When we were planning our wedding we wanted to incorporate traditions particularly from my culture. Hubby and I come from two very different cultures. We are truly “east meets west” with a touch of Jamaican heritage (his side) thrown in for good measure. You see, Chinese people love Chinese weddings… the noise, the umpteen course dinner, the games, the bright colours of red & gold. And for his side, we figured we would expose them to something different. I don’t think we disappointed anyone (but I do want to apologize to my mom for putting a halt to her desire for karaoke at the wedding…oh, and to the Pastor who sat front row at dinner and witnessed some
dirty unusual traditional Chinese wedding games).
So, all 350 guests (small in comparison to my sister’s 600+) were treated to the feast to end all feasts. We decided to perform the traditional CHINESE WEDDING TEA CEREMONY at the dinner.
But as the next generation of CBC (Canadian Born Chinese) are now getting married this is one of those traditions that gets lost in translation.
I met up with my friend Judy Lin who is a certified Tea Sommelier and comes from a family who is steeped in the tea industry in China. Judy was raised by her family with a deep understanding of the tea traditions and they are often called upon to host ceremonial teas. We had an interesting discussion about this long standing tradition and how we, who are raised in western culture, can adapt the traditions.
The Tea Ceremony is a 3-step process during the wedding and is traditionally performed with a host outside of the family (in old days it was the “matchmaker” and often a woman). Like the food we eat the drink is also very symbolic in our very superstitious culture.
1. Ginko Fruit Tea – for bride and groom to honour the Gods
2. Lotus Seed tea – served to parents on both sides, bride always serves parents first then the groom. Parents take their sips and always says to the couple “ho teem ho teem” (translation: very sweet) . Grandparents are also served the same tea. Extended family is optional.
3. At the end of the wedding ceremony a pure black unsweetened tea is served symbolizing forever love and a happily ever after. The bride and groom must finish the tea in one shot completely – again representing a seamless marriage of continuous love.
Customary lucky red envelopes filled with money or gold are given to the wedding couple by parents, and whoever participates in the tea ceremony.
The Bridal Tea is usually served at the Bride’s house before the wedding but Judy tells me that some are now doing this at the wedding ceremony. A blooming flowering tea is served to relatives on both sides and performed by the Bride to show her “talent” and grace. This is also a tradition to introduce the new member to the family.
Judy and I also spoke further about the traditions surrounding our culture with tea and how it use to be. I’m not so sure this all still applies today but it was interesting to hear!
TEA Rules for the Unmarried…
Male: During blind dating, if an unmarried man accepts and drinks the tea served by an unmarried woman. I tmeans he likes the woman, and would like to marry her. Then, he will give some loose leaf teas to the woman as a gift of love. Later, the man will go with a matchmaker to ask her parents for permission of marriage.
Female: An unmarried female could not drink tea that is offered by an unmarried man when she is out of home. If she does, it means she’s willing to marry him. At home, an unmarried female serves tea to the man to express love.
Act of Engagement:
According to the custom of Confucianism, when a young man would like to get married he has to go through the following customs with a matchmaker to make the engagement official.
1. give his date of birth and requirements to the matchmaker to start the dating process.
2. Together they carry proposal gifts to visit the potential female’s house and ask for permission from the female’s parents and other elderly family members.
3. If her parents agree, they will serve the man a cup of sweetened tea (made of tea, sugar and longan fruit)
4. Tea plants are essential engagement gifts to the family. Tea plants are green all year and represent forever love. Once the gift is received then the engagement is approved and no other suitors can bring tea to the family.
5. The male’s family will also send tea plants to the female’s house.
There are some slight interpretations of the tea customs throughout China depending on the region but overall the main offerings are covered.
I’m sure when my honey and I got married 19 years ago (this week!) he had no idea what he got himself into with the superstitions and traditions of my culture. If you know him, ask him about the Roast Pig he was suppose to send over to my family before we got married (traditionally to say he accepts me as a virgin) He SHOULD have sent it….but we let him go on that one!
Judy Lin continues to perform traditional chinese wedding tea ceremonies. If you would like to reach her for more information, you can contact her through www.t-buds.com or by calling 647-352-3622.
Does your culture have any interesting wedding traditions or superstitions?