The Chinese Tea Ceremony and the Civil Ceremony

22 Aug

Another post!? I hear you exclaim. Why yes, dear readers, here is another post. What is this one about? you ask. Well, I got to thinking. Being that the relationship between GP and I are interracial, we’re having both a Chinese Tea Ceremony and a Civil Ceremony. So to sum up, we’re having two ceremonies! 🙂 Unfortunately, that complicates matters when it comes to planning the wedding due to location of ceremony. What we’ve decided so far is to have the tea ceremony in the morning, followed by the civil ceremony and the reception. But before that, let’s pinpoint a few crucial points about both the Chinese Tea Ceremony and the Civil Ceremony.

The Chinese Tea Ceremony

This will be held in the morning, probably at the same place we’ll be having the civil ceremony. Below I’ll explain the basic ins and outs of this quintessential and time-honoured Chinese tradition, taking information from this website here: http://chinese.weddings.com/articles/chinese-wedding-tea-ceremony.aspx.

First off – Why are you having a Chinese Tea Ceremony?

In Chinese tradition, the tea ceremony was essentially the ‘civil ceremony’. Elders would be served tea by the soon-to-be husband and wife to honour and respect the family. Because Chinese society was very patriarchal, the ‘true’ tea ceremony only included the groom’s family being served tea, as the bride needed to please her future husband’s family in order to be accepted. She would serve tea to her family in the privacy of her own home, as a ‘thankyou’ for raising her. Luckily, society has changed a lot, ’cause I’m excited at the prospect of including both mine and GP’s families! To me, the Chinese Tea Ceremony is about respecting my elders and honouring the families on both sides. I get to show some of GP’s family my culture and they get to experience something new and exciting!

The Order of Service

Because we’re having an ‘all-inclusive’ Chinese tea ceremony, the groom’s family (GP’s) will be served first. After this, the bride’s family are served (mine!). The order of serving is as follows: parents, paternal grandparents, maternal grandparents, paternal aunts and uncles in order of seniority (eldest to youngest), maternal aunts and uncles in order of seniority, and then eldest siblings and cousins. The order is, of course, dependent on who you want to include in the tea ceremony and who is actually available (for example, grandparents may be deceased or unable to travel, some family members are unable to attend the wedding, etc). After each elder receives their tea, they hand the soon-to-be husband and wife a lucky red envelope, which either contains gifts of money or jewellery. These red envelopes are placed on a serving tray  which holds the tea cups. Often times, the gifts of jewellery received by the elders are adorned on the bride.

How to Serve Tea

Just like in a civil ceremony, the groom stands on the right and the bride on the left. When serving tea, the bride and groom kneel in front of their elders and offer the tea cups with two hands, a sign of respect. The elders sit in chairs facing the couple, and when receiving the tea, take the tea cup with both hands to reciprocate that respect. They then drink the tea, and hand over their red envelope.

What’s Needed and What Just Looks Cool

The Chinese tea ceremony  has a few bare essentials: the chinese tea set (if you didn’t see it already, I recommend seeing the awesome one we bought!) and an altar or table to display photos or candles in recognition of the two families. This recognition can come in the form of family photos (GP and I were thinking of displaying wedding portraits of our parents) or a ‘unity candle’. Other things that can be placed on the altar are: white flowers, fruit and wine offerings, and burning incense. The tea served can be either sweet (longan tea, for example) or standard (traditional green or jasmine). Other things that can be used to decorate the Chinese tea ceremony are the ‘double happiness’ symbol, the dragon and phoenix motif, decorative firecrackers, and lots of red and gold – the two colours symbolising luck and happiness (and two of our wedding colours!).

The “double happiness” symbol.

What to Wear

Traditionall the bride wears a qi-pao or a cheongsam, a traditional Chinese dress. Oftentimes these are decorated with embroidery of the dragon and phoenix or flowers. However, in this modern age, some brides have taken to wearing the white dress to the tea ceremony. I’ll probably be going for the red dress. Many grooms nowadays have taken to wearing the tuxedo or suit that they’ll be in all day.

A cheongsam with dragon and phoenix motif.

