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Takin’ Love by the Horns: The Chinese Tea Ceremony

24 Jul

[Just a word of warning guys – if you don’t like ‘family’ posts, there’s a lot of that at the tail-end of this post. So you may want to skip over that bit if you’re not interested.]

After the ceremony, everyone was up and milling about, either casually chatting away to each other or trying to catch a glimpse of the rare bride-and-groom-emon*.

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Aunt Artemis (L) & Uncle Ado (R).

At some point, my photographers managed to catch all my girls doing this (or staged it? I don’t know).

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I’m not too sure when this happened, but I know I love it. I love it lots.

The photographers also managed to get this whopper of a photo. I don’t know how they did it. They just did.

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Yes, that is every.single.guest that was at our ceremony.

My friends also managed to wrangle Mr Big and I for a group shot.

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Don’t you love our synchronised head-cocking? / Photo by Friend Sahara.

After this though, we had to hurry down to the Oriental Pagoda. So in the golf cart we went! We arrived not long after and I literally remember gasping in awe. The groomsmen and DoC Auto had done a fantastic job with the whole thing. Unfortunately, guys, I can’t really show you an empty picture of it (cause there isn’t one, poop), so instead, I give you this:

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Once we got underway, I requested MoH M&MS and GM Iron to get everyone in order. I would’ve done it myself, but I had a long train and well… it’s hard to walk around and be bossy when you’re constantly having to literally flip to turn yourself around (it’s also hilarious).

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Is it bad that I absolutely love this picture? From L to R: Mumma Big, De Papa Big, Mama Bighorn and Papa Bighorn.

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Half of my Indonesian family! Uncle Phung, Auntie Pin, Auntie Men, and Uncle Chung.

Unfortunately, at this point, a few members that were supposed to get served tea were running late, so we had to wait around for a little bit. Our photographers managed to get some really good shots during this time:

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After a little bit, however, we decided that it was time to start, missing party or no. I was originally going to introduce the concept of the Chinese Tea Ceremony to the audience, but decided GM Iron – who had performed one at his own wedding – would do a better job. After a brief introduction, it was up to MoH M&Ms to announce who would be coming up to the two chairs set out in the middle of the Pagoda.

We invited my parents up first:

We give them the tea…

We give them the tea…

…They receive it.

…They receive it.

They drink…

They drink…

…we watch (in a totally not creepy way, I swear)…

…we watch (in a totally not creepy way, I swear)…

… and then we take the tea cups back with a bow.

… and then we take the tea cups back with a bow.

At this point, my parents would then gift us. Remember guys, jewellery is immediately placed on the bride and groom, and my parents gave us a beautiful gift which merged New Zealand jade with Indonesian gold. Absolutely stunning guys!

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Mr Big is too tall!

Mr Big is too tall!

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It was a bit of a struggle to get through my parents’ serving, simply because there were things we encountered that my parents, myself, or Mr Big hadn’t counted on. For example, Mr Big had to get his glasses off to get the necklace on.

Meanwhile, Papa Big was struggling to get the necklace on over my gigantic hairdo so he had to unclasp it. But no matter crisis solved!

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It should be noted that there were a whole lot of people working behind the scenes to ensure that the Tea Ceremony went smoothly, namely my fabulous bridesmaids and Lady Luck, our ‘good luck lady’. GM The Flash and GM NB were also doing an awesome job keeping my girls out of the sun.

GM The Flash – ever the gentlemen.

GM The Flash – ever the gentlemen.

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See that lovely lady in grey, holding the tray (Cat, bat, sat, hat)? She was our “Good Luck Lady” and also GM Xboy’s lovely wife. She was responsible of handing the tea to us and then taking it away. Isn’t she awesome?

Meanwhile, after my parents, it was Mr Big’s parents’ turn, which flowed a lot smoother now that we had one serving under our belt!

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After the Bighorn parents were done, it was smooth sailing from there:

My Uncle B, the oldest of my uncles and brother of Papa Bighorn, and Aunt D.

My Uncle B, the oldest of my uncles and brother of Papa Bighorn, and Aunt D.

My Aunt C and Uncle L, second oldest uncle and brother of Papa Bighorn.

My Aunt C and Uncle L, second oldest uncle and brother of Papa Bighorn.

My Uncle D, cousin of Papa Bighorn and next oldest uncle.

My Uncle D, cousin of Papa Bighorn and next oldest uncle.

Uncle Chong (L) and Aunt Men (R) being served, oldest aunt and sister of Mama Bighorn. Also my godmother, hence the next photo!

Uncle Chong (L) and Aunt Men (R) being served, oldest aunt and sister of Mama Bighorn. Also my godmother, hence the next photo!

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Serving Uncle Phung and Aunt Pen, second oldest aunt and sister of Mama Bighorn.

Serving Uncle Phung and Aunt Pen, second oldest aunt and sister of Mama Bighorn.

Aunt Lee, youngest aunt and sister of Mama Bighorn. Her husband couldn’t attend the wedding.

Aunt Lee, youngest aunt and sister of Mama Bighorn. Her husband couldn’t attend the wedding.

Serving both Uncle Ado (not shown) and Aunt Artemis (shown). Uncle Ado is the older brother of Mumma Big and Aunt Artermis is the youngest sister of De Papa Big, but we combined the two for ease (and time’s) sake.

Serving both Uncle Ado (not shown) and Aunt Artemis (shown). Uncle Ado is the older brother of Mumma Big and Aunt Artermis is the youngest sister of De Papa Big, but we combined the two for ease (and time’s) sake.

With all the elders served, it was time for more photos!

Next up, our group photos are constantly photobombed.

* To those who don’t get the reference – Pokemon. ‘Nuff said.

[All photos by Studio Something unless otherwise stated.]

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A Spot of Tea

28 Jan

Hi Hive!

Can you believe it’s already been more than a week since Mr Big and I got married? ‘Cause I certainly can’t. So far, married life is treating both Mr Big and I pretty darn good. We spent most of the post-wedding week catching up with friends and family, New Zealand, Indonesian and Australian-alike. (We may have also gorged ourselves on a little too much food).

I can’t launch into my recaps yet since I’m still waiting on my pro photos, but let me show you a picture of Mr Big and me with some Bighorn Sheep relatives:

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Mr Big and I with some Bighorn Sheep relatives! You can barely see them, but they’re there! / Personal Image.

