help with managing the flow of people and events during the tea ceremony for a fuss-free process.

What Should You Wear For The Tea Ceremony?

Amanda and Jon’s Beautiful Wedding at The Clifford Pier by Louis Gan & Yung Yaw of Munkeat Studios

For brides who are having one session of tea ceremony for both sides of their families, they may choose to put on a traditional Qua or a cheongsam for a more modern look for their tea ceremony. If you are having two separate tea ceremonies, then you’ll likely be in your wedding gown for the tea ceremony for your husband’s family and in a Qua or cheongsam for yours.

What Happens During The Chinese Tea Ceremony

Soh Fia and Joshua’s Charming Wedding at Furama Riverfront and Chjimes Hall by Colossal Weddings

During the tea ceremony, you and your partner will take turns to serve your relatives a cup of tea in order of their seniority in the family. You should serve your paternal relatives tea followed by your maternal relatives, in order of their seniority in the family, in this order:

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

However, some families may prefer to start by serving the parents first and that’s perfectly fine. While serving them tea, you should hold the cup with both hands and address them by their formal titles in the family to show your respect while saying ‘Please drink tea’ in the language or dialect your relative uses most.

If you’re unsure of what your relatives’ formal titles are, don’t panic! We’ve created an easy-to-understand and downloadable family tree chart you can refer to find out what your relatives’ formal titles are.

SingaporeBrides Chinese Family Tree Relationship ChartClick here to download

In return, your relatives will gift you with either a red packet or jewellery to bless your union and welcome you officially into the family. For younger siblings and relatives, you’ll be seated and they’ll be required to serve you tea while addressing you by your formal titles in the family. In return, you’ll gift them with a red packet to thank and bless them.

Bonus Tips!

Do assign a person from your bridal party to help with the collection of ang baos and gifts that you’ll be receiving during the tea ceremony as you’ll be busy paying your respects to your relatives to keep track of them yourselves. Lastly, for hygiene purposes, you may choose to use disposable cups for the tea ceremony or get more of the same cups so that you have more time to wash them thoroughly between each use.

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 Cindy and Stan’s Stunning Wedding at Changi Cove Hotel’s Command House by Ivan Seah Photography

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The Essential Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony Guide