The Civil Ceremony

For our wedding, this will take place in the afternoon. The reason GP and I are having a civil ceremony is due to its non-religious nature. Having celebrated my culture at the Tea Ceremony, the Civil Ceremony is a chance to celebrate the love between GP and I. It also means we can have a garden ceremony due to there being no restrictions. A civil ceremony is lead by a celebrant or officiant who guides the bride and groom through the ceremony and can take as little as 10-15 minutes upwards to about half an hour. As with the Tea Ceremony there is an order, which I will list below. The information was taken from here: http://www.i-do.com.au/wedding-tips/the-wedding-ceremony/order-of-ceremony-civil-ceremony/947/

The Processional

This is better known as the “Bridal March”. This is the most well-known part of a ceremony. The bridesmaids make their entrance, walking down the aisle, followed by the bride. Usually done to Wagner’s “Bridal March”, more and more couples are taking a contemporary route with the music. I’ve read of someone walking down the aisle to Hans Zimmer’s “Time” from the Inception Soundtrack or Sigur Ros’ “Hopipolla”. GP and I have reached a tentative decision on the song we’re using, but I won’t post it up just yet!

The Welcome

This is self-explanatory. The celebrant or officiant introduces themselves to the families and welcomes them to the wedding.

Giving Away

This is, literally, the handing over of the bride to the groom by the father, as is most common. However, in today’s day and age with family differences and all, this can also include:

  • Giving away of the bride by her father, brother(s), mother, sister, family friend or even a friend
  • Giving away of the bride and groom by their respective parents
  • Giving away of the bride by both of her parents
  • Giving yourselves (bride and groom) to each other

Introduction

The introduction consists of the celebrant explaining to the gathering the ideals and beliefs the couple has of marraige. Other things can include what marraige means to them or what the aspirations of the future hold together. The celebrant usually helps the couple out during this part, giving examples of what types of things can be said from past examples.

Reading(s)

Some weddings (I’ve been to two) have a reading which is selected by the celebrant or couple. Usually a close family friend or a member of the family reads this out. I’m not too sure GP and I will have this since we’re trying to make this short and sweet, and if we do, we’re more than likely going to have something quirky or non-traditional, like lyrics from a rock song or something.

Monitum

This is from the Marriage Act and is said by the celebrant. This is an essential and compulsory part of the ceremony.

Declaration of Intention to Marry

A public declaration of the couple’s intent to marry each other. Also known as the ‘Declaration to Marry’.

Vows

The couple say their vows. This can either be from a template given by the Celebrant or the couple can make their own vows. I’m not exactly sure what we have planned for this, but I think we’re going to write our own vows.

Ring Ceremony

The giving of rings to each other, symbolic of the union. We’ve already got our rings! (That reminds me, I still have to continue that Ring Saga, hmmm).

Conclusion

The celebrant conclude the ceremony.

The Declaration of Marriage

The celebrant pronounces the couple Husband and Wire. (“You may now change your Facebook statuses!”)

The Signing of the Marriage Registrar

The couple and their two witnesses (with us, it’ll be our Maid of Honour and our Best Man) sign the Marriage Registrar, Certificate of Marriage, and Marriage Certificate. The photographer usually takes pictures of this ‘signing’.

Congratulations & Presentation to Family and Friends

The celebrant congratulates the bride and groom and presents them as a married couple to their family and friends.

The Recessional

The couple, now husband and wife, leave the ceremony grounds, usually followed by the bridal party and generally to music. We don’t have a music piece for this yet, but we have a few options in mind. It’s also the time to say good bye to the celebrant. It is usually at this time that confetti is thrown to celebrate the newlyweds’ union, usually of rose petals, paper confetti, sugared almonds or rice. I’ve also seen paper airplanes, yellow ballons being released and bubbles.

Other Little Things

The civil ceremony can also include other things – releasing of dove, releasing of butterflies, releasing of balloons, ‘love locks’, ring warming and well-wishing, a unity candle, unity sand ceremony, a remembrance ceremony, handfasting ceremony, sharing of wine, a rose ceremony – you name it. These things are often additional to the aforementioned order of service and depends upon whether the couple want to add a special something to the ceremony.

 

After discussing the above two ceremonies with GP, he’s told me that he’s more excited about the tea ceremony than the civil ceremony! We’ll have to make sure we have everything in order and know what is important to us to include in the civil ceremony. We already know that we’re going to make this wedding as ‘us’ as possible. 🙂

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One Response to “The Chinese Tea Ceremony and the Civil Ceremony”

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  1. Something, something, something – A Look at Wedding Traditions | The Wedding Rollercoaster - September 18, 2013

    […] and the attendance of certain key members. I’ve talked about the Chinese tea ceremony in a previous post, so I’ll just say that I was more than happy to include this. Certain members of the family […]

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