The Chinese Banquet: The Tea Ceremony+Getting Fed Up

[Accepting a gift from my Popo (grandmother) during the tea ceremony]

This post can also be known as, Mo blows her cover as someone who always obeys her elders without question. It could also be titled, I'm not changing my last name and I don't think my in-laws know that. Whoops!

Before I get into the tea ceremony, the day before the wedding banquet I was going a little crazy because the boy's parents asked me to proofread the names of my relatives who would be introduced. [It is customary at Chinese banquets for parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts to be introduced along with the bride and groom.] I noticed that the format was "Mr. and Mrs. HisLastName" and that's when I very calmly informed my in-laws that that did not apply to my aunt or my two sisters, because they have hyphenated names, or they just kept their last name. "Why would anyone do that?" my mother-in-law asked. Uh-oh.

And then I told her that I thought all the women needed to be announced with their first names, not just "Mrs. HisName", and I got a "no one is going to care" response.

Um, I beg to differ, you're standing in front of someone that cares. *Wildly raises hand* So I took the list and rewrote it to include all of my aunts' and sisters' first names. And then I realized that no one asked about how we were going to be introduced in Chinese. Uh-oh.

I could just hear it now, Introducing for the first time, Mr. HisName and BRIDE! My Uncle was doing the introductions, so I basically ran over to him when I saw him and told him, "Please introduce me with my full name. PLEASE." He laughed at how pained I looked, but kindly obliged.

So by the time I reached the tea ceremony the next day, I was still reeling from the possibility of all of the women's names being erased from introductions, including mine.

[Serving tea to my Uncle and Aunt during the tea ceremony]

The tea ceremony is very simple (or at least ours was.) Ours went a little something like this: An elder (or elder couple) will sit, I would stand and serve tea, and then I say "Elder's name, drink tea" and he or she in turn will drink tea, and give a gift, often money in a red envelope like in the photo of the boy's aunt and uncle below.

We did the boy's side of the family first, so we served them all tea and then it was my family's turn. The boy and I took turns serving the tea, we did not offer the cups at the same time, but instead he would go first and then I would serve tea after.

When it was my family's turn to be served, I picked up a tea cup first before the boy, and was quickly reprimanded. "No! The man always goes first! You go after." I looked down at the cup. Then back up. Then at my parents, and said "Seriously? But they're MY PARENTS." I got a lecture about tradition and "this is how it has always been done" and so the boy served tea first. And I served the cup after him.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that we did the tea ceremony and had the banquet, as our heritage is important to us and we wanted to have a banquet that our extended families could attend.

But did it have to be so sexist?


Ms. Wedding Crasher said...

The picture with your grandmother is lovely!

MayLove said...

Yikes, I know how you feel. I HATE being referred to (and greatly dislike seeing it done w/ others) Mrs. HisName.
Uh, my last name changed, not my first, or my gender, or my entire identity. GR!

honey my heart said...

glad to hear that you pushed for a more progressive type tea ceremony and really like that the ladies were introduced by their full name. i think it is a great tradition but there should be flexibility in any tradition, especially since it is 2010. and you're not alone, my family & inlaws are sometimes (usually) surprised by equal my hubs and i are!

ps. your grandma is so cute!

A Los Angeles Love said...

Now that is last minute panic for something real. Why is it that names never matter to people who TOOK their partners name. Grumble. I think you dealt with it all, including the sexist customs, as best as possible. I'm lucky, my religion is already more progressive than the sexist Orthodox practices. But I understand the pull/push of custom. Luckily, this was just symbolic, and not your real life with your egalitarian hubby.

Chic 'n Cheap Living said...

Yikes! Well luckily my parents didn't care or notice who served tea first.
What's up with the names? At least you got to correct it.

Maggie said...

Oh you! I definitely relate to this ... I was absolutely paranoid the dj at our wedding would blow the name thing, so much so that we actually skipped a formal introduction in honor of just cruising into the cocktail party and mingling. As soon as we made that decision, my stress vanished. Big props to you for managing typically name stress on top of cultural negotiations ... loving all your recaps!

Mo said...

Grandma is super cute, isn't she? I love that cheongsam she is wearing, it always looks so pretty on her. She has this adorable fur coat she wears too.

@honey my heart: Exactly! Hello everyone! It's 2010! I just don't get how our parents can push the females in this family to work hard in school and become successful professionals and then revert back when it comes to name conventions. Flexibility, yes please.

@A Los Angeles Love: Thanks Becca, I was like a deer in headlights as to what to do. It was definitely panic on my part. No one prepped me for sexist customs and what to do in response!

@Chic n'Cheap: At my sister's, they served tea together, so I just assumed we would either do that or take turns. And my other sister didn't even have one. So I was the lucky one that got the lecture about Chinese tradition.

@Maggie: Oooh I worried about this too at our American wedding! Glad you found an easy solution to the problem. Our DJ didn't have to announce us, but he did for our first dance and he mispronounced my name. Ahhh names. Fun stuff, right? Glad you're enjoying the recaps, they're fun to write. :)

The Professional Bridesmaid said...

Oh dear. I think you handled this quite well. I would have had a meltdown. hehehe.

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