Tag Archives: chinese traditions

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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Part 2, Wedding Traditions: Something, Something.

20 Sep

Hi Hive!

In a previous post, I talked to you guys about Chinese wedding traditions that we’ll be including in the wedding. I also talked about the Chinese tea ceremony and it’s importance (and I may have overused the Jared Leto gif, just a bit).

In this post, I’ll talk about the “Western” wedding traditions that we’ll have at the wedding.

Unlike the Chinese traditions, we’ll only have a few key “Western” traditions for our wedding. Mr Big’s parents are too traditional and Mumma/MIL Bighorn doesn’t have any Dutch traditions that she wanted doing.

This post isn’t necessarily for those wanting to know about Western traditions, but more for those interested in knowing, as these traditions are pretty ‘common’ in “Western” weddings:

The “It’s Bad Luck for the Groom to See the Bride Before the Ceremony” Tradition

This is a quintessentially Western tradition and originated during the time when arranged marriages were common.

The betrothed couple weren’t allowed to see each other as marriages during this period (read: the Medieval land-owning period) were mostly seen as a “business deal”. The father of the bride wanted his daughter to marry a rich man, but feared that the groom would annul the marriage if he saw the bride before the wedding because he thought she was too unattractive. The veil that a bride wears served a similar purpose.

Nowadays, this tradition is less about the fear that the groom wouldn’t want to marry the bride, and more about the fact that it’s a “tradition you must have”. There’s also the belief that it’s bad luck to see the bride before the ceremony (and my parents are all about luck). It’s also believed to add to some sort of excitement leading up to the ceremony.

However, more and more couples are doing a “first look”, or seeing each other pre-ceremony to take formal bridegroom portraits.

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Mrs Panda’s First Look. I love that twirl! Photography via Lisa Rigby Photography.

The reason we’re keeping with this tradition is because Mumma/MIL Bighorn really wanted it. It’s basically the only tradition she seems to want to use, so I’m more than happy to oblige!

This is why Mr Big will be blindfolded during the ‘auspicious time’ tradition mentioned in my previous post, so he can’t see me before the ceremony. We’ll also, hopefully, be getting pretty pictures of a blindfolded and suited up Mr Big and dolled up Miss Big in her white wedding dress.

An example of the “Not First Look”. So pretty. Image via Emmaline Bride. Photography via Dianne Personett Photography

The “Something” Tradition

This is a tradition which I’ve been struggling with and have only recently figured out. Let me explain more…

So, everyone has heard the rhyme:

Something old
Something new
Something borrowed
Something blue
And a sixpence in her shoe

I won’t be bothering with the last line, since it’s not a common part of the poem that most people know of, but I’ve been trying to think of my “somethings”.

“Something new” is an easy one – my dress, my veil, my shoes, and more. In Chinese weddings, it’s customary to buy “new” things, so most of my attire will be brand-spanking new! My ‘something new’ was therefore a no-brainer.

My “something borrowed” is a necklace belonging to my ma, Mama Bighorn. It’s a silver necklace which has an almost yellow sheen to it, to match the yellow gold of my ring.

Here’s a picture:

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My “something borrowed”, my ma’s silver necklace. You guys also get to see my earrings and bracelet! Personal image.

I tried on the necklace and it’s gorgeous. It complements my skin tone, as it has a soft yellow sheen to it, and will look perfect with my dress! I can’t wait to wear it on the Day.

Now the last two were the difficult ones.

As my mother was wed in Indonesia, and her wedding was mostly controlled by an overzealous mother-in-law, she didn’t get to buy a wedding dress or anything that could be considered sentimental. As a result, I don’t have anything from her wedding but the pictures. So my “something old” was difficult to pinpoint.

As for my “something blue”, I had no idea what to use! The ideas ranged from a garter, to a Portal charm to hang off my bouquet, to an earring for my second piercing on my left lobe. All of those meant I had to buy stuff though, and I couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger on those ideas.

Today, however, after chatting with Mama Bighorn about different traditions, she mentioned that she may have something which might prove useful.

Enter this beauty:

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Isn’t it pretty? ❤ Pardon the bad nails! Also, that’s Mr Big’s leg! Personal image.

