When tradition is everyone’s cup of tea.

I don’t know about you but in general day to day life, the offering of a good cuppa from a pal can feel like a warm hug.

So, the idea that a couple will kneel and serve tea to their parents, their grandparents, their future in-laws and any other family members is a sweet little declaration of love and, it has weaved its way through generations of Chinese families over thousands of years.

For any new kids on the block, who are planning to pay homage to this beautiful tradition by incorporating a Chinese Tea Ceremony into their own wedding, we are here to break it down and tell you the in’s and outs of this cultural gem.  


Kaman and Jerry, photo by Rick Liston
Photo by Rick Liston

In Chinese culture offering tea shows love, respect and appreciation from the couple toward their family members. And by accepting the tea the family members affirm that the feeling is mutual. Awww … I feel another hug coming on.  

It doesn’t stop there. Things go deeper (pocket deep) and mysterious little red envelopes are given out by everyone to their junior family members for good luck (known as Lai See) The envelopes, as it turns out, are magical little parcels filled with money to represent good fortune. What a system!

And, if this doesn’t sound like the greatest thing ever, let’s throw in some magnificent fashion. Traditional bridal attire consists of the timeless red coat and skirt combo known as a Qun Kua adorned with intricate golden patterns. In-laws often present gold jewellery to the bride (often a dragon bangle) for the bride to immediately accessorise against her amazing get-up.  

So let’s break it down….

The Chinese tea ceremony symbolises the acceptance of the couple’s union. It joins two families into one. Everyone looks fabulous and and everyone gets a Lai see envelope filled with money for good fortune. Talk about a culture that has each other’s back. Sheesh, some people get all the Lai See!

Kaman and Jerry
Photo by Rick Liston


Below are some facts around the intricate traditions that bring the ceremony to life and how they’ve been adapted over time.

Where did the tea ceremony originate from? 

The tea ceremony dates back to the Tang Dynasty, of 618. Tea has always been an important part of the Chinese culture. The tea plant cannot be transplanted once it has been removed from the ground; thus it was thought, when the woman brought tea as part of her dowry. The tea is thought to represent her love, purity and faithfulness. 

Where does the ceremony take place? 

The ceremony normally takes place in the home of the couple. It was customary for the brides family to have the ceremony at her house first. She is then picked up and taken to her partners house for the other celebration. However, this has been modernised to be able to take place at any location.

Who serves the tea?

Typically the bridal party will help get the tea ready to be served to the family members. The couple will then pass the cups of tea, individually onto the family members. 

Who brings the tea pot and cups? 

It was customary for the brides family to buy and bring the cups and the tea pot. However, times have changed so this can now be bought by anyone.

Kaman and Jerry, photo by Rick Liston
Photo by Rick Liston

When are the Lai see envelopes handed out and who does this? 

The “Lai See” or the red envelopes are handed out immediately after the conclusion of the ceremony. Normally the family will say a speech, then the packets will be handed out. They are given to every person who is involved in the ceremony.

How much time should we allocate for this? 

How long is a piece of string? If you have a huge family and they are all involved this will take some time, as you have to wash the cups in between. So, if you are under a tight time constraint, then keep it small.  

Kaman and Jerry, photo by Rick Liston
Photo by Rick Liston

How do we set up the tea ceremony room? 

You will have to set up the room so there are two chairs facing the bridal couple. You then put two cushions on the ground directly in front of the chairs, so the couple kneels at the feet of the family members. The couple will normally kneel opposite and facing the same gender. You start with the grooms family. The groom serves tea to his father and then the bride serves tea to the father. The groom will then serve tea to his mother and then the bride will serve tea to her future mother in law. The rest of the grooms family will be served tea in the same manner, then onto the bride’s family. In a same sex relationship, you can start with which ever family you would like and follow the same premise.  

Kaman and Jerry, photo by Rick Liston
Photo by Rick Liston

Kaman and Jerry, photo by Rick Lison
Photo by Rick Liston