Q: Is it proper to have a tea ceremony at or after a Catholic church wedding?
A: Weddings are joyful times when families come together to celebrate a special moment in the lives of their children. The Church recognises this special moment and sees it as a blessing and the fulfilment of the God-given vocation to life and to love.
The Church has always supported the inculturation of the Christian faith to local cultures. Even in marriage, the Church recognises that local cultures are expressions of this joyful occasion and encourages a tasteful inculturation of the celebrations.
Therefore, it is permissible, for example, for an Indian couple to include in the exchange of rings a further expression of this commitment by the tying of the thali. This is the gold thread which the groom ties to the neck of the bride.
Similarly, in Chinese culture, the tea ceremony is one beautiful element that couples, while celebrating the gift of marriage in a Catholic ceremony, may also express it towards their elders as a sign of filial piety and love. The commandment to honour parents is in turn a call for blessing upon the children in their marriage, and on their future children that God may bless them with.
This familial setting of marriage expresses in the Chinese tradition that marriage, while it is essentially between two persons, also involves the joy of the extended families.
Asian cultures and traditions tend to express more of a communal celebration in these moments like marriage, birth of a child, the one month celebrations, birthdays, etc.
So, we would say that there is nothing in the tea ceremony that goes against the teachings of the Church nor the theology of marriage. While the Church ceremony in itself is sufficient for a valid canonical marriage, the tea ceremony adds a cultural and familial aspect to this happy occasion.
Fr John-Paul Tan, ofm