So you’ve decided to have a tea ceremony as part of your modern Chinese American wedding. This extremely popular tradition can be one of the many Chinese wedding traditions you’re incorporating into your big day, or it can stand alone as a way to honor your heritage in an otherwise Western wedding. During the tea ceremony, the couple honors their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other family elders by kneeling before them and serving tea while other family members watch. It’s a way to pay respect to your family and acknowledge their importance in your life even on a day that’s primarily focused on you and your partner. It also serves to unite the two families and show your partner’s parents accepting you as their own.
This article will walk you through what to say during your wedding tea ceremony, both while serving the tea and in opening and closing speeches. The importance of family is one of the biggest values in Chinese culture, so we applaud you for embracing this tradition on your wedding day.
What to Say to Your Parents
Serving tea to your parents can be one of the most emotional parts of the tea ceremony. Even though you may have been living independently for some time now, getting married and starting your own family demonstrates just how far you’ve come from being the little kid they needed to take care of, and you can bet they’ll be getting misty-eyed, too.
Before you serve them tea, you should thank your parents for the many years they spent raising you. This is also a great time to talk about lessons you’ve learned from them, specifically with regards to marriage and relationships — if you remember how they would dance together after dinner or snuggle up on the couch, talk about those memories and what they taught you about love.
What to Say to Your In-Laws
When serving your in-laws, make sure to thank them for welcoming and accepting you into their family. In performing the ceremony, you’re essentially embracing your partner’s parents as your own, so if both you and your in-laws are comfortable, you can use family kinship terms to address them.
What to Say to Everyone Served
For the other family elders you’ll be serving at your tea ceremony, the same general advice applies: thank them for their support throughout your life or for welcoming you into their family. Bring up a memory with them or a lesson they taught you.
One really important phrase that you’ll want to use for everyone receiving tea is “[Name or kinship term], please drink some tea.” This can be delivered in English or Chinese depending on what makes sense for your family, and it is said by the server while handing the cup to the receiver with both hands.
After the receiver drinks their tea, they will give their congratulations and blessings to the marriage, usually accompanied by a gift of red envelopes or jewelry. Make sure to thank them for this gift. If the gift is jewelry, it’s traditional to put it on immediately to show that the gift is appreciated and well received.
What to Say to Attendees
As you serve tea to your elders, your other family members — siblings, cousins, and even close family friends — will be in attendance to honor the tradition with you. Take some time at the beginning of the ceremony to welcome them and thank them for coming, and another moment to do so at the end. This is a smaller, more intimate gathering before the big ceremony, so you should mention how important it was that they could be there and how excited you are to share this experience with them.
While the tea ceremony traditionally involves a shorter guest list than the rest of the wedding, some couples choose to hold the ceremony as part of their wedding ceremony or reception and share the tradition with friends as well as family. If some of your tea ceremony attendees will be unfamiliar with the practice, it’s a great idea for you or a spokesperson to come out before the start of the ceremony and explain what’s about to happen and the symbolic meaning behind it. Alternatively or in addition, you can print an explanation on the wedding program so attendees have it to refer to during the ceremony as well.
What to Say to Your Attendants
Some instrumental contributors to the tea ceremony are the attendants, who are responsible for preparing the tea, handing it to the couple to serve to the elders, setting up the area, and helping receivers make it to their places. All in all, attendants (who are usually also the bridesmaids) ensure everything runs smoothly during the ceremony so you can focus on your family instead of logistics. In light of all they do for you, it’s a good idea to take a moment to thank your attendants and acknowledge their hard work either in your introduction to the ceremony or after it is over.
We hope this guide got your ideas flowing and made the thought of putting on a tea ceremony a little less daunting. Remember that this is just an outline and starting point – at the end of the day, your tea ceremony can be whatever you want it to be. As long as you’re honoring your family and feeling proud of your heritage, you’ve done everything right in our book.
More to Love: