Let’s start with a short summary of how to plan photography for your wedding tea ceremony:
1. Ensure your photographer understands the meaning of a Chinese wedding tea ceremony
The tea ceremony originates from tradition in China, where serving tea to guests demonstrates propriety. It is a significant way to show respect. At a wedding, such an act is to show respect and gratitude to parents for all the years of love and care.
2. Plan photography coverage for tea ceremony in blocks
Groom house > Bride’s house – before the wedding ceremony
The tea ceremony for the groom’s family is traditionally held in the morning, followed by the ceremony for the bride’s family.
From a photography standpoint, you must consider the time spent travelling between the Groom and Bride’s homes. You should extend your photography coverage by an hour.
All at one location – before or after the wedding ceremony
Nowadays, newlyweds frequently opt for a single ceremony that includes both sides. If both parties’ families are less traditional, you can place more importance on the act of the tea ceremony rather than the locations.
I offer tea ceremony coverage with Wedding Collections. Contact me for a detailed price list.
3. Choosing the right location
A couple of tips for deciding where to hold the ceremony:
- The best conditions for lighting would be a room with large windows. The second best choice would be a room with even lighting (e.g. not a mix of tungsten and fluorescent lighting, which throw colour casts on people’s skin)
- Leave room around the ceremony setting to allow your photographer to move around to get a variety of angles for you
4. Allocate time for capturing portraits in your tea ceremony outfit
It’s rare to don traditional dress in this day and age. I recommend allocating time for a mini portrait session to capture a few classic portraits.
What to wear: If you are having two separate tea ceremonies, then you will likely be in your wedding attire (gown and suit) for the tea ceremony for the groom’s family and a Qua or cheongsam for the bride’s side.
Couples who have one combined session for both sides of their families often stay in traditional dress (Qua or a cheongsam) for the entire tea ceremony.
Allocate more than enough time: If you want formal group photos, allow plenty of time for the different family groups. Gathering people for portraits is like herding cats.
This is not a must-have list!
- Solo portraits of you in your tea ceremony cheongsam
- Couple portraits
- Formal family photos
5. Ensure your photographer can anticipate the Chinese tea ceremony procedure
Organise positions: The groom should stand on the right and the bride should be on the left side. Their parents should sit on chairs and wait for the new couple to kneel and serve tea. The groom serves the tea first, followed by the bride. Both the bride and groom serve tea to the same person.
Communicate tea serving order: The order in which tea is served is important. It demonstrates how the couple values seniority.
- Granduncles and aunts
- Uncles/Aunties (in order of seniority)
- Elder Siblings
- Elder Cousins (if present)
- Younger Siblings
- Nieces and Nephews (if present)
6. Serving etiquette
Tips for the couple:
- Serve tea with two hands holding the saucer and bow slightly forward (or kneel).
- Those receiving the tea should hold the saucer, not the cup, as the gaiwan cup can be hot. It’s recommended to let everyone know this in advance.
It can also be good to educate people on how to drink from a gaiwan. The traditional way is to hold the saucer to move the cup close to your mouth. Then lift the lid slightly to one side and drink. When moving the lid, you can hold the nob on the lid, which isn’t hot.
- During the ceremony, address your relatives with their new titles while serving them tea.
- Once they’ve drunk the tea, take back the gaiwan with two hands, once again by holding the saucer.
7. Tips for a successful Chinese tea ceremony
- Write a list for the order of serving.
- Allow a trusted member of your bridal party to collect the gifts so you don’t have to keep track of them. This tip applies to your entire wedding: having someone you trust is essential for reducing stress on your wedding day!
- Use more than one set of teacups to allow more time to thoroughly clean them between uses.