Now, I did mention in my last post that I had a few more things to talk about. So Hive, let’s talk tea.

In a previous post, I talked about the Chinese tea ceremony and the significance of this cultural event in a Chinese wedding. Mr Big and I were happy to have it in our wedding, and ultimately decided that we would be having it at the Oriental Pagoda in the Hunter Valley Gardens.

However, the one task that proved difficult for Mr Big and I was selecting the tea. I mentioned previously that the type of tea often used for a Chinese tea ceremony is either a sweet tea, such as longan tea, or a standard Chinese tea such as green or jasmine.

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Tea served with lotus seeds and red dates, symbolic of the newlyweds bearing children quickly and often. The sweetness of the tea is also supposed to invoke “sweet relations” between the families. / Image via Are You Gonna Eat That?. Photography via Pelaez Photography (out of business).

Mr Big and I however, ever the non-traditional, decided we’d go with something else.

You see, Hive, in Australia there’s a tea shop called T2 which sells a whole heap of different tea, from green to black, jasmine to tisane. During our first few months together, Mr Big decided he wanted to “try more Asian things” (he’s adorable), so he bought a container of tea called “Geisha Green”. Essentially, it was green tea infused with dried strawberries and cream.

That container was finished within a month.

And so it was decided by Mr Big and me that we would be using the Geisha Green for our Chinese tea ceremony (for obvious reasons). However, about 6 months away from the wedding, we got my parents to try it. My dad took one sip and reeled backwards.

He absolutely hated it.

That was when Mr Big and I realised that, if my dad hated it, his brothers would really hate it and my aunts and uncles from Indonesia would despise it.

Balls.

So what’s a bride and groom to do?

Sit on it for 3 more months, that’s what.

It was in October that we decided to get off our asses and pull the trigger on the tea conundrum. We needed to get this tea thing sorted. Our choices were either:

  1. Go the traditional! That meant either choosing a traditional green or jasmine tea (boooo-ring) or going the sweet tea route (and we had never tried the sweet tea, so we were wary about that).
  2. Find more non-traditional options. Our local T2 was about a 20-minute drive from us and we loved shopping there anyway!

It’s pretty obvious from the two choices above which one we chose (its 2, guys).

So on a Sunday morning, we dragged Groom’s Homie Oddball, MoH M&Ms, and The Don – M&M’s boyfie – out to Parramatta mall. The first shop we hit was T2!

Upon entering, we checked out all of the options and made mental notes on what would work best. The things we needed to consider were:

  • The elder folk and their tastebuds. Papa and Mama Bighorn are used to, and enjoy drinking, traditional tea. So to them, and probably the rest of my aunts and uncles, green and jasmine tea would prove the most enjoyable. On the other hand, Mr Big’s side of the family is used to the “typical cuppa” – tea with milk and sugar. Traditional Chinese tea can be pretty darn strong, so I worried they wouldn’t be able to drink the traditional teas. Therefore, the tea for the Chinese tea ceremony needed to be traditional enough for my side, but light enough for Mr Big’s side.
  • The quantity of the tea. Leading up to the wedding, we had relatives state that they weren’t going to make it to the Chinese tea ceremony. However, Mr Big and I had contingencies in place (read: extra tea and an über jug to brew said tea) just in case they decided to change their mind and make an appearance on the day without telling us (they did).
  • The quality of the tea. It was important for Mr Big and I that the tea not only tasted and looked good, but we also knew was of great quality. We’d heard a horror story of two friends who shopped at a local (and popular) spice mart and had weevils in the spice. This place also sold tea. This was one of the top reasons why we chose to shop with T2.
  • And finally, how we’d serve the tea. We wanted to make it easy for my bridesmaids and our Good Luck Lady Lucky to brew and pour the tea, therefore making it significantly easier for us to get through each of the elders.

So with that, our search commenced. After some faffing around, we decided – ultimately – that the best port of call for us would be to get the helpful suggestions of the ladies at T2. One in particular was extremely helpful, having done tea ceremonies herself.

She suggested Snow Dragon Jasmine as the “base notes” for the tea.

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Tea leaves of the Snow Dragon Jasmine. / Image taken from the T2 website.

This tea combines both green and jasmine tea together. It’s a light tea, good for the palettes of Mr Big’s family, but traditional (and so tasty), which is good for my side. She suggested we brew two to three teaspoons before serving. It’s also “re-brew-able”, which means the flavour lasts for longer.

We thought that was it, but she then brought out a tea from their “Just” range – Just Rose.

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‘Just Rose’ rose buds. / Image taken from the T2 website.

Like the picture implies, the ‘Just Rose’ tea consists of dried rose buds only. To brew this tisane, they recommend grabbing 3-4 of them per 200mls and brewing them in water for 5-7 minutes. It’s also high in Vitamin C and the scent you get from it as you sip is amazing.

Our assistant that day told us to pop just one rose bud in per cup of tea during the Chinese tea ceremony to infuse the flavour and give it a unique taste and aroma. We took her word for it and decided to buy them both. It also helped that I have a thing for roses. We also bought two pretty containers for them in green and red.

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Pretty green container for our green-jasmine tea! / Image taken from the T2 website.

Once we got back home, we brewed ourselves a cup or two (or three) and shared them around. Papa Bighorn’s reaction was what sold us on the idea. He absolutely loved it and went back for another cup. Mama Bighorn was pleased with our choice as well.

And finally, that meant Mr Big and I had crossed off an important to-do on our list!

Who else had trouble pulling the trigger on a particular wedding-related task? Anyone else have to change the direction on something because someone important didn’t like it?

Tick-tock: Timing is Everything

29 Jun

On a Saturday morning, June 29, I woke up and came downstairs, seeing Mr Big bent over a writing pad and planning out the day-of timeline. A little early for that, doncha think? So I asked what that was about, and found out something that made my heart sink.

Apparently, Chinese tradition states that Mr Big needed to lead me out of my parents’ house at 11AM. Now this meant, at 11AM, Mr Big needed to get to my parents’ house and lead me out. There were initial problems to this.

The first problem is fixable. Let’s say Mr Big is at the door to my parent’s villa. If he leads me out, he’ll see me in all my white-dressed-glory, which ruins the whole “first-seeing-each-other-when-I-walk-down-the-aisle” thing. GP says that he can blindfold himself before he knocks on the door and we can do both traditions (not seeing each other before the aisle-walk, AND the Chinese tradition of Mr Big letting me out of the house). So… this problem is fixed, but the BIGGEST issue was the second one.

