What To Call Your In-Laws: A Cheat Sheet


The ultimate guide to mastering the correct Mandarin and dialect "names" during the tea ceremony
Some traditions can be updated — and can be done so elegantly. Such as upgrading wedding palanquins to practical sedans; moving from cookie-cutter Chinese restaurants to exotic wedding venues that everybody will remember for a long time to come.

Yes, some customs should be honoured for they are more than empty rituals — they are a showcase of a culture’s values. The Chinese wedding tea ceremony is one such tradition. A show of respect for the elders, the tea ceremony is a way for the new couple to give thanks to all in their family for all the love and support given. In return, elders will present gifts as blessings to the couple, and for some families, the bride may be dressed in the Si Dian Jin that was gifted by her mother-in-law. Most Si Dian Jin pieces aren’t created, shall we say, in a style that’s compatible with a modern fashion sensibility. Enter Goldheart’s range of wearable Si Dian Jin in 916 gold that are as elegant as they are versatile. This is jewellery you can wear even after your special day, no matter the occasion.

The ritual might seem like a simple process of offering tea to the elders in order of their seniority (though some families prefer to serve the parents before the grandparents), yet there are also finer points to this ceremony.
Do’s
  • The groom should be to the left of the bride at all times.
  • Add ingredients with auspicious meaning, such as red dates (good luck and fertility) and lotus seeds (togetherness) to the tea.
  • Serve and receive teacup to elders with two hands.
  • Make a list of the number of elders attending the tea ceremony and make sure you have enough teacups for serving everybody.
Don'ts
  • Don't fill the teacups to the brim. The teacups should be about two-thirds full.
  • Don't halve the lotus seeds — that would signify separation.
  • Don't serve or receive the teacup with one hand only.
And while we might be used to addressing just about everybody as “uncle” and “aunty” these days, it is worthwhile learning the right ways to address the elders on such an important occasion.
MOM-IN-LAW SAYS
“My husband and I are quite easy-going when it comes to following tradition and are generally happy to go with the youngster’s plans — after all, it is their wedding!” recounted 62-year-old Mdm Wendy Lim, whose eldest daughter got married last December. “That said, I was quite delighted to hear my son-in-law addressing members of the family in the correct Hokkien terms during the tea ceremony, especially since he doesn’t even speak the dialect.”

“We would have been okay with it even if he addressed us in Mandarin, but taking the effort to learn the terms of address shows great sincerity and respect on his part!”
See how happy that makes everyone? Here is the ultimate cheat sheet.
EN/Mandarin CANTONESE HOKKIEN TEOCHEW HAKKA