It’s not what most would consider “old” (it’s only 15 years) but it’s gorgeous and blue and belongs to Mama Bighorn. She’s bequeathing it to me since she has another sapphire ring which my papa gave to her five years ago.

So there you have it – my something old, new, borrowed and blue!

What do you guys think? 🙂 Are there any traditions which people have or will include when they get married? Still think I could make it as a hand model?  (double not.)

Part 1, Wedding Traditions: Culture Shock!

18 Sep

Ever since I became engaged, I’ve been thinking about certain traditions which I would like to incorporate into mine and Mr Big’s wedding. Mr Big is quintessentially a Kiwi with some Dutch in him, and so didn’t really have anything to put forward. When I asked his parents, they were also very easy-going about traditions as well, and didn’t have much to put forward either (except for one, which will be talked about in more detail in the next post!).

As an atheist, Mr Bighorn also doesn’t have any spiritual or religious traditions that were significant to him. As a Buddhist myself, I also didn’t really have any religious traditions for the wedding (although, funnily, a lot of people assumed we’d get married in a temple). As I was born and raised in Australia, despite my Chinese heritage, and my parents having originated from Indonesia, I wouldn’t necessarily call myself traditional.

However, my parents definitely are, and during the early (and much later) parts of our planning, have pushed particular traditions onto both Mr Big and myself.

Because of this, Mr Bighorn and I suffered from what one could call ‘culture shock’. Urban Dictionary defines ‘culture shock’ as ‘the shock of moving from one culture to another, often associated with laws, traditions, food, music and general lifestyle choices‘.

We couldn’t believe the amount of traditions we needed to do! It baffled us, but after doing some research, I’ve come to find that Chinese wedding traditions are filled with symbolism, all to do with either respecting Elders or bringing some form of happiness (joy, luck, prosperity) to the newlywed couple.

For those Chinese brides beginning to plan their wedding, or in the midst of navigating the traditions thrown at you from every which way, here’s a list of the wedding traditions Mr Big and I came up against. It’s definitely not all of them, but it’s the ones which, to my parents, were the most important:

The Auspicious Date

The word “auspicious” means “promising success”, and therefore, the auspicious date promises the couple success in their marriage. Therefore, by being married on the auspicious date, the couple will have a good marriage.

In Chinese culture, the bride and groom’s birthdays (time and date of birth) were typically used to find a date that would be considered the most “auspicious” – bringing them good luck and prosperity in their union. Unfortunately, the date needs to be figured out by a Chinese “soothsayer”, and the only two who ‘serve’ my family live in Indonesia and Thailand. That meant constant International conversations through 5 million grapevines (I may be exaggerating here). This tradition gave both Mr Big and I stress and constant headaches, but we stuck it out, as we both knew how important it was to my parents.

The whole process took approximately 6 months, as the soothsayers told us that, as we got engaged so “early” we couldn’t get a date in 2013/2014 until much later in the year. The only dates they were giving us were late 2012, and Mr Big and I wanted a long engagement. So waiting we did.

We finally got our date in September 2012 and the date ended up being close enough to a February 2014 wedding that we were ok with it. For those brides out there whose parents are wanting them to get auspicious date, try to stay patient and stick to your guns. I gave my parents an ultimatum at 6 months – if we DIDN’T get a date by 6 months, we would either: a) try to find our own soothsayer, or b) try to calculate the date ourselves (there’s a great app that does it for you!).

Cutting the Ribbon

This tradition will take place on the morning of the wedding and is symbolic of my family, and more specifically, my eldest sister, MoH M&Ms, “letting me go”. This is because, in Chinese culture, it’s customary to ‘get married in order’, so M&Ms is supposed to be married before I, however, as this isn’t 16th Century China, that just didn’t happen. I’m the second-born of three daughters in my family, making me the middle child. My eldest sister, MoH M&Ms, has a boyfriend, but she isn’t married. To counteract the fact that I’ll be getting married first, I have to be “let go” by the unmarried eldest.

