Being part of the traditional Chinese wedding, the tea ceremony plays a crucial part in signifying the formal introduction of the couple to their respective families and becoming relatives with each other. By serving tea to your family members, you are thanking them for bringing you up. As this is an important tradition, we would like to share our tips and procedures on how to go about it, and make it a smooth one on your big day.
Planning in advance
Approximately 1 week before your wedding day, it would be good to sit down with your parents to decide on who to serve to and in what order. It would be wise to also have a max cap on how many people you would be serving to, in order to avoid overrunning of schedule, missing auspicious timings or just spending too much time on this ceremony. Do also remember to print out the list you made, which can be used as reference to better coordinate the tea ceremony. Knowing their order, the relatives then can prepare their gifts and Ang Baos while waiting for their turn.
Preparation of tea Cups
As the tea cups can be rather hot, we would recommend the couple to hold them by the saucers and serve with both hands as a sign of respect. That way, you can avoid ruining your suit and dress if you were to accidentally drop it cause of the heat. Naturally, you would be feeling nervous or excited as this will be your first time, but these feelings could also cause your hands to shake and rattle the tea cups. Hence, do take a deep breath, remain relax and serve the tea to the elders while smiling and calling out their respective titles. If you have limited tea cups to cater to everyone, you can prepare a basin of warm water to rinse them after each use.
To kneel or not to
The biggest question is to kneel or not? In the past, it was customary for both the groom and bride to kneel during the tea ceremony. However, in modern times, it is also acceptable if the couple wishes to bow instead. We would advise the couple to kneel to their parents and grandparents as a sign of thanking them for bringing you up with love and care. However, do note that this is dependent on their wishes if they would like you to kneel or not. To avoid offending or displeasing any aunts and uncles, do inform them in advance about your wishes to bow instead. If you are intending to kneel for a long period of time, it would be advisable to prepare 2 red cushions to protect your knees.
Videography/ Photography Tips
We would recommend not to stack the chairs against the walls, but instead have some leg room behind them for the videographer or photographer to capture different angles during the tea ceremony. This will also give you more front shots of the couple serving the tea.
For most tea ceremonies, while it is normal for the chairs to be arranged in alignment, we would recommend to reposition them a little. By adjusting one chair slightly away from the other, the photographer would be able to capture the person sitting behind. However, as this is a traditional ceremony, some elder relatives might not be in favour of this arrangement. As such, it would be good to check with your parents and grandparents on this issue.
Procedures of the Tea Ceremony
For your tea ceremony, we would advise you to have the assistance of one “Fortune Woman” or MOH, along with two bridesmaids. The Fortune Woman or MOH will holding the tray with 4 prepared tea cups and will help with the collection of Ang Baos and gifts from the relatives. One bridesmaid will be tasked to hold the small tea pot used for refilling and she can also help with the rinsing of tea cups. The remaining bridesmaid will be tasked to make the Chinese tea and ensure that it does not run out in the small tea pot.
Once the Chinese tea has been prepared, the couple will kneel down while serving tea to their parents and grandparents. If the couple would only prefer to kneel for their parents and grandparents, they can bow for their other elder relatives instead. For the tea ceremony, the groom should be on the right, while the bride will be on his left. If you would prefer to strictly follow traditions, the elder male should sit in front of the groom, while the elder female will sit in front of the bride. Do take note that for each serving, the groom has to serve first before the bride takes her turn. It is also important to serve to the father before the mother, and that the serving should be done properly with both hands and while calling out the right family titles.