Paternal grandfather 祖父 Yehye Ahgong Ahgong Ah Gong
Paternal grandmother 祖母 Mahmah Ahmah Ahmah Ah Nien
Maternal grandfather 外公 Gonggong Ghuagong Ghuagong Jia Gong
Maternal grandmother 外婆 Pohpo Ghuamah Ghuamah Jia Po
Groom’s father 公公 Louyeh Daguah Daguah Gah Guan
Groom’s mother 婆婆 Gahpo Dageh Dageh Gah Po
Bride’s father 岳父 Ngokfoo Dioh lang Dee-eh nang Chuong Lao
Bride’s mother 岳母 Ngokmou Dioh Mm Dee-eh Mm Chuong Po
Father’s elder brother (paternal uncle) 伯伯 Baakfoo Ahbeh Ahbeh Ah Ba
Father’s elder brother’s wife 伯母 Baakleung Ah-Mm Ah-Mm Ah Va
Father’s younger brother (paternal uncle) 叔叔 Sookfoo Ahzek Ahzek Ah Shu
Father’s younger brother’s wife 婶婶 Ahsaam Ahsim Ahsim Shu Niong/Shu Mie
Father’s elder sister (paternal aunt) 姑姑 Goomah Ahgou Ahgou Tai Guh
Father’s elder sister’s husband 姑丈 Goozeung Gou-dioh Ah dee-eh Gu Chuong
Father’s younger sister (paternal aunt) 姑姑 Goozeh Ahgou Ahgou Man Gu
Father’s younger sister’s husband 姑丈 Goozeung Gou-dioh Ah dee-eh Gu Chuong
Mother’s elder brother (maternal uncle) 舅舅 Kowfoo Ahgoo Ahgoo Kiu Ra
Mother’s elder brother’s wife 舅妈 Kowmou Ahgim Ahgim Kiu Niong
Mother’s younger brother (maternal uncle) 舅舅 Kowfoo Ahgoo Ahgoo Kiu Ra
Mother’s younger brother’s wife 舅妈 Kowmou Ahgim Ahgim Kiu Niong
Mother’s elder sister (maternal aunt) 姨妈 Yeemah Ahyee Ahyee Man Man
Mother’s elder sister’s husband 姨丈 Yeezeung Yee-dioh Yee dee-eh Ri Chuong
Mother’s younger sister (maternal aunt) 阿姨 Ahyee Ahyee Ahyee Man Ri
Mother’s younger sister’s husband 姨丈 Yeezeung Yee-dioh Yee dee-eh Ri Chuong
CANTONESE +
EN/Mandarin CANTONESE
Paternal grandfather 祖父 Yehye
Paternal grandmother 祖母 Mahmah
Maternal grandfather 外公 Gonggong
Maternal grandmother 外婆 Pohpo
Groom’s father 公公 Louyeh
Groom’s mother 婆婆 Gahpo
Bride’s father 岳父 Ngokfoo
Bride’s mother 岳母 Ngokmou
Father’s elder brother (paternal uncle) 伯伯 Baakfoo
Father’s elder brother’s wife 伯母 Baakleung
Father’s younger brother (paternal uncle) 叔叔 Sookfoo
Father’s younger brother’s wife 婶婶 Ahsaam
Father’s elder sister (paternal aunt) 姑姑 Goomah
Father’s elder sister’s husband 姑丈 Goozeung
Father’s younger sister (paternal aunt) 姑姑 Goozeh
Father’s younger sister’s husband 姑丈 Goozeung
Mother’s elder brother (maternal uncle) 舅舅 Kowfoo
Mother’s elder brother’s wife 舅妈 Kowmou
Mother’s younger brother (maternal uncle) 舅舅 Kowfoo
Mother’s younger brother’s wife 舅妈 Kowmou
Mother’s elder sister (maternal aunt) 姨妈 Yeemah
Mother’s elder sister’s husband 姨丈 Yeezeung
Mother’s younger sister (maternal aunt) 阿姨 Ahyee
Mother’s younger sister’s husband 姨丈 Yeezeung
HOKKIEN +
EN/Mandarin HOKKIEN
Paternal grandfather 祖父 Ahgong
Paternal grandmother 祖母 Ahmah
Maternal grandfather 外公 Ghuagong
Maternal grandmother 外婆 Ghuamah
Groom’s father 公公 Daguah
Groom’s mother 婆婆 Dageh
Bride’s father 岳父 Dioh lang
Bride’s mother 岳母 Dioh Mm
Father’s elder brother (paternal uncle) 伯伯 Ahbeh
Father’s elder brother’s wife 伯母 Ah-Mm
Father’s younger brother (paternal uncle) 叔叔 Ahzek
Father’s younger brother’s wife 婶婶 Ahsim
