Chinese Weddings

Help with tea ceremony - what do the assistants do?

Hi all,

I can find sooo much stuff online about how the bride and groom act, how they kneel, what they say, etc etc.  But I need help with what the assistants do.

How to they pour the tea?  How do they wahs the cups?  When do they wash the cups?  Is this supposed to be a background activity or part of the ceremony?  How well do the cups need to be washed; I'm worried if they just rinse them people might be grossed out.  What kind of tray should we use - the gongfu ones with the slats, or a normal tray and just have a hot water bowl next to it?

Being a westerner, in Australia, marrying into a Chinese family, I really want to pull this off right but I'm worried it'll be amateurish and embarassing.  No-one at our reception place knows how to do this ceremony, HTB doesn't have any siblings, and I don't want to ask my MIL as she is the one I want to impress most.

Please help!  Thank you!!!

Re: Help with tea ceremony - what do the assistants do?

  • are you fiance chinese right?

    Take a look on this video, this will explain briefly how the tea ceremony works.  If you really want to impress your MIL (chinese), give her the tea with both hands while kneeling, not standing.  This is the most traditional way to serve tea.  If you can speak a few chinese phrases will be even better, but keep it short and let her talk more than you.

    Chinese MIL sometimes can be a big pain, depends on how much she is influenced by chinese culture.  Hope this helps and good luck!!

  • will47will47 member
    edited May 2012
    There are a lot of variations in exactly how the tea ceremony is done and what is used. I've seen it mostly where the tea making and pouring happens "behind the scenes" -- usually someone in the family or a wedding organizer will actually make the "tea" (see below) and put it into a teapot (this is likely to happen in the kitchen, as the herbs / flowers are actually typically boiled on the stove, with some black ("red" in Chinese terms) tea added after it's taken off the heat). I've only been to a few, but I've usually seen the tea made by an older female relative or family friend. Then the helpers will either bring the cups in already filled (on a tray), or fill the cups discreetly off to the side. Their main purpose is to hand the cups to you while you're kneeling in front of the parents.

    Keep in mind that the tea frequently isn't really just "tea" - it's some kind of tea, but mixed with some herbs and flowers, and possibly somewhat sweetened. You can buy a package of the right stuff to use at Chinese herb stores. Normally, I would use larger cups than gongfu cups (the gaiwan, lidded cup (literally, lidded bowl), is also very appropriate), and just a plain porcelain / ceramic tray, but really doesn't matter - the main intent is showing your respect for your elders rather than appreciating the tea (I am also a big tea afficionado, so I was kind of sad that there isn't more "tea" in the tea ceremony). The sweet taste also has symbolic significance.

    I think the washing should happen out of sight too. Having a lot of cups will make things go faster, and will make things easier on your helpers -- traditionally, the bride and groom each serve tea to each person, which uses up cups fast (that's how we did it, but I think in some modern cases, the bride serves one person, and the groom another). I don't like to use soap on tea cups, but you could use some baking powder or baking soda to scrub, and make sure they get completely submerged in boiling or just-boiled water for 20-30 seconds.

    Here's the setup at my in-laws' house (with slightly larger cups, brought by my wife's aunt from Shanghai, just on top of a kitchen plate)

    And here's one where we're serving my parents at our house. Normally, people use a bigger and more ornate tray, but I prefer something a little older looking (this is a cracked glaze tray sometimes used for holding teapots or tea cups).

    Hopefully your fiancé's extended family or a family friend have some idea of how they want things to work, and hopefully there's someone who can help prepare things and explain to the assistants (or, if you have a coordinator with a background in this culture, they'll be able to help). Otherwise, I'd have an extra assistant around, and make everything crystal clear to them ahead of time, so you don't have to stress it too much.
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