Tea is a very integral part of Chinese culture and the ceremony surrounding its preparation and serving is an interesting event to witness. The wedding Tea Ceremony is the most auspicious tea ceremony of all as no Chinese wedding can be complete without it. This ceremony serves as an introduction of the bride to the groom’s family and is an intricate ritual filled with symbolism.
Preparation of the tea
There are many tea varieties in China. Usually the tea is prepared with red tea and infused with lotus tea and red dates placed directly in the tea pot. These additions are symbolic of fertility and the sweetness of the blushing bride and are believed to promote happiness between the two.
A small table is set up with the tea service including the tray with a tea pot and two tea cups. Sometimes a lotus flower and two cowrie shells are also placed on the table dignifying unity and prosperity for the couple.
The tea service
The ceremony usually takes place early in the morning as traditionally, the bride is received in her groom’s home before dawn. Women and men sit to the left and right respectively and the bride and groom kneel in front of them. With the assistance of the maid of honor, the couple serve tea in a delicate ceremony to the groom’s family. The order of service is parents, grandparents, great uncles and aunts, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters and finally married cousins. The bride and groom take their tea last, served by younger siblings or any unmarried cousins.
The relatives when served tea present gift tokens on a platter in the form of red envelopes or jewellery. A token is also given to the best maid for her assistance. The tea set also forms part of the couple’s wedding gifts. Modern variations include a second tea ceremony held for the bride’s family when they visit their in-laws home or at the bride’s home. Also, for hygiene purposes, the tea cups may be rinsed after serving each guest.
This elaborate ceremony is an ancient tradition passed down through generations and is a good way of preserving culture in a rapidly evolving society. It helps reinforce family values and the hierarchy and role of each member of the family. It also serves as a good forum to welcome a new bride into the family, the elders’ blessings and approval a good foundation for the marriage.