Tea is probably used because it is China's national
drink and serving it is a sign of respect. Using tea
is practical because not everyone can drink alcohol.
Lotus seeds and two red dates are used in the tea for
two reasons. First, the words "lotus" and "year",
"seed" and "child", and "date" and "early",
are homophones, i.e. they have the same sound but
different meanings in Chinese. Secondly, the ancient
Chinese believed that putting these items in the tea
would help the newlyweds produce children early in
their marriage and every year, which would ensure many
grandchildren for their parents. Also, the sweetness
of the special tea is a wish for sweet relations
between the bride and her new family.
Serving the Tea
On the wedding day, the bride serves tea (holding the
teacup with both hands) to her parents at home before
the groom arrives. She does this out of respect and to
thank her parents for raising her. The tea at this
time does not need to have the lotus seeds or dates,
and the bride does not need the assistance of a
"lucky woman". She pours and serves the tea by
herself without the groom.
Traditionally, after the wedding ceremony, the
newlyweds serve tea (holding the teacups with both
hands), inviting the groom's elders to drink tea by
addressing them by formal title, e.g. first uncle or
The general rule is to have the woman on the left side
and the man on the right side. The people being served
will sit in chairs, while the bride and groom kneel.
For example, when the newlyweds serve tea to the
groom's parents, the bride would kneel in front of
her father-in-law, while the groom would kneels in
front of his mother.
The newlyweds serve tea in order, starting with the
groom's parents then proceeding from the oldest
family members to the youngest, e.g. the groom's
parents, then his paternal grandparents, then his
maternal grandparents, then his oldest uncles and
aunts, and all the way to his older brother.
In return, the newlyweds receive lucky red envelopes
("lai see", which means "lucky") stuffed with
money or jewelry. The helpers, who are usually women
blessed with a happy marriage or wealth and chosen by
the fortune teller or bride's mother, also get lucky
red envelopes stuffed with money from those being
served. These envelopes are placed on the platter
which holds the teacups.