Father’s elder sister (paternal aunt) 姑姑 Ahgou
Father’s elder sister’s husband 姑丈 Gou-dioh
Father’s younger sister (paternal aunt) 姑姑 Ahgou
Father’s younger sister’s husband 姑丈 Gou-dioh
Mother’s elder brother (maternal uncle) 舅舅 Ahgoo
Mother’s elder brother’s wife 舅妈 Ahgim
Mother’s younger brother (maternal uncle) 舅舅 Ahgoo
Mother’s younger brother’s wife 舅妈 Ahgim
Mother’s elder sister (maternal aunt) 姨妈 Ahyee
Mother’s elder sister’s husband 姨丈 Yee-dioh
Mother’s younger sister (maternal aunt) 阿姨 Ahyee
Mother’s younger sister’s husband 姨丈 Yee-dioh
TEOCHEW +
EN/Mandarin TEOCHEW
Paternal grandfather 祖父 Ahgong
Paternal grandmother 祖母 Ahmah
Maternal grandfather 外公 Ghuagong
Maternal grandmother 外婆 Ghuamah
Groom’s father 公公 Daguah
Groom’s mother 婆婆 Dageh
Bride’s father 岳父 Dee-eh nang
Bride’s mother 岳母 Dee-eh Mm
Father’s elder brother (paternal uncle) 伯伯 Ahbeh
Father’s elder brother’s wife 伯母 Ah-Mm
Father’s younger brother (paternal uncle) 叔叔 Ahzek
Father’s younger brother’s wife 婶婶 Ahsim
Father’s elder sister (paternal aunt) 姑姑 Ahgou
Father’s elder sister’s husband 姑丈 Ah dee-eh
Father’s younger sister (paternal aunt) 姑姑 Ahgou
Father’s younger sister’s husband 姑丈 Ah dee-eh
Mother’s elder brother (maternal uncle) 舅舅 Ahgoo
Mother’s elder brother’s wife 舅妈 Ahgim
Mother’s younger brother (maternal uncle) 舅舅 Ahgoo
Mother’s younger brother’s wife 舅妈 Ahgim
Mother’s elder sister (maternal aunt) 姨妈 Ahyee
Mother’s elder sister’s husband 姨丈 Yee dee-eh
Mother’s younger sister (maternal aunt) 阿姨 Ahyee
Mother’s younger sister’s husband 姨丈 Yee dee-eh
HAKKA +
EN/Mandarin HAKKA
Paternal grandfather 祖父 Ah Gong
Paternal grandmother 祖母 Ah Nien
Maternal grandfather 外公 Jia Gong
Maternal grandmother 外婆 Jia Po
Groom’s father 公公 Gah Guan
Groom’s mother 婆婆 Gah Po
Bride’s father 岳父 Chuong Lao
Bride’s mother 岳母 Chuong Po
Father’s elder brother (paternal uncle) 伯伯 Ah Ba
Father’s elder brother’s wife 伯母 Ah Va
Father’s younger brother (paternal uncle) 叔叔 Ah Shu
Father’s younger brother’s wife 婶婶 Shu Niong/Shu Mie
Father’s elder sister (paternal aunt) 姑姑 Tai Guh
Father’s elder sister’s husband 姑丈 Gu Chuong
Father’s younger sister (paternal aunt) 姑姑 Man Gu
Father’s younger sister’s husband 姑丈 Gu Chuong
Mother’s elder brother (maternal uncle) 舅舅 Kiu Ra
Mother’s elder brother’s wife 舅妈 Kiu Niong
Mother’s younger brother (maternal uncle) 舅舅 Kiu Ra
Mother’s younger brother’s wife 舅妈 Kiu Niong
Mother’s elder sister (maternal aunt) 姨妈 Man Man
Mother’s elder sister’s husband 姨丈 Ri Chuong
Mother’s younger sister (maternal aunt) 阿姨 Man Ri
Mother’s younger sister’s husband 姨丈 Ri Chuong
daughter,
starring Rebecca Lim, tells a story of differences, compromise and love between the two most important women in a man’s life.
Mode Gold Oasis Mode Gold Oasis
Mode Gold Dew Mode Gold Dew
Other Related Articles
Breaking Down Traditions
6 easy tips
for an Insta-perfect wedding
How to plan a modern wedding with a traditional twist
8 Modern Wedding Venues Your Parents Will Approve Of