For many brides, incorporating cultural traditions on their wedding day is a way for them to honor their ancestors as well as preserve their heritage. The wedding tea ceremony has remained popular for Chinese-American couples and who have adapted it to western style wedding receptions.
Traditionally, the tea ceremony takes place early in the morning on the day of the wedding. Elders from both families gather at the home of the groom’s parents where the bride serves them tea. Today it is rare for both families to live in the same town, so to accommodate families that travel to the wedding, modern tea ceremonies sometimes take place shortly after the wedding ceremony. This way everyone who needs to attend can be there.
I took part in the tea ceremony for the first time. Apparently this is an honor because the bride is supposed to have by her side only the women who are considered good luck.
Here’s how it worked:
- The tea ceremony was held during the cocktail reception in a separate room at the hotel.
- Guests were seated in a circle, starting with the groom’s parents, then moving down the line of relatives starting with the eldest.
- The bride’s sister helped shuttle the tray with the little cups of tea from the serving station to the bride’s side while she and her groom served the tea to their relatives in turn.
- In addition to their blessings for the marriage, the relatives also prepared gifts for the bride and groom. My job was to collect these gifts for the bride. Most of them were red envelopes stuffed with cash. The groom’s parents gave the bride all kinds of gold jewelry as is tradition.
There were some tearful moments between the bride and her new son-in-law as well as humorous good wishes for lots and lots of babies. I can see why this is particular tradition remains popular today while things like dowries and betrothals have thankfully, not stood the test of time.