Tag Archives: tea ceremony

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?

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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.).

led out of house

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:

oriental_pagoda_sunset

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!?

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:

oriental_pagoda_sunset

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?