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The Ultimate

Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony Guide

Maid of Honor approved. Plan your wedding tea ceremony today.

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What is a tea ceremony?

The tea ceremony is a common wedding tradition in Chinese culture when the bride and groom pay their respects and show their gratitude towards their parents, new in-laws, and elders by serving them tea. In turn, their families will give their blessings to the newlyweds by gifting them “hong baos” (red envelopes with money).

Tea Ceremony Timeline

Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony Cheongsam Dress and Qipao

5-6 Months

Scope out a venue Reach out to potential places to host your tea ceremony. Make sure they can accommodate all your guests and provide additional supplies (chairs, cups, tables, etc.). Ask if they have a place for you to get ready so you can also plan accordingly.

Decide what to wear There are many wedding qipaos/cheongsam styles. If you want something modern and high quality, check out our collection of cheongsams. Order your wedding cheongsam early and leave yourself with more buffer time for any alterations. If you don't want to wear a qipao, consider a simple red dress since red is a lucky color in Chinese culture.

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Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony Invitation Cards

3-4 months

Send in your dress measurements & accessorize If you're going with a custom size wedding qipao, make sure to complete your measurements in time to make your qipao. Pair your cheongsam with a hairpin, gold jewelry etc.

Finalize your guest list and send out invitations While your relatives might already expect to be at the tea ceremony, you can still send out cute Asian-inspired invitations to formally invite them.

Book the venue Nice venues get reserved quickly so be sure to lock down your tea ceremony location.

Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony Decoration and Supplies

1-2 Months

Purchase decorations & tea ceremony supplies You'll need a tea pot, tray, tea, enough tea cups, kneeling pillows, decorations, and any thing else you want to include (extra red envelopes, etc.)

Assign roles to your bridal party Typically, the Maid of Honor will hold the tray and tea cups next to the bride & groom during the tea ceremony. The rest of the bridal party can help set up the venue/ decorate.

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Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony Red Envelopes

Day Before

Print out your guest list Familiarize yourself with the order in which you're serving.

Practice the etiquette and the script Run through the motions and practice saying your relatives' names and the phrase "Please drink the tea." in Chinese.

Pack everything you need the night before So you're ready to go the next day and only have to worry about getting ready and setting up the venue.

Tea Ceremony Planning Cheat Sheet

1. Decide when & where to have it 

Choose a large enough venue such as a hotel/restaurant, the bride or groom's family home, or even a beautiful outdoor park. Host it the day before the wedding ceremony, during the rehearsal dinner/cocktail hour, or even the day after the wedding.

2. Decide what to wear 

The most important and time-consuming decision you'll make! Typically, the bride wears a red cheongsam/qipao dress with a mandarin collar. For the groom, either a simple tux or a more traditional robe/garment will pair nicely.

3. Make your guest list & determine the order

The list should include both your grandparents, parents, uncles & aunts, older cousins, and any other elders you wish to serve. Traditionally, the eldest and the groom's family is served first, but it's common to alternate between both families for each round.

4. Purchase tea supplies & decorations

Anything from large double happiness backdrops, red lanterns, table cloth, flowers to roll out red carpets can help spice up the venue. The most common teas to serve are oolong, black, and puerh tea, but ask your parents and relatives what their favorite teas are!

5. Practice the etiquette and setup in advance

For the setup - place two chairs or a bench, some kneeling pillows, and a table nearby to hold all the supplies (teapot, cups, tea, etc.). Remember to hold the cups with both hands and practice saying the lines in Chinese if you're planning to!

Common Questions about the Tea Ceremony

  • What is a Chinese tea ceremony?

    The tea ceremony is a common wedding tradition in Asian cultures when the bride and groom pay their respects and show their gratitude towards their parents, new in-laws, and elders by serving them tea. In turn, their families will give their blessings to the newlyweds by gifting them “hong baos” (red envelopes with money).
  • What do you wear for a wedding tea ceremony?

    Typically, the bride wears a floor or ankle-length red cheongsam (qipao) dress featuring a mandarin collar. A more traditional Chinese wedding dress you can wear is the qun kwa. The groom will typically wear a tux or suit to match or opt to wear a more traditional brocade jacket (changshan). For wedding cheongsam ideas, check out our guide here.
  • When & where do you host the Chinese tea ceremony? How long does it last?

    Traditionally, the tea ceremony was held at the family home of the bride or groom, but it's also common nowadays to host the tea ceremony at a restaurant, hotel, or at a beautiful outdoor park/pagoda. Check out this article for ideas on where to host your tea ceremony.
  • What order do you serve in?

    Usually your parents are served tea first, followed by your grandparents and then the rest of the extended family (uncles/aunties, elder siblings, elder cousins) in order of seniority. The groom’s family typically goes first followed by the bride’s, but you can also choose to alternate families between rounds.
  • Do both the bride and groom serve tea?

    Yes! The groom kneels on the right and serves the tea first while the bride kneels on the left and goes after. Both the bride and groom serve tea to the same person.
  • What do you say when you're serving tea?

    You refer to the relative by their relationship to you and say, "Mom, please drink the tea." Typically, this is said in Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese). You can refer to our Chinese relatives names 101 guide for help.
  • Who holds the tea? How much tea and how many cups are needed?

    Your Maid of Honor will stand next to the bride and groom and hold the tea cups filled with tea on a serving tray. After each round, the Maid of Honor will bring over a new set of tea cups filled with tea. You should allocate 4 cups per couple you serve (or 2 cups per person you serve) and have enough tea to make 3 pots of tea.
  • What are the red envelopes for?

    Red envelopes are gifted to the couple by your elders after each serving. It's both a symbol of blessing to the newlyweds and also a practical gift filled with cash inside.

Tips from Brides

Both the bride and groom will take turns serving the same person. Each person served will be drinking 2 cups of tea so don't pour too much tea into each cup!

Jess

You'll need a lot of cups (4 per couple you serve) for the ceremony! Plan on either having someone rinse and bring out new cups after each round or using disposable cups.

Michelle

You'll need a place to store all the red envelopes you'll be gifted from your elders during the tea ceremony. Have your Maid of Honor help keep them somewhere safe.

Vivian