Wedding Day Recap, Pt 3 – Chinese Tea Ceremony

(Disclaimer: as I am not Chinese, some of the things I write below may be incorrect. Please correct me if I’m wrong! And, as always, all photos are courtesy of our wonderful photographer Danny Weiss.)

The Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony between the couple and the groom’s family is designed to formally introduce the bride to the groom’s family. It is probably, if not, the most significant part of a modern Chinese wedding.

Traditionally, the tea ceremony takes place early in the morning of the wedding. Although the ceremony is usually performed at the groom’s home, we decided that shuttling everyone to and from New Jersey would take up too much time and money. As a result, Mr Peony’s family set shop in a suite in the same hotel where the bridal party got ready.

Mr Peony’s uncle, waiting patiently for the ceremony to begin:

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The tea set is traditionally purchased by the bride’s family as part of her dowry. It is meant to be a meaningful keepsake, to be used again when the bride’s future daughter gets married.

Unfortunately, my family knew none of this. As a result, my MIL generously purchased for us an extravagant tea set that was hand-painted and gilded with real gold.

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The tea used in a traditional wedding ceremony contains lotus seeds and red dates as they are homophones in the Chinese language. “Lotus” sounds similar to “year”, “seed” to “child”, and “date” to “early”. In other words, the tea is meant to get us crackin’ to start making babies ASAP!

The sweet tea also holds another meaning: the sweetness is meant to symbolize the sweet relations the bride will have with her new family.

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Chairs are set for the elders, and the bride and groom kneel while serving them tea. The first to be served are the groom’s parents, and afterward, the oldest living relatives to the youngest in age order.

Here we are, serving tea to Mr Peony’s parents:

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The elders in turn gifted us with words of wisdom, money in red packets, and/or jewelry.

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Mr Peony’s cousin not only helped us serve the tea, she helped put on all the jewelry I received that day.

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This necklace was my favorite. It was given to my MIL by her grandmother when she herself got married. It is the oldest piece of jewelry she owns, and she gave it to me!

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The ceremony continued, with Mr Peony’s aunt and uncle…

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Then his uncle…

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In-between sets, Mr Peony would whisper to me what I should say and how I should address each elder in Chinese:

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I love this picture of Mr Peony:

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When the time came to close my wrists were starting to get heavy…

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And the bridal party was starting to get restless…

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Luckily Mr Peony’s family is not large. I have heard that some tea ceremonies last for hours, with the bride being covered head to toe with jewelry at the end!

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One final word about the jewelry received during the tea ceremony: these, for obvious reasons, are not meant to be everyday jewelry. They are meant to be kept in a safe place just in case the bride and groom fall into financial difficulties later down the road. If the bride and groom have no need to ever sell them (knock on wood), the jewelry is to be passed down to their children at their own weddings.

Next up: getting ready, part two!

BLOGGER

Mrs. Peony

Location:
New York
Wedding Date:
April 2008
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comments

  1. Member
    dorsay 2281 posts, Buzzing bee @ 5:43 pm

    I love learning about customs in other cultures, thanks for sharing Peony!

  2. Member
    HappiJoyce 72 posts, Worker bee @ 5:51 pm

    Great pictures Mrs. Peony. Everything you wrote about the chinese tea ceremony sounded right. When my brother, sister, and my cousins got married, each of the tea ceremonies took about 1.5 – 2 hours. That’s because my grandmother from my dad side had 9 children! So, the couple not only had to serve teas to those uncles/aunts, they also had to serve teas to my cousins who were older than them. And of course, whoever was younger than the couple also get to serve tea to the couple also. Luckily, my brother, sister, and my cousins married into families that didn’t have a lot of uncles, aunts, or cousins. Imagine how much longer it’d be! Whee!

    I am contemplating whether or not to do it also. I’m getting married in Maui and most of the family may not be going (they’re all in SF Bay Area.)

    I love your qipao!

  3. Guest Icon Guest
    lobster girl, Guest @ 5:57 pm

    What a great tradition. Those are great pictures. I especially like the one of Mr. P wispering names into your ear. Beautiful!!

  4. Guest Icon Guest
    Ashley, Guest @ 6:01 pm

    What a beautiful ceremony. And how nice everything looked. It looks like you indeed got off to a sweet start with your husband’s family.

  5. Member
    frenchbulldog 1088 posts, Bumble bee @ 6:07 pm

    The Tea Service your MIL bought is beautiful! I also love the picture of Mr Peony whispering in your ear – so sweet :)

  6. Guest Icon Guest
    honeymyheart, Guest @ 6:29 pm

    all of the photos are beautiful, you look beautiful, and the ceremony looks beautiful. it seems like a very fun tradition to participate in :)

  7. Member
    smileybride 13 posts, Newbee @ 6:58 pm

    i’m in the same boat as you, mrs. peony! i’m korean and the fi is chinese. we’re doing the tea ceremony at his parents’ house the day of the wedding. unlike you, he has so many family member that it will probably take forever!
    beautiful qipao! love the pictures!
    p.s. you may answer this question in one of your future posts, but just wondering if you did the korean paebaek ceremony? i’m still debating if i still want to do it, considering it is a formal introduction of the bride and groom to the groom’s family only. and being that he’s chinese… shrug… any feedback would be appreciated! =)

  8. Member
    tiramisu 1091 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:26 pm

    This was really neat to read about- thanks!

    And as always you look gorgeous :)

  9. Member
    seabreeze 972 posts, Busy bee @ 7:30 pm

    What a cool tradition. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Member
    taffy 3081 posts, Sugar bee @ 8:29 pm

    Thanks for sharing the details of the ceremony, in words and pictures! Your photographer really captured the details. :)

  11. Member
    hotcocoa 2098 posts, Buzzing bee @ 10:39 pm

    This was a great explanation, Peony! We’re serving tea to both Mr. HC and my family; his family’s Jewish, but they are looking forward to it probably even more than mine. They’ve already bought their red envelopes!

  12. Member
    magnolia 253 posts, Helper bee @ 11:27 pm

    Your pictures are gorgeous, Mrs. Peony – as is your new jewelry!

  13. Guest Icon Guest
    Rocío, Guest @ 8:36 am

    I love your traditions and your dress too.. Also, I’m a tea lover can I have your tea recipe? =D

  14. Guest Icon Guest
    turtlie, Guest @ 7:38 pm

    My mom dug out that exact same teaset when I was home doing our wedding planning! Your ceremony looked wonderful…I only hope ours goes so well! =)

  15. Member
    avocado 1538 posts, Bumble bee @ 4:21 pm

    I didn’t know that about the jewelery. Thanks for adding a little bit of cultural explanation with your beautiful photos.

  16. Guest Icon Guest
    von, Guest @ 11:14 pm

    Your Qipao looks amazing on you.

    I’m not sure of the formal traditions but here we have the tea ceremony for families of both the bride and groom. The groom picks the bride up from her place (after some haggling from the BMs) goes back to his place for the tea ceremony and some food then back to her place for the tea ceremony.

    It’s kind of to introduce the groom to the bride’s family and vice versa. Also to show respect for the elders and to show that he/she is joining the family. Something along those lines.

  17. Member
    yookie 45 posts, Newbee @ 3:43 pm

    Oh wow I just love this. What a cool tradition.

  18. Guest Icon Guest
    yuzhen, Guest @ 8:18 am

    Hi Mrs.Peony!I’m also Chinese but I don’t live in China. I just want to ask you clarify : the tea ceremony is after the groom’s door games/fetch you,but before the wedding proper at the church?thank you!kinda got confused at the pictures part1-3 hehe

  19. Guest Icon Guest
    BananaPants, Guest @ 4:03 pm

    Where are you?! I want to see more! :)

  20. Guest Icon Guest
    Wedding Day Recap, Pt 4 - Getting Ready All Over Again » Weddingbee » The Wedding Blog, Guest @ 9:35 am

    [...] the Chinese Tea Ceremony, the bridal party separated once again so that I could change from my qipao to my wedding gown. [...]

  21. Member
    PrincessPanda 19 posts, Newbee @ 10:57 am

    I love this! I’ve already purchased my tea-set :-) Hope my MIL likes it. Mr. Panda does.

  22. Guest Icon Guest
    Elizabeth Vipond, Guest @ 7:28 am

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful ceremony. I am so very blessed to have shared your experience. As a Westerner I wish we had more layers to these important events.

  23. Member
    Amanda@Chinese Wedding 33 posts, Newbee @ 11:26 pm

    The tea set is full of distinct Chinese characteristics: red double happiness symbol, phoenix and dragon pattern and gold color.

  24. Guest Icon Guest
    Traditions. « Through the Looking Glass, Guest @ 9:27 pm

    [...] end for the wedding, replete with all the information from my extensive Googling.  Should we do a Chinese tea ceremony?  Should I wear a qipao?   Do we need to hire people to do a Lion Dance and set off firecrackers [...]

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    Chinese Tea Ceremony | Weddingbee « frank wedding, Guest @ 11:28 am

    [...] Wedding Day Recap, Pt 3 – Chinese Tea Ceremony | Weddingbee. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Tags: tea ceremony [...]

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    Chinese Tea Cozy – Rattan | COFFEE TEA REVIEWS, Guest @ 7:32 pm

    [...] Festive Gift Ideas for Tea LoversA Globe Of Its Individual; A Chinese Tea ShopA Globe Of Its Own; A Chinese Tea Shop – Green Tea Fat BurnerFind the Right Tea for YouWedding Day Recap, Pt 3 – Chinese Tea Ceremony [...]

  27. Guest Icon Guest
    Petit, Guest @ 12:01 pm

    Great pictures and great article.Thanks

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