We had so much fun at our raucous door games that no one -- not even Hot Mama Cocoa, the keeper of time and traditions -- paid attention to the clock. So by the time we collected ourselves and got back to bit'nez, it was past 2:30, the auspicious hour when the tea ceremony was supposed to begin.
Sorry, Chinese astrologer lady who set our schedule; we tried!
I hustled my embroidered Chewish butt downstairs to one of the hotel's meeting spaces, where all the relatives participating in the ceremony were already gathered. Who knew that Jewish and Chinese people could be so on time?! And there wasn't even going to be food involved!
* Funny sidenote: We asked the hotel to set the room up theater style for our tea ceremony. Apparently, they thought we were having a tea party, because they provided us with dainty cups and saucers, a selection of fancy teas, and tiny little jars of honey.
With Hottest Sister Cocoa serving as "good luck lady" and mistress of ceremonies, the tea ceremony began with our serving tea to my grandparents. Since the tea ceremony was, for all practical purposes, the Chinese wedding ceremony, my then-fiance really wanted to make sure that everything was done just right. He was so nervous serving my grandparents that his hands were shaking. Of course, that just made my grandmother laugh! (There's not much empathy in my family, I'm afraid.)
My grandparents presented us with lai see -- red envelopes with cash -- but my grandmother also gave me a stunning diamond heart pendant that she had a jeweler make for me.
We then served my mom (isn't she stunning in her cheongsam?), who also presented me with some fab-u-lous jade jewelry and gave Mr. HC a pair of diamond cufflinks. (His "oy, how'd I become the kind of dude who has diamond cufflinks?" look above is hilarious.) My mom is not the most sentimental of people, but she just radiated happiness at that moment.
As I knelt there, I suddenly -- and rather unexpectedly -- felt a deep connection to my heritage. Generations of brides in my family had experienced that very same ritual: the embroidered red dress and the clanging gold bangles, the conflicted feelings of joy, freedom, and loss serving tea to one's mother, the gold teacup filled with sweet tea and lotus seeds . . . though I was marrying someone of a very different ethnicity and culture, all these were the same.
After serving the rest of my family, we served tea to FIL and MIL HC. It meant so much to my in-laws to participate in the ceremony; they were 110% on board with creating a truly Chewish wedding -- one that honored both Chinese and Jewish traditions.
In addition to red envelopes, each had also prepared a blessing to share with us. In fact, what was so beautiful about the ceremony was that it gave each of our relatives a very intimate and personal moment to share with us their blessings, advice, and good wishes. Mr. HC's paternal grandmother told us how overjoyed she was to have made it -- in her eighties -- to this mitzvah, and counseled us to take care of one another. One of Mr. HC's uncles used the occasion to talk about how much his mother -- Mr. HC's maternal grandmother, now deceased -- loved the two of us together. I first met Bubbe when I was sixteen and Mr. HC and I had just started dating, and her absence was much felt at the wedding; Mr. HC's uncle's comments made her memory come very much alive at that moment.
To say that we were touched is an understatement.
Although preparing the two families to be comfortable with and excited about participating in each other's traditions was hard work (see the extensive tea ceremony program that we prepared for Mr. HC's family here), we are so glad that we invested the time and effort. It made our day uniquely Chewish -- uniquely us.
At the end of the ceremony, I got to smooch my new lo gong (husband). That's right: according to Chinese tradition, we were officially married!