To do this, a red ribbon is strung along the front door and M&Ms cuts it, therefore allowing me out. I then present her with a gift and am let out of the house. In our wedding, this is then immediately followed by the next tradition:

The Auspicious Time

This tradition, like the auspicious date, is meant to give the bridegroom couple good fortune. With this tradition, a certain time is appointed to the bridegroom couple in which the groom must pick up the bride from her parents’ house and take her to his parents’ house. This tradition has given us the most grief, as it was only brought up later into planning, and therefore, became something of a logistical nightmare.

The three things that made it difficult for us was: the fact that our wedding was in the Hunter Valley, and therefore, nowhere near my parents’ house (in Sydney) and Mr Big’s parent’s house (in Christchurch, New Zealand); we wanted to keep the tradition where Mr Big and I don’t see each other until the ceremony; and finally, our ceremony is supposed to be starting at 11AM in the Gardens, and that was the exact time that we were given to enact the traditional “picking-up-of-the-bride”.

We were able to get around these problems, but to say it didn’t cause Mr Big and me grief would be lying. My tip to those who need to do the auspicious time tradition would be to get a clear idea early into wedding planning so that you know what you need to do. If you have to pester and prod, pester and prod!

As for how Mr Big and I navigated through this logistical nightmare, this is what we did:

Problem: Our wedding is in the Hunter Valley, my parents’ house is in Sydney, and Mr Bighorn’s parents’ house is in Christchurch, New Zealand – how do we do this tradition?

Solution: Because we were having a “destination” wedding, my parents compromised with this. Instead of Mr Big picking me up from my parents’ house in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia and (literally) flying to Christchurch, New Zealand, Mr Big would pick me up at the place of accommodation where my parents would be staying. The most important part of the tradition was that Mr Big would take me away, so all he really has to do is take me over the threshold of the villa to the outside.

Problem: The time the tradition needs to be performed is at 11AM – our ceremony starts at 11AM!

Solution: We’ve been told by a gazillion married couples already that it’s ok for the bridegroom couple to be late to their own wedding, as long as both of them are late at the same time. We’re approximating we’ll be about 15 minutes late to the ceremony, so it’ll officially start at 11:15AM. I’ve asked the venue if we’re allowed to push our timing back 15 minutes and they were very accommodating. We’re also going to ask our celebrant to also announce that we’ll be late if it so happens that we are.

Problem: We’ve agreed to not see each other before the ceremony – or at least, Mr Bighorn is not meant to see me before the ceremony. But the tradition means we have to see each other before the ceremony!

Solution: Not necessarily. Mr Big is going to be blindfolded as he steps up to the villa. When he answers, I’ll be able to see him, but he can’t see me. This means, though we’re with each pre-ceremony, he won’t have technically seen me. Also, we’re hoping there’s enough time for photos like this:

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What people have dubbed the “Not First Look”. Sigh, so pretty… / Image courtesy of thebridaldetective.com, photography by Jill Lauren Photography.

 Though this has given us the most grief, we’ve made our peace with it, and are even taking advantage of it! Hopefully it all works out.

The Chinese Tea Ceremony

I’ve mentioned that we’ll be having a Chinese tea ceremony in a previous post and I’ll be explaining what this is in some detail in another post.

Logistically, this is giving Mr Big and I the most grief, as it’s dependent on certain key members and we’re having a hard time pinning the timing of these guys down. Otherwise, Mr Big and I were more than happy to include this. We love the tradition behind it, and being from a Dutch and Chinese family respectively, it was important we celebrate our connections with our elders as much as the connection between ourselves. Again, I’ll be explaining these in more detail, but it’s a beautiful ceremony!

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Mrs Toucan’s beautiful Chinese tea ceremony. Photography by Robert Mirani.

And those are the Chinese wedding traditions! We’re excited about some, like the Tea Ceremony, and a little bit anxious about others, like the auspicious time tradition. But we’re both hoping it’ll all work out in the end. With enough planning and contingencies, Mr Big and I have made sure that anything that can go awry will be handled.

In my next post, I’ll talk about the more “Westernised” wedding traditions we’ll be having!

What do you guys think of these traditions? Strange, fascinating, both? 🙂

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.

gifting the couple

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.

praying to ancestors

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).

lotus and date tea

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.

double-happiness

The Double Happiness Symbol. Image via Tumblr.

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

lion dancing

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.

the qua

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:

traditional clothing

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!?

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. 😀

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!