The second, and MAIN, problem was timing

Our civil ceremony was initially supposed to start at 11AM and we’ve told our guests this. This meant guests would be arriving at the Waterfall Outlook before 11AM. Now, if Mr Big lead me out of my parents’ house at 11AM, we’d ultimately get to the Hunter Valley Gardens by about 11:15AM. Which meant our guests would be sitting down  waiting around for about 15-20 minutes.

I didn’t want that to happen.

Not to mention that pushed back the civil ceremony, the official family photos, and the amount of time we get for the Chinese tea ceremony. However, like all problems, we found a fix, which meant being approximately 15 minutes late to the ceremony. We made our celebrant aware, and hopefully, guests will be ok with it. According to a number of our married guests and friends, it’s okay for the bride and groom to be a little bit “fashionably late”.

‘But what, pray tell, is this post about?’, I hear you guys asking. Well, guys, we’re counting down the days to the wedding, and I’m glad to tell you that we’ve got the day-of timeline tightened and neat. With the help of Microsoft Project, information from our vendors, and working throughout all of November and December to get this baby all set, I think we’ve definitely got a workable day-of run sheet.

So for those who want a few tips on how to construct what seems like a massive venture in the beginning, let me give you a few tips:

  • Get in touch with your vendors as soon as possible: I know this is an obvious one, guys, but seriously, this vastly helped in constructing our day-of run sheet. Our reception coordinators actually gave us the run sheet that they normally work off of, and that gave me a good idea on how to get started. I basically extrapolated this and then overlaid it with our own plans.
  • Communicate with your FI/partner: Another obvious one, but the amount of times I’ve put a plan into action and had Mr Big either improve on it or add details I didn’t know about are amazing. Mr Big and I are pretty good at communicating, and when it came to the timeline, it’s amazing what sitting down and going through it can do.
  • Durations are your friend: I know it’s not really easy to get things down to the finest minute, but I found that giving events a duration of time (1 min, 30 mins, 1hr, 3hrs, etc.) allows for a much easier “block” to work around. For example, I know the ceremony will start at 11AM to 1115AM and go for approximately 30 minutes. I made note of that in the run sheet.
  • Try and go through your run sheet as early as possible with important members of the “wedding team”: I’m not just talking about bridesmaids and groomsmen – remember that your ushers, parents of flower girls or page boys, DJ, MC, florist, and all other special attendants need to know what’s happening too. I sent my preliminary run sheet to all of my vendors and asked them to have a look over it. They were able to tell me where to tweak it and also give me their timings! This then assisted me in improving where particular things flowed in the run sheet. I also went through the run sheet a week early with other attendants (ushers, bridesmaids, etc.) in order for them to understand what I needed of them.
  •  If at all possible, print out and give copies to bridal party members: This is particularly important if you have a big group (like we do!).

I hope these tips help you all in planning your own run sheet! If you need any tips (or would like to see a copy of my own run sheet), please do PM me! 🙂 I’d post a template up on here, but I need to get cracking to last-minute wedding stuff!

Who else had some issues formulating their day-of run sheet?

A Bow to Tradition

6 Nov

Hive, you may have guessed that Mr Big and I are an interracial couple. Mr Big is a Kiwi with a Dutch background. He feels a strong connection with his Dutch roots as his Oma (Mr Big’s maternal grandmother) imparted him with a love of Dutch foods. And I’m a Chinese girl whose parents migrated over to Australia from Indonesia.Our wedding, therefore, is a melange of different customs, cultures, ideologies and ideas. As such, we’ll be having two ceremonies: a Chinese tea ceremony and a civil ceremony!

A civil ceremony, as most of you may know, is the typical ceremony without the religious overtones. Mr Big is an atheist, and I’m a Buddhist, so we believed it fit with us best. As for the Chinese tea ceremony, that may take a bit more explanation. For those of the hive who have followed past Bee blogger, Mrs Peony and Mrs Toucan, you may recall them having a Chinese tea ceremony as a part of their wedding day. They each explained the tea ceremony in great detail, with pretty pictures too!

Unfortunately, for the Bighorns, our tea ceremony won’t exactly be the usual.

As previously mentioned, we took one look at the Oriental Garden and did this:

This never gets old. Taken from College Times.

We wanted, nay, needed to have the tea ceremony at the Oriental Pagoda. It was perfect. And hence, we had to change our plans!

Now traditionally, in Chinese cultures, 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 parents’ home, as a ‘thankyou’ for raising her.

To me, however, a modern-day girl with a fairly traditional upbringing, the Chinese tea ceremony is about respecting my elders and honouring the families on both sides. To me, it’s beautiful. I love my parents; they raised me to be the person I am today. Mr Big shows the same love for his. And this tradition allows him and I to physically show them the respect and love we have for our parents. I also get to show some of Mr Big’s family my culture and they get to experience something new and exciting!

Most of the Kiwi (and Australian!) guests have commented on how excited they are to see the tradition.

In a typical, modern-day Chinese tea ceremony, the bride is picked up by the groom at her parents’ house. During this time, a Chinese tea ceremony takes place in which the bride’s parents and elders (great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, married siblings and cousins) are served tea. The groom then takes the bride from her parents’ house to the groom’s parents’ house where another Chinese tea ceremony takes place to respect the groom’s family (parents, great-grandparents, grandparents, etc.).

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A bride being taken from her parents’ house to her in-laws’ house by her groom. Image & Photography via Kellee Walsh.

Unfortunately for the Bighorns, the Chinese tea ceremony could not be performed in “typical” fashion, even before we saw the Oriental Garden. This was because of several problems:

  • Mr Big’s parents’ house is in Christchurch, New Zealand, located two hours flight from Sydney.
  • My parents’ house is located in the greater area of Sydney, Australia, two hours’ drive from the Hunter Valley.
  • Our wedding is in the Hunter Valley

Normally, these sorts of problems are resolved by either, (a) having the Chinese tea ceremony performed “properly” either the day before or the day after the wedding, (b) having the Chinese tea ceremony at the bride’s parents’ (or, if the case may be, groom’s parents’) house, depending on accessibility and location of the wedding, or (c) having the Chinese tea ceremony at the hotel on the day (a la Mrs Peony) before the greater parts of the wedding take place.

