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SHOW OF LOVE...............Tea Ceremony in Chinese Marriage and Bride Acceptance

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Marriage is one of the most dynamic of all human relationship. It is the coming together of a man and a woman sometimes from two different cultures, family background, belief and even history.

Marriage is the cradle of society...meaning that marriage builds the society. The community is made up of families and when it is well with marriages, it is well with the society. 

Every culture has their own set of traditions and rituals to follow when it comes to marriage and weddings. In china and Singapore, there are few common rituals and beliefs that Chinese couples have to go through.  

We share the important aspects of Chinese and indeed the Asia marriage and wedding ceremonies and Rituals.

There are seven important parts to their marriage that is constant and popular. We will discuss them briefly, leaving some of the ceremonial rights regarded as negative.

There are:
The Betrothal Gifts
The chuang Ritual
The Hair Combing Ritual
Fetching of the Bride
Leaving the Bride Home
The Tea Ceremony
The Banquet

BETROTHAL GIFTS 

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The tradition of gifting the bride’s family with gifts before the wedding represents the formal betrothal in ancient times. There are two parts to this. The first takes place two weeks before the wedding, where the groom and a lady of good fortune, or a matchmaker, will pay a visit to the bride’s home with a basket of gifts. 

Otherwise known as “Guo Da Li”, this gesture serves as an assurance that the groom will abide by and honour his promise. The items in the basket varies by the ancestral regions of the bride and groom. If the bride and groom are from two different dialect groups, the bride will typically follow the groom’s ancestral traditions.

AN CHUANG RITUAL

Traditionally, An Chuang (安床) or otherwise known as the setting up of the matrimonial bed is conducted on an auspicious date and at an auspicious time. Today, this ritual is held any time between a week to the night before the wedding and is usually carried out by either a good fortuned lady with a husband, children and many grandchildren, the groom or bride’s parents’ or the couple themselves.

HAIR COMBING RITUAL

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The hair combing ritual signals the bride and groom’s transitions from girl and boy to woman and man, and is a tradition practiced in every Chinese wedding. The ritual usually takes place the night before the wedding at the bride and groom’s respective houses. 

A woman deemed to have good fortune will conduct the hair combing ritual. The bride and groom will each have their hair combed four times while the woman iterates the blessing each stroke represents

FETCHING OF THE BRIDE

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On the day of the wedding, the groom will journey to the bride’s family home to fetch her back to his place. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But reality is often much harsher. Before the groom can get to his bride, he has to get past her bridesmaids, otherwise known as “jie meis” and satisfy a number of tasks. 

For support, the groom will rally his brothers, or “xiong dis”, who will accompany him to the fetching and help him get past the bride’s “jie meis”. This tradition, is otherwise known as the customary gatecrashing.

LEAVING THE BRIDE’S HOME


Traditionally, the bride is required to be sheltered with a red umbrella as she leaves her home as a symbol of warding off any negative elements. In the Teochew and Hokkien dialects, the father of the bride or a male elder is expected to shelter the bride with a red umbrella as she makes her way from her home to her wedding ride.

TEA CEREMONY

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If there is one tradition you have to include in your wedding, it is this. Equivalent to the Western solemnisation ceremony, the tea ceremony is where you’ll be formally introduced to everyone and accepted into your families. The bride and groom will first return to the groom’s family home to pay their respects to his family by serving them tea and addressing them by their formal titles. 

In return, his family will acknowledge her place in the family and offer them blessings for their happy union. The bride and groom then returns to her home for another tea ceremony to pay respects to her family. But before she does that, she will change into the traditional Chinese wedding dress, the “kua”.


Don’t expect the tea ceremony to be completed in a jiffy. There are rules and sequences governing the tea ceremony, like using the tea set included in the dowry basket and tea brewed from longans and red dates for the ceremony. The longans and red dates in the tea symbolises the birth of children early in the marriage while the sweetness of the tea represents the sweet relations between the couple and their families. Messing any of them up may ruffle some feathers and the last thing you need is such unpleasantness at the start of your big day.

To avoid all of that, familiarise yourself with what is required of you during your tea ceremony:

You, the bride, will position yourself on the left and your groom on the right.
You and your groom may or may not be expected to kneel before your elders as you serve them tea.

Always serve the male elders first as a sign of his superiority.
Parents of the couple are the first to be served, followed by their relatives based on their seniority in the family.

Remember to address the relatives by their formal titles (fifth aunt or second uncle, for example). If you’re not sure, do clarify before the ceremony begins.
In return, your elders should gift you with red packets or gifts as their blessings. However, any unmarried older sibling is exempted from presenting a red packet for you and your groom.

Both your younger siblings and cousins will serve you tea instead, and you will present them with gifts or red packets

THE WEDDING BANQUET

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Let’s get loud! A Chinese wedding banquet is a spectacle to behold, an experience to be had and never quiet. Usually held at night at the hotel of the couple’s choice, a Chinese wedding banquet rarely commences on time. Guests will sign in the guestbook, drop their wedding gifts (in the case of Singapore, red packets) and mingle with the rest of the guests at the reception.




We are going to bring more stories of about Chinese, Singapore and indeed the entire Asia marriage rites, culture and traditions as we embrace and celebrate the beauty of a 'global village' world.



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