Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tea ceremony

Traditionally, according to my research, only the groom's family participates in the tea ceremony, which is performed more publicly. All elders are served, beginning with the parents, then oldest relatives to youngest, from aunts and uncles down to older siblings. I think the paternal side goes before the maternal side, so for us I guess it will be his maternal grandmother (since the paternal ones are no longer around), paternal aunt and uncle, maternal aunts and uncles. Since he is the oldest child, it will just end there.

The bride serves her parents and elders tea by herself (w/o the groom or help from a 'lucky' woman) before the groom picks her up. This serves as a thank you for raising her before she bids adieu to her family. It seems like the bride's family gets shafted in this aspect (what, no public respect is due for them?!) but if you really think about it, the bride's family is spared the expense of buying jewelry or giving out gifts (usually in the form of money) and instead, they get portions of the pig and pastries that the groom delivers in exchange for her.

It seems though, nowadays, once the groom gains admittance to the bride's home, everyone eats one meal (considered the bride's last meal at home) together and the bride and groom serve tea to all the elders again. And I think there is now the giving of gifts (so they're not spared that expense but at least they get extra food?).

I'm not sure how this will pan out for us since I don't plan on doing the door games to "win" the bride from the protection of the maidens. My excuse is to not break the tradition of viewing the bride before the ceremony. Otherwise, I've heard of ppl who first serve tea to the bride's parents (and all her relatives) in her home after the groom does the games thing. Then they go to the groom's house and serve tea to parents and elders. I guess that makes more sense for ppl who don't have a church ceremony b/c that takes up a lot of time. However, I do know of ppl who've done both (traveling between the 2 homes and then going to church) and that saves them from doing the ceremony during cocktail hour.

I was thinking of doing the entire tea ceremony thing the night before (it'd be way easier if we did this at a hotel since we live in 2 different boroughs, 25 miles apart, about an hour's drive, depending on traffic). The only question is when to fit that in since there will be rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, plus I think this makes it inconvenient for the relatives who have to specially schedule in this extra bit, as opposed to being at the cocktail hour/banquet anyway (though if they go to the rehearsal dinner, they'll be there anyway).

One other idea I had was to make the tea ceremony a part of the reception, out on the dance floor so that it serves as entertainment as well (instead of those silly games). I guess someone could narrate what's going on but I think it'd be pretty boring: "Here the couple is pouring tea to first aunt and uncle. Here they are pouring tea for second aunt and uncle...." Maybe to toss things up a little, the narrator can describe what the gift is (though that can also embarass the giver, but maybe that's a perk? :D). The only slightly interesting thing about this would be an explanation of the history and reason for things:

Bride and groom are bedecked in the traditional red bridal costumes (for me, not the exact traditional thing b/c I don't want to wear the pajama-like qua and instead opt for the body-hugging qipao and I doubt that fiance would want to wear anything but a tux). The narrator can point out the phoenix and dragon embroidered on my dress, Chinese marriage symbols the phoenix being a mythical bird-like creature that represents the wife and the dragon representing the husband. Somewhere along the continuum of my Chinese education, I kinda remember learning about the joining of the phoenix to the dragon as something great -- a "match made in heaven" so to speak. Of course, I could be making this up, but who will correct me? ;D Anyway, the narrator can also elaborate on how tea is like the national drink of Chinese ppl, how serving it is a sign of respect (hence youngest male should always serve it when dining out), and how the teacup must be held with two hands. There is a 'lucky woman,' supposedly designated by the fortune teller, who helps move the process along by pouring the tea, setting it on a tray and passing it to the couple. Also, the bride and groom kneel while the ppl being served are seated in chairs. I think they address each person by rank (like first aunt on father's side) as they serve. In return, the bride and groom receive gifts of gold and money in red envelopes. I've seen ppl put all sorts of jewelry (often necklaces and bracelets, not so much earrings) on the couple and also putting the red envelopes on the tray that the tea is served on so that the couple seemingly don't touch the gifts at all (not sure what the reason is for this). And after this, it'd be the boring roll call....

5 comments:

Plumsauce said...

From what I have seen in Chinese tea cerremonies, the gifts of jewellery are worn immediately, for a certain amt of time i.e. before getting to the church etc. or else more traditional members will be offended. The bride usually ends up looking like Mr. T. Maybe look into that b/c you don't wanna look like Mr. T during your own reception. :)

catwomannyc said...

hi,

i am not sure doing tea ceremony at the reception is a good idea. usually non-chinese guests are surprised by this tradition and they don't necessarily think positively about the bride & groom kneeling down to pay their respect. also, it does get boring and it is kind of embarrassing for the gift givers to have their gifts called out. probably would be a better idea to do it at the privacy of your own homes.

sam k said...

Cynthia (my sister) did the tea ceremony at the reception. It did not have to be narrated, people just watched. If done that way, it's a source of entertainment. I preferred to do it at home before the ceremony, because I didn't have issues with Jon seeing me before the wedding. And I like it private. We served tea to both his family and mine (everyone, except for cousins).

I think you should adopt the tradition to whatever makes sense for you.

KAB (Korean Adoptee Bride) said...

I also heard that the tea ceremony cannot be done the night before. That's what we were hoping for, but it doesn't kind of make sense; if it is the ceremonail tradition for getting married then it should happen on the actual wedding day.

I know lots of people who have done the tea ceremony at the banquet site, not as entertainment while everyone watches, but before the bulk of the guests arrive, in the cocktail hour before the food and introductions, etc. I think it probably would be boring to watch.

KAB (Korean Adoptee Bride) said...

I also heard that the tea ceremony cannot be done the night before. That's what we were hoping for, but it doesn't kind of make sense; if it is the ceremonail tradition for getting married then it should happen on the actual wedding day.

I know lots of people who have done the tea ceremony at the banquet site, not as entertainment while everyone watches, but before the bulk of the guests arrive, in the cocktail hour before the food and introductions, etc. I think it probably would be boring to watch.