We Bighorns, however, really wanted to get the Chinese tea ceremony ‘recorded’ through professional photography (Mr Big loved the photos I showed him of past Chinese tea ceremonies), so option (a) was out. Option (b) wasn’t viable unless we did it in conjunction with option (a), so that was also out. That left option (c) which was going to be the plan until our venue-hunting threw this beauty at us:

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The Oriental Garden and Pagoda at sunset. Image & Photography via DC Images.

So, with the decision made that we would have the Chinese tea ceremony at the Oriental Pagoda, we decided that the Chinese tea ceremony will follow the civil ceremony. Because the tea ceremony will be in one location, Mr Big doesn’t need to ‘take me away’ from my family home and to his.

Instead, we’ll be serving our elders all at once during the ceremony. For those interested, I’ll give you a basic rundown!

The Order of Service

In typical Chinese tea ceremonies, the groom’s family is served first. However, as Mr Big’s parents and family aren’t well rehearsed in the way of the tea ceremony, my family will be going first.

The first in the order of service is always the parents of the couple. Therefore, in our ceremony, this will be:

Miss Big’s Parents

  • Papa Bighorn & Mama Bighorn

Mr Big’s Parents:

  • De Papa Big & Mumma Bighorn

Following the parents is usually the elders from the groom’s side starting with the paternal family and then moving on to the maternal side. “Elders” comprise of grandparents, uncles and aunties, and married siblings and cousins. Again, due to the nature of our tea ceremony, my family will be going first, and as I have a rather large family, the order of service will be:

Papa Bighorn’s family:

  • Uncle B and Auntie D
  • Uncle L and Auntie C
  • Uncle D and Auntie S
  • Cousin D and Cousin D’s Wife Y
  • Cousin L and Cousin L’s Husband P

Mama Bighorn’s family:

  • Mami & Papi (my godparents!)
  • Uncle Fung & Auntie Pin
  • Auntie Soo

Followed by Mr Big’s side of the family:

De Papa Big’s family:

  • Auntie Pen

Mumma Bighorn’s family:

  • Ado Big (Mr Big’s only uncle from his mumma’s side!)

My family is pretty big in comparison to Mr Big’s! Normally grandparents on both bride and groom’s sides of the family go before the aunts and uncles and after the parents, however, Mr Big and I have grandparents who are either deceased or unable to make it to the wedding. We will, however, commemorate them in our civil ceremony.

 

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 usually kneel in front of their elders and offer the tea cups with two hands, a sign of respect. However, some couples just bow upon giving the tea to their elders. The elders sit in chairs facing the couple, and when receiving the tea, take the tea cup with both hands to reciprocate that respect.

After each elder receives and drinks their tea, it is typical to gift the couple with either monetary or non-fiscal possessions like jewellery. Monetary gifts are often received in ‘red envelopes’ or ‘angpao’. The red envelope is always offered with two hands and received with two hands as a sign of respect. Often times, gifts of jewellery received by the elders are adorned on the couple immediately upon gifting.

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The newlyweds accepting gifts from their elders. The top two images depict gifts of jewellery. And the bottom image depicts the gifting of what is commonly called a “red envelope”, or “angpao”. Image & Photography by Kellee Walsh.

Decorative Elements

The Chinese tea ceremony has a few bare essentials such as the Chinese tea set, and an altar or table to display photos or candles in recognition of the two families.

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Top left, the altar to worship the ancestors; top right, praying to the ancestors; and bottom, the tea set for the Chinese tea ceremony. Image & Photography via Kellee Walsh.

This recognition can come in the form of family photos or a ‘unity candle’ with the dragon and phoenix, the symbol of the male and female in Chinese culture, respectively. Other things that can be placed on the altar are: white flowers, fruit and wine offerings, and burning incense.

The tea set is usually gifted to the couple by the parents of the bride as part of the “dowry”. In the case of the Bighorn wedding, my parents didn’t know about this tidbit, but Mama Bighorn was more than happy to purchase a tea set for Mr Big and myself. When we went looking, Mama Bighorn and I found ourselves in a shop that sold Chinese wares, from incense pots to statues, scrolls to tea seats. We eventually found some a few tea sets lying haphazardly near the door.

They were in different colours: blue, black, white, and red. After rummaging through, I saw a red and gold tea set with pretty patterns and good-sized cups. They were $AU30 each but Mama Bighorn managed to get it down to $AU25.

Want to see the pretty?

Chinese tea set!

Personal photo.

As for the tea itself, it can be served as either a sweet tea (for example, longan tea) or a standard tea (such as traditional green tea or jasmine tea).

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Tea served with lotus seeds and red dates, symbolic of the newlyweds bearing children quickly and often. The sweetness of the tea is also supposed to invoke “sweet relations” between the families. Image via Are You Gonna Eat That?. Photography via Pelaez Photography (out of business).

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 which symbolise luck and happiness.

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The Double Happiness Symbol. Image via Tumblr.

Some people even do lion dances (a la Mrs Toucan!).

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Two lions holding a banner which, according to Mrs Toucan, reads “100 years of happiness together”. Photography via Robert Mirani Photography.

What to Wear

Traditionally, the bride wears a qipao, qua or a cheongsam, traditional Chinese dresses. Oftentimes these are decorated with embroidery of the dragon and phoenix or flowers.

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Mrs Toucan in her qua. Photography via Robert Mirani Photography.

Grooms also have traditional formal attire, which consists of a Mandarin jacket and matching patterned pants. Although some grooms have updated that look:

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A groom in a traditional Mandarin jacket with knot-buttons and a classic mandarin collar but with black slacks. Image via Alante Photography.

However, in this modern age, some brides have taken to wearing the white dress to the tea ceremony and many grooms have taken to wearing the tuxedo or suit that they’ll be in all day.

Originally, I wanted to wear the traditional Chinese dress as I’ve never ever worn one, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. This is because, 1) it’s difficult to find an off-the-rack Chinese gown in my size (I’m petite but curvy with a little bit of chub – read: not “standard Asian size”), and 2) it would’ve been difficult to change from my white gown into a traditional red dress with the Chinese tea ceremony after the civil ceremony and at the same location. Therefore, I’ll be wearing my white wedding dress, but have incorporated some red into it to honour my Chinese heritage.

