A storm in a teacup.
In the lead up to your wedding, a pre-wedding celebration such as a kitchen tea is likely to take place. Jacqueline Maya explores the history of the kitchen tea, and determines whether this tradition is soon-to-be forgotten or to remain as a relevant social event for today’s bride.
Image Credit: ATEIA Photography & Video
Following on from the excitement of your engagement, partaking in pre-wedding festivities is a great way to celebrate with loved ones before the big day arrives. To help you with your planning, Melbourne Wedding & Bride investigates how the kitchen tea is evolving to suit modern-day brides to ensure it’s as memorable as the day you say ‘I do’.
What’s The Tea
Similar to the bridal shower, the kitchen tea is thought to have emerged within the western world in the 1890s, and believed to have taken the place of the dowry – an archaic custom where the bride’s parents would bestow money, jewellery and gifts to the husband to guarantee their daughter’s marriage, safety and protection – which would be returned in full in the case of a divorce. In instances where the bride-to-be’s family couldn’t afford a dowry, or the father of the bride disapproved of their chosen life partner, it was then the bride’s friends who banded together and contributed gifts towards her dowry. Enter the kitchen tea.
Traditionally held two to three weeks before the wedding, the kitchen tea is normally held in the mother-of-the-bride’s kitchen. Here, family and friends, most often women, gather to indulge in a delicious afternoon tea, partake in wedding-related games, exchange tips about married life, and through communal strength and sheer willpower, a domestic goddess supposedly rises from the ashes.
While many people interchange the terms kitchen tea and bridal shower, the most notable difference between the two is that at a bridal shower, the bride is ‘showered’ with all kinds of gifts, while at a kitchen tea, it’s customary to bring a gift specifically for the kitchen, such as a small electrical appliance, modern cooking gadget, or even cleaning tools to help the bride expand her kitchen utensils and establish her new home. Despite its likeness to the bridal shower and its antiquated origin, a kitchen tea is a distinct event that will make a wonderful addition to your prewedding celebrations.
The key to a successful pre-wedding celebration is that it should be entertaining for both the bride and her guests. Though many brides still opt for a hen’s night, hosting a kitchen tea will ensure guests of all ages are entertained, as opposed to the hen’s night, which may not appeal to everyone on your guestlist.
Highly sentimental and intimate, the kitchen tea also provides the bride with a private setting in which to gain some final advice from the strong role models in their life, advice that might not have otherwise been obtained at a rowdy hen’s night, which are often overtly sexual and scattered with rather obnoxious paraphernalia, including hotpink bridal sashes, tacky signage and, of course, genitalia. Another equally precious tradition specific to the kitchen tea is where guests share their most treasured cooking recipes, collate them into a personal cookbook, and then gift it to the bride once the event draws to a close. If you’d prefer a more subdued and refined soiree, the kitchen tea is the ideal option for brides looking to bring a touch of elegance to their celebration.
Stir It Up
Like many other wedding traditions, the kitchen tea is historically steeped in sexism. However, just because something was borne out of inequity doesn’t mean it has to continue to do so. While weddings provide couples with a wonderful opportunity to honour and uphold important and sentimental traditions of years gone by, they’re also an occasion to let go of some of those outdated customs that no longer seem appropriate within the context of the modern world.
However, rather than disregarding the kitchen tea altogether, brides are tailoring the event to suit their style, and removing some of its more irksome parts. If the thought of receiving kitchenware makes your blood boil, why not set up a gift registry with your favourite retailer instead? Already have an established abode with your partner? Nix the gift-giving tradition entirely and set up a wishing well to help you save for your dream holiday.
Similarly, if entertaining isn’t your cup of tea, holding your kitchen tea at a venue such as a restaurant or high-tea parlour will not only save you the clean-up, it will also ease the pressure of having to be the host with the most. Remember you’re not beholden to keeping anything you don’t want to, allowing you the freedom to personalise your pre-wedding celebration in your own unique way.
Sips For Success
Whether you have a penchant for time-honoured customs or a predilection for progressive festivities, the kitchen tea is an event best served with a lemon wedge, and a measured spoonful of morality. If you’re passionate about all things culinary, hosting a traditional kitchen tea is a great way to update your kitchenware, while on the other hand, choosing to revamp it a little will allow you to really inject your personality into the celebration.
Whatever version you choose, make sure it accurately reflects your individuality, tastes and preferences. If you’re still having trouble deciding, it’s always a good idea to consider your guests and think about whether they’ll appreciate the more traditional aspects or welcome a modernised variation.
The best part of living in this modern world is that not only do we now have the ability to choose whom we love, but we also have the privilege of deciding how we celebrate this with the world. While it is a joy to share these special moments with family and friends, the decision of how you choose to celebrate your wedding and everything leading up to it is yours and yours alone.
Whether you boycott the hen’s night in favour of a traditional kitchen tea, or opt for a more progressive event, the ways in which you choose to celebrate should not only echo your personality, but, most importantly, should serve as an exciting reminder of the next beautiful chapter to come.