A Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony
Some of you may not be familiar with the Chinese custom of a Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony. Historically, this ceremony is held after the wedding ceremony. The bride and groom serve tea to their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. They do this for three reasons: First, the couple is able to show respect and honor to their parents. Second, the ceremony signifies the changed relationship between the couple and their parents because the newlyweds are now considered a daughter and a son to both families. Third, the ceremony gives the parents the opportunity to welcome the newlyweds into their respective families.1
The wedding ceremony signifies a change of relationship for the bride and groom when a minister pronounces them "husband and wife." Part of the meaning of a tea ceremony is to show a change of relationship to the family. The tea ceremony provides a formal occasion to confirm this change of relationship between the newlywed and their in-laws. When the newlyweds serve their new in-laws tea, they also begin to address them with a new title "Mom and Dad" or, in our case, "Baba and Mama."2
Being in North America for over 40 years, I have seen only a few Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremonies, and I really did not think much of it. When our oldest son was married three years ago, my wife and I did not want to have one. "Why?" you may ask. We did not want to attach any great significance to a tea ceremony and we did not want our relatives, who had already spent handsome sums of money traveling from great distances, to have to give jewelry and red envelopes filled with cash to the newlyweds.3
That was a negligent decision on our part. After the wedding -- minus the tea ceremony --everything went well. My wife and I gained a daughter, and our son matured even more. We had Thanksgiving dinner together at their home, where Heaven descended upon us, except for one thing...our new daughter still called us Mr. and Mrs. Yew. We had hoped she would feel comfortable to call us "Baba" and "Mama" because they were married in March. My wife hinted that we were ready to be addressed in a more familiar manner. She even hired an agent, our second son, to accomplish that purpose. But he thought it was no big deal and did not carry out his "mission."
It was during those months of "agony" that we thought of the Chinese Tea Wedding.
We realized that our first daughter-in-law had trouble changing the way she addressed us because there was no occasion to recognize the change.
When our second son planned his wedding, we talked with him and his fiance about our first mistake and asked them if they wanted us to do it right by including the Chinese Tea Wedding ceremony. They agreed. Moreover, our future in-laws encouraged us to do so.
I am happy to say that the tea ceremony at our son's wedding was absolutely beautiful and meaningful. It is difficult to describe the sweet feeling of being addressed by our second daughter as "Baba" and "Mama" on the same day she married our son.
For your June wedding, it is still not too late to add a tea ceremony to your wedding reception. You will have no regrets. Take it from Yew to you.
- This paragraph is taken from a speech given by Mrs. May Chan, my wife's sister-in-law, just prior to the tea ceremony of our second son.
- Since our son has always addressed us as "Baba" and "Mama," it is appropriate for our new daughter to do the same.
- It is customary for relatives to give jewelry to the bride and red envelopes with cash in them to the bride and groom when the newlyweds serve them tea.