As for Mr Big, he’ll be wearing his suit, although he’s keen to wear his schmick silk black Chinese brocade jacket he bought in China. We’ll have to see what happens on the day!

All-in-all, I’m excited to have this as a part of my wedding. It’s a good nod to tradition and I love the meaning behind it. I’m super bummed that I won’t be able to wear a traditional Chinese dress, but honestly, I have no idea where to get one in Australia that isn’t mini-sized!

What do you guys think about the tea ceremony? Does anyone know where to get Chinese dresses in Australia!?

A Place to be Married

5 Nov

I’ve gone through the search for our reception, but I haven’t talked to you guys about our ceremony!

Mr Big isn’t religious at all and I’m of the Buddhist-persuasion. As such, our ceremony won’t be held at a church or a place of religion, but it’ll be a civil ceremony. Furthermore, due to cultural and traditional purposes, we’ll be having two ceremonies at our wedding: a traditional Chinese tea ceremony and a secular civil ceremony.

Our initial plan was to have the tea ceremony at the hotel, before we got ready for the big day, and the civil ceremony would then be held in a nice vineyard somewhere. It sounded simple enough, but alas, things did not go according to our initial plan.

And here’s why:

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The Oriental Garden at sunset. Image & Photography via DC Images

The Oriental Garden: an absolutely stunning location for a ceremony located at the Hunter Valley Gardens, or HVG.

In my previous post, I talked about the HVG and how it didn’t really make the cut for the reception space, despite the fact that it was a beautiful location. However, Mr Big and I just couldn’t let go of it as a place for our ceremony. The grounds of the HVG are stunning, and it’s really no wonder.

hvg_cavanagh

Absolutely stunning. Image & Photography via Cavanagh Photography.

Bonus? When you have your ceremony at the HVG, you get to have a 2-hour photography session. Which is great! The HVG itself has about 10 different mini-gardens to explore. They’re great for photography purposes, such as the Storybook Garden:

hvg_storybook

Image & Photography via Creek Street Photography.

As for the ceremonies themselves, of the 10 mini-gardens, four of them can hold ceremonies:

The Formal Gardens:

formal gardens

An aerial view of the formal gardens. Image via the Hunter Valley Gardens official website.

The Sunken Garden:

sunken garden

A shot of the gardens in front of the waterfall. Image via the Hunter Valley Gardens official website

The Oriental Garden:

oriental garden

The Oriental Pagoda at the Oriental Garden, where ceremonies are usually held. Image via the Hunter Valley Garden official website.

And the Lakes Walk:

lakes walk

The Lakes Rotunda at the Lakes Walk, where the ceremonies are usually held. Image via the Hunter Valley Garden official website.

Each of the four gardens has specific places which the HVG wedding coordinator recommends for the ceremony. The Sunken Garden itself has two places – the bottom of the waterfall and the top of the waterfall. When we first toured around the HVG, we were allowed to enter for free (yay for being the engaged couple!) and were toured around on a golf buggy. We were basically treated like stars for the day! It was awesome.

During our tour, our guide, the then-wedding coordinator Kelly, showed us around. Kelly was so fantastic and was able to answer all of our questions! She gave us the lowdown about what each bridegroom couple received when booking their ceremonies with the HVG. There was a fee attached (we knew that beforehand), but with the fee the couple also received:

  • A set number of seats and a PA system for the ceremony
  • A wedding coordinator on-hand to assist in all questions, queries, details and problems
  • Two hours photography with all-access around the HVG
  • A golf buggy to take the bridal party around the HVG on-the-day (girls in heels with no sore feet? Score!)
  • A wet-weather option inside their onsite Chapel (which, if this Spring has been anything, we won’t need)
hvg_chapel

The HVG Chapel from the entrance. Image & Photography via the Vincent Lai Photography.

She then gave us the grand tour!

The first stop was the Formal Gardens. We took a look and, though beautiful, it was much too… well, formal. It would be a great place for formal wedding, but our wedding was a little less formal, and a little more semi-formal. So, off we went to the Sunken Garden.

We took a look at the base of the waterfall, and it was gorgeous… but loud. The sound of the water hitting the base of the falls is soothing when you want some time to marvel in its splendour, but saying our vows over the din? No thanks. Despite its beauty, we had to give this one a pass.

Kelly then drove us to the top of the falls, called the “Waterfall Outlook”.

hvg_waterfall outlook

Image & Photography via Cavanagh Photography.

It. Was. Stunning, hive. That picture above does not even do it any justice.

The aisle, which you can see above, is lined with columns and arched with branches and wisteria. It ends at a balcony that overlooks the HVG. The waterfall isn’t loud at all from above so it makes the perfect ceremony location. Plus? It’s shaded, so we won’t have any of the Kiwis fainting in the summer heat.

It was the perfect place for us.

Get engaged at the base of a waterfall, and get married at the top of one!

Kelly then golf buggy’d us down to the Oriental Garden. We arrived, walked towards the Oriental Pagoda and Mr Big turned to me and said:

“We’re having the tea ceremony here.”

Now hive, I was of two minds. The first was stating that we had to be reasonable, that we had a plan in mind and we needed to stick to it.

The second was this:

Like – exactly my reaction. Taken from College Times.

I caved.

He was right, though! It was magnificent. But as I had said before, it completely changed our plans! So what do we do?

Well, it’s safe to say that we booked the ceremony venue a few days later (no suspense here!). We asked question after question about the ceremony and ensured we got everything in writing too (we’re paranoid) and the wedding coordinators (Kelly changed roles, and now our current wedding coordinator is Kylie!) have been nothing but extremely helpful!

They agreed to provide us with hot water, tables and chairs for the tea ceremony, and were more than happy to give us two ceremonies for the fee of one! Kylie has been great and has answered all of our questions. They’ve also opted to provide us with snacks and drinks (for a price unfortunately) for our bridal party!

All-in-all we think we’ve chosen a great place to be officially announced as husband and wife and to celebrate the elders of our family.

It’s making me excited just thinking about!

Has anyone else gone to a venue looking for a reception and leaving with an idea about their ceremony? What do you guys think about our choices?

So I’ve been thinking…

25 Oct

Hello there!

