Raised in Singapore, having moved to Australia and settling on the UK as home, this beautiful duo has a love that stretches the globe. So when it came to their wedding, tying together their background was oh-so-important, and Jessie Thomson made that happen. This gallery from Leah Kua is all the proof why the Cotswolds and a Chinese tea ceremony are a perfect pairing.
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From Jessie Thomson Wedding Planning…A traditional Chinese tea ceremony set in the heart of The Cotswolds in England, with close friends and family the day before the full wedding celebration, followed by an afternoon tea with cucumber sandwiches and scones – set in the gardens of a boutique Cotswold stone hotel.
I was honoured to be invited to this pre-wedding celebration as a guest with my daughter, and to witness such a beautiful and time honoured tradition in the British countryside on a hot Summer’s day.
It was the perfect way to start a weekend of celebrations!
From the beautiful Bride…Ryan and I are of Chinese descent and raised in Singapore. 15 years ago, we both moved to Australia first and then the UK. When we decided to get married in the UK, we planned our wedding around two visions: one of a rustic chic barn theme on the actual day, and a cultural heritage theme on the day before. We wanted the latter to be an intimate affair purely for our families, wedding party and wedding planner. The beautiful and romantic grounds of the Rectory Hotel in the Cotswolds was the perfect spot to host the ceremony.
Steeped in tradition, the tea ceremony is the most sacred ritual of Chinese nuptials. It serves as the bride’s symbolic introduction to the groom’s family. Choosing to incorporate this tradition was our way to honour the Chinese values that we were raised with and close to our hearts, despite having been living overseas for so long. Equally, we felt this was an important feature to include, given the next day’s wedding events would take on a more modern and relaxed western approach.
Since the exact presentation can vary from family to family and different Oriental cultural groups, we kept ours simple and elegant with the showcase of the tea set being the focal item in the ceremony set-up. A complete tea set represents harmony and togetherness. Traditionally, the tea set itself is part of the bride’s dowry and becomes a keepsake that she’ll use again for her own daughter’s ceremony someday.
Sweet tea is believed to bring happiness to the couple and to foster good relations between the bride and her new in-laws. According to legend, placing lotus seeds and two red dates in the teapot brings children into the marriage early on and every year thereafter. I was very blessed to have my mother choose the porcelain tea set, bringing it from across the globe and preparing the sweet tea on the day. It was an involvement and role that meant a huge deal to her, as a Mother. And to me too.
During the ceremony, Ryan and I served the tea to both our families who would take turns, proceeding from the most senior members of Ryan (the groom)’s family and then my (the bride) family. Drinking the tea was a sign of acceptance of the marriage and therefore quite emotional especially for the more senior family members. In return, we the newlyweds, received red envelopes filled with money or jewellery as a gesture of their blessings.
Red is a symbolic colour for all joyous occasions in the Oriental culture, so it naturally became the choice of colour for my custom made “cheongsam” or traditional gown from Singapore that I wore for the event. It also turned out to be a fitting one when I realised there were pops of red colour dotted about, from the Oriental wedding wall decal, to the red packets and even the red roses in the garden!
I loved every detail of my dress from the French corded lace to the slit on the side which allowed me to show off one of my legs. Since it was a very striking dress, I kept my accessories to a minimum, choosing to don on a pearl necklace and earrings. To complete the whole look, I chose an updo style, which I was initially rather nervous about, as I have never been one to wear my hair up most of the time. But having a brilliant hair stylist meant I had nothing to worry about at all. I was at ease the whole time and was reluctant to take it down when the day was over!
As a contrast, Ryan chose to go for a western style semi-formal look which surprisingly, complemented my traditional look well. His outfit took on a pastel palette comprising a shirt with delicate prints, a waistcoat and a pair of tan leather brogues.
The day would not be complete without a little East meets West. We were in the UK after all! After the ceremony, our guests were treated to a proper English afternoon tea experience complete with scones, cakes and pastries. It gave us a good opportunity to mingle with everyone in a relaxed and fun manner, just like an afternoon outdoor garden party in the summer! Looking back, that day proved to be so precious in that we got to spend more time with everyone, many of whom have travelled from afar for us, celebrating a familiar tradition with a twist.
Photography: Leah Kua | Wedding Planner: Jessie Thomson Wedding Planning | Ceremony Venue: The Rectory | Groom's Attire: Ted Baker | Bridal Hair & Makeup: Heidi Vince