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Your Complete Handbook to a Vietnamese Tea Ceremony

A Vietnamese wedding of the past or the present can’t be complete without a tea ceremony. According to common belief, a successful tea ceremony promises the couple a happy marriage. So, what will take place in such an event? Let us show you how Vietnamese people organize a proper tea ceremony in this article.

Why Is the Tea Ceremony Important?

Vietnamese people have a strong belief in the old saying “a good beginning makes a good ending”. The tea ceremony signals a happy married life for the newlyweds and continuation of the bloodline. Plus, a successful tea ceremony premises a successful wedding day.

Why Are the Tea Ceremony Gifts Significant?

The tea ceremony gifts, as known as the “dowry challenge”, are a tradition that has remained until today.

Emphasize the Courtesy of the Groom’s Family

Oftentimes, fully-looking gift sets signify the respect of the groom’s family toward the bride and her parents. On the other hand, these gifts are the groom’s contribution to the wedding preparation.

Symbolize the In-Laws’ Prosperity

Today, in-laws agree upon a set of seven or nine dowry trays since they’re reasonable. A thirteen-tray set requires effort and a bigger pocket, and thus shows that the groom’s family is wealthy.

Vietnamese tea ceremony dowry trays

When Is the Best Time for a Tea Ceremony?

In the past, people arranged the tea ceremony one to two years before the wedding day! However, the busy life these days has loosened up this strict rule and shortened the time gap from one month to one week. Sometimes, the tea ceremony happens on the same day as the wedding ceremony.

Like the old day, the two families seek help from a monk or a fortune teller to pick up a good date. The couples’ birthdays, their parents, or even grandparents’ birthdays are key inputs when choosing the date.

Breakdown of a Standard Tea Ceremony

Although each region has some differences, a standard tea ceremony has seven steps:

The Groom Departs to the Bride’s House

The day starts early for the groom’s entourage. They need to double-check the dowry trays and arrive at the bride’s house 30 minutes in advance to avoid unexpected issues.

The Two Families’ Introduction

The groom’s procession enters the bride’s house by order: the elders, followed by the groom and the gift carriers. The groom’s relatives and friends are the last to go in.

The bride’s family will greet the groom’s family without presenting the bride. After that, the bride’s family accepts the gifts and the two families offer lucky money for the gift carriers.

Giving Speeches

The groom’s elder representative will explain the purpose of the ceremony, introduce the groom’s family, and describe the gifts.

The bride’s elder representative will give thanks and accept gifts. Then, the two mothers open each tray in everyone’s witness.

The Bride Presents Herself

The bride hasn’t shown herself up until this point. So, either the father of the bride or the groom will come to escort her to greet everyone. Then, the couple offers tea to guests of the two families.

Offering Prayers to the Ancestors

After the tea offering, the bride’s mother will select a few dowry items for the young couples to bring to the altar. This is to pay tribute to their forefathers and ask for their approval.

altar decoration in the tea ceremony
photo credit karenlao.com

Confirmation of the Wedding Day

Once the altar offering is over, the two families will sit down to talk about the big day. Typically, this talk is a confirmation of what has been planned. While the elders are inside discussing the two families’ new bond, the bride and the groom can take photos with guests outside.

Sharing the Dowry

To complete the tea ceremony, the bride’s family will “share” with the groom’s family half of everything on the gift trays. Also, the people tasked with this sharing ritual must avoid using sharp tools like knives or scissors as they don’t bring good fortune.

This step marks the end of a successful tea ceremony. After that, the bride’s family often invites the groom’s family to a small banquet as a thank you gesture.

More Fascinating Meaning Behind the Dowry Items

Here’s a detail of a standard thirteen-tray set:

  • A betel and areca nut tray
  • A fruit tray
  • A green sticky rice cake and husband-and-wife cake tray
  • A green bean cake tray
  • A lotus seed jam tray
  • A tea tray
  • A wine and cigarette tray
  • A roasted young pig tray
  • A red sticky rice tray
  • A beer tray
  • A soft drink tray
  • A candy tray
  • A sunflower seed tray

As you can see from above, lots of preparation goes into this task! Now, let’s take a look at the meaning behind the main items.

dowry trays decor and presentation
photo credit Tan @myanmartravel.com

Betel and Areca Nuts

Vietnamese consider betel and areca nuts “conversation starters”, and thus they are must-have items in any weddings. Plus, the green peel and red meat of areca nuts represent the husband and wife’s evergreen bond.

The Tea Tray

People believe tea is like a husband and wife’s connection. Overcoming the bitterness of life makes their bond stronger and promises a happy ending. Besides, the more you taste the tea, the sweeter it gets. A nice cup of tea brings great conversation so people only choose good tea like Thai Nguyen tea, Oolong tea, lotus tea, or jasmine tea.

Wine and Cigarettes

The wine and cigarettes express the groom’s gratitude to the bride’s ancestors. And by offering those, he seeks their approval and blessing for the upcoming wedding.

Lotus Seeds

To Vietnamese people, lotus seeds jam symbolize sweet love and beautiful offspring.

Husband-and-Wife Cakes

The name husband-and-wife cake says it all. A symbol of yin and yang, land and sea, the cake represents the couple’s everlasting devotion. Also, the sweet aroma of the cake indicates the dream of bountiful family life.

The Fruit Tray

The fruit tray, adorned with fresh, colorful fruits, is often shaped in a dragon-and-phoenix figure. The reason behind this decoration is to offer the best food to the altar and to wish the newlyweds a bright and colorful life.

References:

Main image & downry trays by worksbysarahjane.com

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