As you all may know from my last post, we only recently got a date for our wedding. Which is awesome. We have more than a year to plan and hopefully by early November, we’ll have both reception and ceremony receptions booked. From my constant emails, I’ve pretty much smoothed out who we can have our wedding with. The three options are:

  1. Tamburlaine Organic Winery
  2. HVG (Hunter Valley Garden)
  3. Sebel Kirkton Park Hotel

We can’t do it at the Audrey Wilkinson vineyard because – even though they told us they did when we we’re there – they don’t do wedding ceremonies. 😦 They do have accommodation though, and I’m sure we can ask to have wedding photos there. Though the last time we were there, one of my bridesmaids got bitten so many times by bugs it wasn’t funny. So there will be a bug issue…

Anyway, the HVG came back to us with a reply staying that two ceremonies wasn’t an issue and they could accommodate for it. This made me extremely happy because I really want both ceremonies there. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if this means we have 1 hour to do both ceremonies, or we get to choose two time slots… hopefully it’s the latter, because 1 hour for two ceremonies (especially the Chinese tea ceremony) will be hard to squeeze into that sort of time.

As for Tamburlaine and Sebel Kirkton, it’ll all depend on which one ‘captures’ us more with the venue. The Member’s Lodge is a beautiful venue – one we’ve seen 2-3 times. The Hunter-Rothbury room (the reception venue at Sebel that we’re likely to use) looks good in photographs, but we’ll see once we’re there in person.

Anyway – with the venues almost settled, my mind has turned to other things, mainly the “dress” and its accessories…

WARNING: MR. GP – THIS POST IS VERY WEDDING ACCESSORIES AND DRESS-CENTRIC. DO NOT READ IT UNLESS YOU WANT TO RUIN THE SURPRISE.

Did that work?

Is he gone?

Okay, so… I will be wearing a white dress and I won’t be changing three times during the wedding ceremony (that’s mostly a Hong Kong thing… my family are Indonesian Chinese). There’s (apparently) a cultural taboo with Chinese people and wedding dresses though – “if you take off the white dress, you can NEVER PUT IT ON AGAIN“. A fact which my mum has metaphorically PUMMELLED into my head. In fact, every argument stems from that one tradition, even though half the time, I don’t bring it up (She does, so she can pummel it into my head s’more…). I love my mum, but… that is the one tradition that pisses me off.

Anyway.

Because of said tradition, I can’t re-wear my dress if I take it off during the day of the wedding (Shouldn’t there be some clause stating: “Unless it’s your wedding day – take it off or on as you please!”?). This means that, for the Chinese tea ceremony, I won’t be able to wear a full-length traditional red Chinese dress because we’ll be having it after the civil ceremony (when GP sees me in my dress for the first time). My mum really wanted me to wear the cheongsam, so she got quite annoyed when I was ‘fine’ with just not wearing one. So we compromised. Now, I will be wearing something akin to this over my wedding dress:

Chinese bridal jacket, taken from http://www.efushop.com (yes… I know the name of the shop sounds strange)

For a better picture (because this one is tiny) go here: http://www.efushop.com/product_pages/WDH/wdh20.html.

Basically, I’ll be ‘wearing’ the traditional Chinese ‘dress’ over my wedding gown. This makes my mother happy (I’m wearing the red dress), my father happy (I’m not all in white for the tea ceremony) and, kinda me happy too (I get to wear the red dress). Because it’ll be the height of summer, I want the sleeves shorter. Also, the ‘arrow’ thing in the middle of the jacket looks strange, so that’ll go too. I’m not too sure how I’m going to get the jacket (I probably won’t buy it off the shop I’ve directed you guys to), but my mum was talking about getting it custom-made. I’ve had suggestions from others to go to Hong Kong to get things made for the wedding, but… well… even though the ‘labour’ is cheap, the flights aren’t…

On a cuter note, GP wants to wear his Mandarin silk jacket he bought in China for the Chinese tea ceremony. He’ll look awesome 😀

Apart from the wedding dress/Chinese dress debacle, other things I’ve been musing about are the veil, to glove or not to glove, and various other accessories. The veil, I’ve already mentioned (I’m sure) will be a drop or mantilla veil. I love lace, so the mantilla veil is beautiful. I’d be wearing it like a drop veil though (pulled over the face). It’ll need to be fastened with something, so I was thinking of getting a pretty brooch, but I need to find one that’s not too mega-expensive (bridal = expensive…).

My mum has been suggesting that I put my hair up, but I’m more partial to the half-up do. I like a little bit of hair around my shoulders and face (and I don’t look very good with my hair up anyway). To make the half-up do more ‘bridal’ though, I was thinking of getting a hair accessory. I’ve found some relatively inexpensive ones (and pretty to boot), but maybe what I should do is get a bridal accessory that can act as a brooch and hair piece in one. That way when I take off my veil (which I’ll most likely do at the reception), I can just wear the brooch as a hair piece (also, it cuts down the cost of buying a brooch and a hair piece). I’ll be wearing jewellery I already own. Our colours are yellow, red, with hints of blue, and I’ve got heaps of yellow gold and red-coloured jewellery. I’m in no rush to buy any more than what I have and I should be able to pull something off with the jewellery I do have. My shoes are already bought, but not yet broken into. I have to ask one of my bridesmaids if they’ll lend me their shoe-stretchers (it’s a little tight in the toe, but perfect overall).

As for the gloves argument, I saw this:

Delicate lace  gloves cream lace cuffs

They’re stunning! I was a glove-lover when I was younger (and still do love them) but I haven’t worn some in so long. The look of these gloves though are sooo pretty. I am enamoured by them. I want them, but I don’t know if I should be using them. It’ll be the height of summer when we have our wedding, but these are delicate lace gloves, breathable and dainty. AND SO PRETTY. So… yes. Should I or should I not wear gloves? Tricky question…

What do you guys think? Any suggestions, tips, tricks or advice? 🙂

Talking venues! and we have a date!

23 Oct

Hello readers,

How long has it been!? Sorry for the long, long absence guys. It’s been a quiet few months ’cause the fiance and I have been waiting and waiting on a date. We FINALLY have one! YAAAAAY! (It only took 6-and-a-bit months…). Now the wedding ride really starts. As the title suggests, I will be talking about different venues we’ve been thinking about (though the title could also suggest that the venues themselves can talk… but seriously, what kind of venue can talk?).

