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Hong Kong Wedding 101: Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony


Although Chinese weddings have become more modernised, the tradition of the tea ceremony has remained steadfast and is still one of the most meaningful rituals of a Chinese wedding. It is the crucial moment when the bride and groom serve tea to both sides of the family to represent the ceremonial introduction of the two families becoming one. But where does this practice come from and why is it so significant? What does it exactly entail? As the Hong Kong wedding season approaches, learn and discover the history, symbolisms, and procedures of a traditional Chinese wedding tea ceremony.




One of the earliest records of tea ceremonies in China was during the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD) when Tang Princess Wencheng married the Tibetan Emperor, Songtsan Gampo. Since then, tea giving and the formal tea ceremony has become an indispensable part of the marriage process.


Meaning and significance


During the Chinese wedding tea ceremony tradition, the couple kneels or bows in front of their elder family members and serves them tea as a sign of respect and gratitude for all the years of love and nurture. The family responds by giving gifts to showcase their acceptance, goodwill and support to the newlyweds as they begin their marriage as husband and wife. This Chinese wedding tradition indicates the formal introduction of the bride and groom into a new, extended family. Every component of the ceremony itself, from the ingredients used for the tea itself to the decoration colours, are specifically designed to celebrate the marriage and represent additional wishes of fortune and blessings of fertility to the couple.




Date and location: The Chinese wedding tea ceremony is hosted either on an auspicious date before the wedding or on the wedding date itself. If it is on the wedding date, it can be held before the wedding ceremony or in the time between the wedding and the banquet. It is typical for the groom’s side of the family to go before the bride’s side but it all depends on the preference of the families. The newlyweds can choose to have it at their respective homes, as per tradition, or opt to have it in hotels for convenience.


Tea: The ingredients for the tea are chosen purposefully to signify a sweet, loyal, and happy marriage and to promote fertility. In the past, people used either lotus seed and red date tea or longan and red date tea since these ingredients bring good luck through the special connotations of these ingredients. Nowadays, there is less emphasis on the specific type of tea as long as it is not a diet tea as that can indicate a lack of prosperity in the forthcoming marriage. Families usually choose either green tea, pu’er, tieguanyin or jasmine tea and may also add lotus seeds and red dates to the tea.

  • Lotus seed: The lotus seed represents an innocent and true love since the lotus flower grows in the mud but is not stained by it. It is also used as a blessing and hope for multiple children as the Chinese character for lotus seed is also linked to the word ‘succession’ and ‘children’.
  • Longan fruit: The longan is similar to the lotus seed in that it symbolizes heirs. The Chinese character for the ingredient can also be used to mean ‘precious’.
  • Red Dates: Red dates are used to epitomize sweetness in the marriage. The words for red dates are also similar to the words within a customary saying for all newly married Chinese couples that wishes them to have a child as soon as possible.


Tea sets: Choosing the tea set is also important for this Chinese ceremony tradition. It should not be white or have the character ‘longevity’ as it is associated with funerals. The base colour of the tea set should be either red or gold. The tea sets also cannot portray only a single dragon or phoenix as they must come in a pair to represent a blissful union.


Decorations: Red is a very auspicious colour in Chinese culture as it represents good fortune and prosperity. It is the colour of celebration and happiness. As such, it is a common colour to see during a Hong Kong wedding.


The room is often decorated by backdrops of the ‘double happiness’ character in red and gold in addition to a plethora of red lanterns, strings of decorative fireworks, red table cloths, flowers, and a red carpet.


Outfits: The groom wears either a traditional mandarin suit or a western suit with a red silk tie and red handkerchief while the bride usually wears a red traditional kwankwa, qipao, or cheongsam style dress with a mandarin collar with images of a dragon and a phoenix.


Additional set-up materials: These include the red kneeling cushions, chairs for parents and families to sit on, and a table to hold the teapot, teacups, and the gifts from the family members.



Steps of the Chinese wedding tea ceremony:


1.) Kneeling or bowing to serve the tea in order of seniority


As per Chinese wedding tradition, the groom kneels on the right cushion while the bride on the left. The elder male sits on the bench or chair in front of the groom while the elder female is seated facing the bride. In order to serve the tea, the newlyweds hold the saucer or cup with both of their hands and greet the male first and then the female by their formal title in the family. The order of the family is served by seniority. Parents usually go first, then the grandparents before the other relatives. Some families, however, may have the grandparents go before the parents. It is important for everyone to know the order and the title of each family member before the tea ceremony event.


Typically, at least three people from the bridal party help to run the ceremony. One holds the tea, gifts, and the serving plate while the other helps to hand the tea to the couple to serve. The last person makes sure that there are enough clean cups for the tea ceremony.


2.) Receiving gifts


To demonstrate their love and best wishes, family members give their blessings and present the new couple with either red envelopes containing money or jewellery after they drink the tea and return the cup. It is customary for the bridegroom to wear the jewellery immediately as a sign of their appreciation.


The tea ceremony is completed when both sides of relatives are served.


Planning one?


Although there are a lot of intricate and symbolic components to a tea ceremony, it does not have to be difficult to plan. Get in touch with Hotel Icon’s team of creative and devoted wedding specialists for an unforgettable and stress-free Hong Kong wedding experience. Minimize travelling time and hassle for family members by having the chinese wedding tea ceremony at one of Hotel ICON’s hotel rooms or function rooms. The hotel can provide all the materials and ingredients necessary to guarantee a smooth tea ceremony tradition. Make your dream wedding and tea ceremony come true with us at Hotel Icon.


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