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How to Perform a Tea Ceremony

The Setup: Just like a Western wedding ceremony, the general rule is that the might be on bride the left and the groom on the right. Those family members served should sit in chairs facing the couple. If you opt to invite your guests to the ceremony, have them sit in chairs facing your elders or where everyone is able to see what's going on.


(Check with your family - It varies whether you will start with the Groom’s family first OR the Brides. It varies whether you start with the parents first OR the grandparents. Will you kneel at all? In some cases, kneeling is only needed for parents and grandparents – never for family members in the same generation such as older brothers, sisters and cousins).


If a living member of the elder couple is absent, the other will drink on behalf of the absent spouse. However, tea is not poured out for a deceased spouse.

TIPS

· Its best to have two trays, one for the clean cups and one for the dirty ones.

· Its best to have two tea pots so the tea is still warm for those at the end.

· Don’t fill the cups but fill at half level because they tend to sip rather than drink the whole cup.

· Serve tea with two hands holding the saucer and bow slightly forward (or kneel). Make sure parents don't have to move or stand up to receive it.

· Those receiving the tea should not hold the cup but the saucer as can be hot. It's recommended let everyone know this in advance. The most traditional way is to hold the saucer to move the cup close to your mouth.


Delivery (Two Options – Traditional and Contemporary) Here's an example of how it all works and feel free to merge them all you wish:


(a) Traditionally

The couple carries the tray of tea and cups and places it on a short table in front of them.

The bride kneels on the left side and the groom kneels on the right side

The MC calls for the bride's parents

Bride's parents seated, the father sits on his right side, and the mother sits on her right side

The groom is given one cup of tea and he serves it to the father in law

The groom is given a second up of tea and he serves it to the mother in law

The bride is given one cup of tea and she serves it to her father

The bride is given a second cup of tea and she serves it to her mother

(The one being served may say some words of blessings when they are served)

When the tea has been served, the each parent presents red packets, one for the bride and one for the groom each (so four in total). Some gold jewelry may also be presented to the bride during this time. Note that when jewelry has been presented, they must be worn straight away and the one presenting the gift has to put it on the bride.


(b) Contemporary

The wedding party carries the trays with the tea, cups and a tray for empty cups. The bride is on the left side and the groom is on the right side.

The Officiant calls for the bride's parents

Bride's parents seated, the father sits on his right side, and the mother sits on her right side

The bride pours the tea and the groom is given one cup of tea and he serves it to the father in law, second to the mother in law. Switch for the opposite side of the family.

(The one being served may say some words of blessings when they are served)

When the tea has been served, the parents present red packets, one for the bride and one for the groom each (so 2 in total).


Welcome

We’d like to welcome you to a traditional tea ceremony. This time-honored exchange was created to show respect for the family. The couple will serve tea to their parents and elders in order of seniority. First the parents are served, followed by the grandparents. Next, are the oldest uncles and aunts, and finally the older siblings are served. After each elder takes a sip, they hand the couple a lai see (a lucky red envelope), which usually contains money or jewelry. The envelopes are placed on the platter that holds the teacups.

We would like to welcome up:

The Grooms parents or grandparents

The Brides parents or grandparents


This ceremony represents the sturdy, solid, foundation you both have received from your families. Your family is here to share in the joy and help you with challenges you will experience.


Other words I can speak during the ceremony:

This ceremony is a reminder that the first year of marriage will set the tone or temperature of your lives together. To prevent cracks, one must never place hot water into a cold cup but instead gently warm it. You must temper your emotions with one another with love.


Just as we brew or steep the tea leaves, you each should never let any anger fester or steep too long for this will create a bitter and undesirable flavour. Instead, expect heat and challenges and the anger that sometimes comes with them. It is through these are challenges that you both can learn about each other and go with the flow and your marriage will be brewed in love and trust.


The serving of the tea to the elders is your way of thanking them for the experiences they have shared with you. Their knowledge combined with your life experience will help you in turn teach your children and their descendants the way of life.


Photo by: Kurtz Opia

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