Yesterday I had the honor of facilitating a Chinese tea ceremony. I've performed wedding ceremonies before where the tea ceremony was taken privately in a separate room after the wedding. However, yesterday it was actually included in the wedding ceremony.
To give you some background, the serving of tea to guests is an important part of the Chinese culture and shows respect. In a wedding, this serving is an act of respect and gratitude to the parents for the many years of love and care given to the couple. The tea itself is the symbol of purity, stability and fertility.
The first recorded tea ceremony dates back to the Tang Dynasty more than 1200 years ago. Over the generations, the ceremony has morphed into several versions. But regardless of the 'version', it is a formal introduction of the couple to the other's family.
Sometimes the groom's family is served in the morning, with the bride often being whisked to the groom's home even before daylight. Then the bride's family will be served after the groom's family or they may wait until the afternoon after the wedding vows have been exchanged. This service can also extend beyond immediate family to even aunts and uncles.
The tea set is always purchased by the bride's family and is a part of her dowry and will become an heirloom to be used for her daughter. The parents (or other family) are seated in chairs; the couple serves the tea while kneeling on pillows. The bride will say to the groom's parents: I am now your family; I am now your daughter. Then the couple will receive a red envelope from the parents (containing money) or jewelry (which they should wear immediately).
After this exchange the couple bows to the parents twice. Once to say thank you to the mother and father for raising the groom and the second bow is to wish the father and mother a long and healthy life. This process is then repeated for the bride's family at the chosen time.
My most recent wedding ceremony was two grooms, one of whom was Chinese and we made the tea ceremony a part of the actual wedding. After the kiss, chairs and pillows were placed at the alter, the parents were served tea, words, sentiments and the red envelopes were exchanged as mentioned above. Then to close, the grooms turned and faced their guests, bowed and said, "Thank you friends and family for joining us today and for supporting us."
It was beautiful and the guests were very pleased to be included this time-honored tradition.
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