We’ve been looking at different places to have the reception and ceremonies, but we’re pretty sure we’ll be having our reception at Tamburlaine Organic Winery. We haven’t booked anything yet (a fact that completely confuses my parents) but we’re having serious conversations on places to have the ceremonies. We have about four scenarios with which to do the wedding which I’ve got written down in a Word file:

Scenario 1:

Civil Ceremony: Hunter Valley Gardens

Tea Ceremony: Hunter Valley Gardens

Reception: Tamburlaine Organic Winery

Scenario 2:

Civil Ceremony: Hunter Valley Gardens

Tea Ceremony: Tamburlaine Organic Winery

Reception: Tamburlaine Organic Winery

Scenario 3:

Civil Ceremony: Hunter Valley Gardens

Tea Ceremony: Place of accomodation (where we’re staying)

Reception: Tamburlaine Organic Winery

Scenario 4:

Wedding at the Sebel Kirkton Park Hotel

Scenario 5:

Wedding at the Hunter Valley Gardens

As you all may know (if you’ve been following the blog so far), we’ll be having two ceremonies: the ‘Western’ civil ceremony and the ‘Eastern’ tea ceremony. My mother was a little bit confused about the whole thing (even though I’ve been trying to explain it to her over the past six months) but I think we’ve settled that issue. Anyway, we’ve finalised that the civil ceremony needs to be performed between 11AM-12PM because of some cultural thing that states that I (eichanist) have to be handed over by my family to GP’s family between that time (otherwise known as the “Giving Away” portion of the civil ceremony). In Chinese tradition this means the groom drives over to the bride’s house, plucks her out of her family home, and drives to his parents’ house (where the tea ceremony will take place).

Of course, this is impossible if you’re having a mini-destination wedding like GP and me. Not only that, but GP’s parents live in Christchurch, New Zealand, so having the tea ceremony there isn’t really an option. So we figured that we can incorporate this Chinese tradition into the civil ceremony. When my dad ‘gives’ me to GP, I’m being relinquished from my family and being accepted into his. Or something like that. Now the only problem is where do we have the ceremonies?

Enter the five scenarios listed above.

All five scenarios have their pros and cons. We’re trying to keep the wedding within a localised ‘suburb’ of the Hunter Valley called Pokolbin (all locations are within this area) which makes travelling a lot easier for everyone. Tamburlaine and the Hunter Valley Gardens (HVG, for short) are about 5-10 minutes apart from each other. The Sebel Kirkton Park Hotel is located a little further away, but the distance isn’t huge. If we do use the Sebel Kirkton though, we’ll be using the hotel for all of the day’s activities. To make it more transparent, I’ll break down each venue/location and make note of their pros and cons.

The Hunter Valley Gardens (HVG)

The Ceremony:

As far as we can see, when using the HVG for a reception, you get to use the Gardens at a discounted rate for ceremonies. You also get the Gardens for 2 hours for photography (including a buggy to ride around in) and there’s a wet-weather option included (which is the onsite non-denomination Chapel). The photography and the wet-weather option is included regardless of the use of the HVG as the reception, but the discounted rate on the ceremonies is a bonus, especially because we’re keen to have both the civil and the tea ceremony there.

The Garden itself has five ceremony locations:

  1. The European Formal Gardens
  2. The Sunken Garden
  3. The Waterfall Outlook
  4. The Oriental Garden
  5. The Lakes Walk Rotunda

GP and I really liked the look of the Waterfall Outlook for the civil ceremony and the Oriental Garden for the tea ceremony. Because the Oriental Garden only sits a maximum of 70 guests, we’ll only be inviting family and close friends to this one. The Waterfall Outlook is in a shaded area, so guests won’t overheat in the sun (since we’ll be getting married at about the height of January). We’re also trying to think of what to do with the bugs, since there’ll be a lot of mosquitoes and flies about.

The Reception

There are two locations: the Tempus Two Barrel Room and the Garden Terrace. GP and I like the look of the Garden Terrace if we did the wedding at the HVG. It’s basically their restaurant in the morning. We haven’t been inside, but from what I’ve seen there’s a deck with rolling doors which open up completely to create a seamless inside-outside atmosphere. The deck itself overlooks the Oriental Garden, so it’ll be perfect if we have the tea ceremony there (guests could perhaps watch while drinking pre-dinner drinks).

The venue sits approximately 110 guests on round tables and 140 on long tables. Because we’re estimating about 120 people, we’ll have to use the long table option if we use this place. The dance floor itself is outside in an amphitheatre they have there, so a live band could be set up outside. It really is a pretty venue, though there are some flaws.

The HVG doesn’t have much in the way of seafood (which is a big cultural thing during Chinese weddings). I’m not too fussy about having seafood at the wedding ’cause I’m not a big fan of seafood. Another thing about the HVG is the cost per-head. The venue hire isn’t too bad, and on Sunday (which is when we’re planning on having the wedding) there’s a 50% discount. Unfortunately, the price-per-head for HVG for the Premium package (the best one they have) stands at about $20 more than the best packages of all the other venues we’re looking at. The Deluxe package (the next one down) is about the average price of the more expensive packages in other venues. GP also didn’t like the fact that the names of their foods sound too snobbish (e.g. “rabbit ragout on a bed of…”) though they do have more humble (and yummy-sounding!) offerings.

I also have a feeling that centrepieces and decorations are all “taken care of” by the venue, which takes the decisions away from us (the bridal couple). I would like a say on what goes where and how things are presented. I know GP doesn’t really have a head for decorations, but I’m sure he wouldn’t like the control taken away. It is our wedding after all. Need to remember to bring this up when we see them (hopefully I get a reply tomorrow).

Tamburlaine Organic Winery

The Ceremony

Tamburlaine do ceremonies on the lawn just outside the venue. There’s a little seating area with French-style chairs and tables and I’ve seen the pews they use to set up for seating. The setup is simple – 4 pews with satin sashes, rose-lined aisle, a wine barrel for signing of the Marraige certificate, and a garden arch. The lawn is not as pretty as the HVG, mostly just grass and Eucalyptus trees (very Australian). Some couples have gotten married in front of the manmade lake they have there, but that lake is mostly covered by reeds from the lawn (though looks stunning on the verandah at the back of the venue). We’re not too keen to have our ceremony here, but it is an option we should think about.

The Venue

Tamburlaine’s venue is called the ‘Member’s Lodge’ and juts out onto a manmade lake (the verandah I mentioned above) surrounded by reeds. It’s really pretty. Tea lights spatter the inside and outside of the venue and the venue itself is huge. It easily fits 150 people, so fits our guest list criteria. Like the Garden Terrace at HVG, doors can be opened to go out onto the deck outside, causing a seamless inside-outside environment. This is important for GP, as that was his one major ‘want’ in regards to the venue.

