How to Plan Your Multicultural Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony

As a cross cultural wedding planner I've had the unique pleasure of planning a Chinese Tea Ceremony for several of my clients. I've assisted in the case were I was working with two Chinese Americans and in a different case where I worked with a multicultural couple where the bride is Chinese and the Groom is Korean.

I'm excited to talk about the Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony because it remains the most popular request amongst my Chinese and Asian clients marrying into multicultural families.

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What is the Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony?

Dating back to the Tang Dynasty, the Chinese Wedding tea ceremony was originally called Cha Dao translated to "Way of Tea." The Chinese Wedding tea ceremony is a ceremonial act of showing respect and reverence to the parents of both the bride and groom. Using a gaiwan, the bride and groom serve tea to both sets of parents which symbolically unifies the two families. In Chinese customs, serving tea is a highly regarded social practice of displaying respect for one another. The serving of tea by the bride and groom is a way to thank their parents for all they've done to raise them and support them.

This age old tradition of performing the Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony starts with the bride privately serving tea to her relatives before the actual marriage takes place. Then after the vows have been exchanged for their wedding, the bride and groom will jointly hold a tea ceremony for the groom's parents.

As a multicultural wedding planner often times working with couples from different backgrounds, we've had to add a modern twist to how we perform the Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremonies to make sure that both cultures are integrated into their cross cultural wedding.

The Meaning

Did you get a chance to see the post on 'planning a Korean American ceremony'. The intentions and meaning behind the ceremony are very similar in nature. The Chinese Tea Wedding Ceremony is referred to as jing cha in Chinese, literally meaning, 'to respectfully offer tea.' A part of the ceremony is a gesture of deep and intentional well wishes for the newlyweds. The tea signifies love and loyalty as well as to wish the new happy couple a successful, prosperous and fruitful marriage.

What do you need for the Chinese Marriage Tea Ceremony?

  • Gaiwan (red preferred)

  • Sweet Tea or Favorite Tea

  • Tea cups if not using Gaiwan

  • Red envelopes

  • The most authentic traditional attire is Tang Suit and Hanfu

  • Host for translation and direction

According to Teasenz , there are a few details to keep in mind as you select the perfect Gaiwan for your weddin ceremony.

  • Color: Most Gaiwans and teapots are white. This isn't suitable for a wedding! Make sure to get one with a base color that is red on the outside. It's however no problem for the inside to be red.

  • Characters: avoid a gaiwan with the character "寿" which means longevity. Though the meaning is good, it's often displayed on items during a funeral. So avoid this character at all cost.

  • Symbols: Avoid tea cups with a single dragon or phoenix. Though these are creatures with a positive meaning they've to be displayed as a pair! Flower patterns are also great for weddings. At last, patterns aren't a necessity. Plain red teaware is also suitable.

What Should I Wear?

If you don’t go the traditional route of purchasing a Tang Suit or Hanfu then you’ll want to take the more modern approach. For the Bride, it's customary to wear red for the Tea Ceremony. In American culture, it's acceptable to wear red to weddings so if you don't want anyone stealing your thunder, you'll need to make a note of this. For this reason guests attending the Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony should be made aware of this ahead of time so they don't wear the wrong color.

The color black is also an acceptable color to wear to American weddings. However, please be aware that in some areas of China, black is considered bad luck and should be avoided.

How to Incorporate the Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony into Your Multicultural Wedding?

There is a very specific way to perform the Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony including rules on who stands where (Groom on the right and bride on the left) and the order in which the tea is to be served to the varying elders and relatives in the family.

In the modern Western style Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony, after the family has been served, the parents will present gifts and well wishes to the happy couple as a final gesture before the vows are exchanged. Gifts could be in the form of money or jewelry (it's been noted that if jewelry is received, it should be worn immediately to show appreciation) as was given in the dowry days. The red envelopes you see here are used to present the gifts. In some areas of China the red envelopes are called 'lai see' while in other areas in China they're known as 'hong bao.' You can receive up to $500 in gifts in a hong bao but this depends entirely on the family and what they chose to provide. Sometimes families will match a gift that may have been gifted on their wedding day by the bride and groom.

American Chinese/Korean Wedding

In my case where I work with couples from two different backgrounds, I help my clients blend the two cultures so they are inclusive of both sides. In the special case of my client, we arranged for a host to perform the Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony as groom is Korean. We wanted someone to help explain and translate the ceremony in English so that he and his side of the family could understand this very special tradition.

I like to incorporate the Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony before the actual Western style ceremony as most of my clients like to do this privately with just the closest family in attendance.

However, as a cross cultural planner I find that the most rewarding and the most impactful way to incorporate a tradition is to include all the guests invited to the wedding. It's important for both sides of the family to understand the new culture of the new family being brought into the fold. It's a way to enrich and introduce your extended family into YOUR new and unique story.

In Summary

The Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony is a highly revered tradition. For some people, this may not need to happen in your wedding story but for most that have a respect for the culture and the wishes of the parents, it's very important that you make every possible effort to incorporate this into your wedding. It might feel uncomfortable at first to make your non-Chinese partner a part of this custom but THAT is where the beauty lies. From the beginning it's important to introduce all key members from both sides of the family to your history so they can gain a better understanding of who you are. This will set the stage for when you decide to raise your children as a new family. It'll make it easier for the family to understand why you chose to make certain decisions as a married couple and as a new family.

So I encourage you to go out and Celebrate the Power of Your Story!

Need help planning your Chinese American Wedding? Fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch soon.

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