Chinese Wedding Customs: A Guide to the Chinese Tea Ceremony

Are you planning a Chinese tea ceremony? Maybe you’ve been invited to one. Or maybe there is a ceremony going on in the next room and you’re frantically Googling what you’re supposed to do.

The Chinese tea ceremony is an important tradition for every Chinese couple to go through on their wedding day. While the ceremony in itself can seem quite laidback, the sheer amount of behind the scenes planning can be quite overwhelming. Here, we break down this important ritual for you.

Quick disclaimer: every family and couple is different! While the following information can be taken as general guidelines, it is good to keep in mind that certain families might choose to hold the ceremony differently. Traditions have changed over time, and the tea ceremony should reflect the values of the family.

1. Significance of Chinese Tea Ceremony

The Chinese tea ceremony serves as a formal introduction of the couple to their families, and allows the couple to pay their respects and show gratitude to their families for loving and raising them. In turn, the families will bless the couple's union and welcome them into the family.

 
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2. What to Wear During the Ceremony

During the Chinese tea ceremony, most brides would choose to wear a Qun Kua, otherwise known as the Chinese wedding gown. Kuas tend to be heavily embroidered with gold and silver thread; the more elaborate the embroidery, the less red you’ll see. In the past, the amount of embroidery on the kua symbolised how wealthy the family was.

It isn’t clear when the Kua started to grow in popularity to become The Chinese wedding gown. It is believed that it originated from Guangdong, China, but records have traced it back to both the Ming Dynasty (1369-144) or the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912).

Look closely at a kua, and you might be able to spot several motifs popping up on them. These motifs all have different meanings, and depending on the design of the kua (no two kuas are the same!), they could symbolise different things for the couple.

The most popular motifs would be the dragon and phoenix, as they symbolise perfect harmony between yin (female) and yang (male) forces, and used to be symbols of royalty as well.

A pair of mandarin ducks is also very popular, as they tend to mate for life and thus represent fidelity.

 
 

3. Tea Ceremony: Steps & Etiquette

Traditionally, once the groom has picked his new bride up from her place, the first tea ceremony is held at the groom’s house in the morning. There is then a second tea ceremony at the bride’s house.

The couple is expected to serve tea to the elders in the family and is served tea by the younger siblings. The relatives will be served according to seniority, and the couple should serve the male relative before the female relative.

The couple should also be kneeling in front of their relatives on top of red cushions. The groom will be on the right side while the bride will be on the left. Female relatives should sit themselves in front of the groom while male relatives sit themselves in front of the bride.

The order in which to serve the family is:

  • Parents

  • Grandparents

  • Uncles/Aunties

  • Elder siblings

  • Elder cousins (if present)

  • Younger siblings

  • Nephews/nieces

 
 

It’s important to note that some families might prefer for the grandparents to be served first!

While serving tea, severing ettiquette should be observed, both to ensure respect and that nobody gets injured if the tea cup is too hot.

  • The tea should be served with two hands holding the saucer and while bowing slightly forward. Relatives shouldn’t have to move or stand up to receive the tea.

  • If receiving the tea, make sure to hold the saucer instead of the cup as it may be hot

  • The most traditional way to drink the tea is to use the saucer to move the cup close to your mouth and then drink

  • Once they've drank the tea, take back the cup with two hands by holding the saucer.

After each round of tea servings, gifts will usually be given to the couple, either in the form of money or jewellery. The tea ceremony is completed once all the relatives from both families have been served.

4. Where to Buy Chinese Kua

It is easy to tell the difference between a machine made kua, and one that was made by hand. Here at CCM Wedding, you can rent beautiful handmade kuas for both you and your husband at an affordable rate. For more information, why not book an appointment with us and see the Chinese wedding gown up close and personal?

christie choi