Decorated, Tamburlaine looks very pretty. My parents (especially my father) has an issue with the excessive use of white because of its symbolic interpretations to death in Chinese culture, but decorators should be able to change the colours (or spatter coloured tealights throughout). Also something I have to make mention of. The interior of Tamburlaine is a dark blue, so ‘wedding colours’ might be a little difficult to incorporate. Luckily we’ve picked out two major colours: red and yellow. Add blue and what do you get?

Beauty and the Beast colours.

I’m lame, I know…

Which brings me to the next topic, Tamburlaine gives you an enormous amount of flexibility when planning the wedding. They have a ‘make your own package’ deal where you can pick and choose what you like (and don’t like) to alter the per-head cost. This means you can tailor it to your budget. Food is also extremely varied: heaps of seafood, beef, chicken, lamb, duck, etc. The down side to Tamburlaine is the fact that you can only use their wines, but having tasted their wines, it’s not too bad. The sweeter wines are very nice, a fact which you need when tailoring to my side of the family (and my friends).

Sebel Kirkton Park Hotel

The Ceremony

GP and I haven’t been to the Sebel yet, so there’s not much I can say about it. The packages look okay, so do the pictures of the locations, but GP has some reservations against it. We’ll be checking the place out 3 November and I can give a more comprehensive rundown. All’s I can tell you is the Sebel Kirkton Park has three locations to choose from for the ceremony:

  1. The Manor Garden
  2. Between the Urns
  3. Wisteria Walk

Ceremony packages are only available when the reception has been booked with the Sebel.

The Reception

As above, we haven’t checked the place out. But from pictures I’ve seen, both venues – the James Busby room and the Hunter Rothbury room – have a courtyard which you can go out too. I’m not too sure if it’s as seamless as the HVG and Tamburlaine, but the interior (from picture) looks really good. The packages are well-priced too. Unfortunately, the cheapest one is only a ‘cocktail’ function, which forces GP and I into the next package up (we want a dinner-wedding). After our visit here, I’m sure I can give more information about the place.

 

That’s all for the venues. Not much of a segue, I know. In other news, I’ll be going shopping with my bridesmaids in about… a month from now. 😀

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. 🙂

Enough about the rings!

31 Jul

So, I’ve been yapping on about the rings for way too long. It’s becoming sorta repetitive. I promise I’ll finish the saga soon, but for the meantime, let’s talk ceremony.

After a recent trip attempting (and maybe succeeding?) to get my rings resized (I know I said I wouldn’t talk about them, but there’s a link!), my ma and I decided that it was high time we grab fresh juice and get some dinner for tonight. I was feeling downtrodden and wanted to sulk in the car, but my ma told me that there was a shop which sold nice-looking, authentic tea sets for a relatively good price. She knew I wanted one for the tea ceremony that would be conducted at GP and my wedding (more on that later). So, dragging myself out of the car, I made my way with her to the shop and entered.

It was a little shop – so little, I had to hold my bag to my chest because I didn’t want to accidentally knock anything over. With bare white walls and a lack of shelves, the shop was littered with customary Chinese statues, scrolls and other knickknacks. There were pai shu (Chinese ‘dogs’ which serve to bring good luck), statues of good luck animals (the horse and koi), and even the Chinese good luck cabbage. In a heap, piled on top of each other, were tea sets of all different shapes and sizes. When we perused through them, we found a pamphlet with traditional clay teapots.

“Do you have this?” asked my mum.

“None left,” came the disheartening reply.

Balls.

Well, I thought, the ceramic ones were pretty and colourful. Not very traditional, but still very pretty! Maybe a blue one? No, didn’t match the theme I was going for. Black looked nice. Too plain though, and the cups were huge. There was a white one, but it was pricier. How about the red? It was red and gold, pretty patterns, cups weren’t too big. And the icing on the cake?

They were $30.00.

Do you know what the cherry on top of the icing was?

My mum managed to get them for $25.00.

Chinese tea set? CHECK and MATE.

Now what is the Chinese tea set for, I hear you asking. Well, let me explain.

As a Chinese girl, tradition has long been connected to how I’ve grown up. I’m Buddhist, and though I’m not a huge practitioner of my faith, I still believe in the gods and pray during special occasions. I believe in most of the customs and beliefs that are attached to my religion and culture. For example, I believe in karma, I believe that there is a place on the other side once a person passes, and I believe that to get good things in life, you must treat others with a similar respect and kindness. However, I am not a vegetarian, and I don’t necessarily wish to be so.

My parents are a lot more superstitious than I am, but I want to make them happy while I plan my wedding, and so I’m allowing them to choose the date of the wedding based on the Chinese calender, GP’s birthday and my own. From these, the Chinese soothsayer (or ‘oracle’, as my friend calls them) will be able to choose a date which is ‘auspicious’ – in other words, one that promises a good future. GP, an atheist, is a little bit iffy on the whole belief system, but he knows this will make me (and his in-laws) happy, so he’s being good about it. The date alone has been an uphill struggle for GP and I, but that’s another story for another time.

Another part of my culture is the “Chinese tea ceremony”.

The Chinese tea ceremony, for those who don’t know, is a lot like the traditional ceremony in the more ‘western’ parts. It’s basically a joining of two people and their families. However, instead of a celebrant/officiant/priest ‘making it official’ with vows (or prayers), the soon-to-be husband and wife kneel before their elders and serve them tea, respecting those who came before. As with the traditional wedding ceremony, there are particular things that need to happen during the Chinese tea ceremony. You can read all about it here:http://www.chinese-wedding-guide.com/tea-ceremony.html.

I want to incorporate the Chinese tea ceremony into my wedding as I believe it’s a beautiful tradition. You pay your respects to your elders, you get to drink warm hot green tea, and you get gifts at the very end (hey, I’m a modern girl!). I also get to wear a beautiful cheongsam, the traditional Chinese dress. Some brides choose to wear the white wedding dress, but I want to feel connected to my culture. GP has decided that he wants to wear the silk brocade jacket he bought in China when we were over there.

I’m excited to have this as a part of my wedding. And even more excited that I now have a beautiful tea set for it!