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 when guests come is very traditional propriety. It is a significant way to show respects. In 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
Traditionally, the tea ceremony for the groom’s family is conducted in the morning, with the ceremony for the bride’s family conducted subsequently bride’s home visit.
What this means for photography is that you have to take into account the time in moving between the Groom and Bride’s homes as well as . the photographer’s. Doing it this way means you should be comfortable adding an extra hour.
All at one location – before or after the wedding ceremony
Nowadays, newlyweds often decide to have just one ceremony for both sides together. 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 will 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 in a Qua or cheongsam for the bride’s side.
Couples who are having one session of tea ceremony 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 for a variation
- 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 couples’ kneel and tea serving. The groom serves the tea first, the bride after. Both the bride and groom serve tea to the same person.
Communicate order of serving: The order of serving tea is very important. It shows how the couple respects their seniority.
- Grand uncles and aunts
- Uncles/Aunties (in order of seniority)
- Elder Siblings
- Elder Cousins (if present)
- Younger Siblings
- Nieces and Nephews (if present)
6. Photographing 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 not hold the cup but the saucer as the gaiwan cup itself 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 most 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 smooth Chinese tea ceremony
- Write a list for the order of serving.
- Have a trusted member of your bridal party collect the gifts so that you are not busy keeping track. This tip applies to your whole wedding – having a person you trust is the key to staving off some stress throughout the wedding day!
- Have more than one set of teacups that you alternate so that you have more time to wash them thoroughly between each use.
8. Fit in beautiful photography that tells a fuller story