Hosting a tea party may seem daunting to some, but with a little help, even amateur hosts can have a fabulous tea party. The perfect event can be put together with some simple homemade or store-bought snacks, the right set of tableware, and, of course, some delicious tea.
Hosting the perfect tea party means setting the stage for this elegant affair with the right combination of tea, treats, and decor. The magic is in the details, so creating an ambiance as charming and delicate as possible is key.
To help ease the stress of throwing your first tea party, check out our list of the perfect decorations, tableware, food, drinks, and more below. With a bit of effort, you’re sure to throw a tea party reminiscent of 18th century England, or at the very least, a throwback to the days spent with Teddy and a warm cup of air.
How To Invite Guests to Your Tea Party
How you choose to invite friends to your tea party is completely up to you. While the invite is certainly less important than the event itself, choosing to set the stage for your party with a personalized invitation can ensure that guests arrive with the right attitude to suit your classy affair.
For many, a text or call will do just fine, but to take things to the next level, try sending out mail invitations to your guests about a week in advance. Many popular craft and card companies offer affordable tea-party specific invitations that evoke a Victorian theme.
You can find a variety of options on sites like Etsy.
Both of these e-invitation websites make hosting a gathering a cinch since they not only invite your friends but also keep track of the guest list.
Sending out invitations in advance is also a smart idea if you would like to ask your guests to follow a specific dress code. Many tea party hosts will ask that guests dress in their Sunday-best or in semi-formal attire to help set the mood of the event.
This is a great way to ensure that everyone is photograph ready should you choose to take some pictures as keepsakes.
Setting the Stage For a Great Tea Party
Throwing an authentic tea party starts with setting the right mood. To set the stage, focus on incorporating some unique details that will elevate your party from typical afternoon brunch to a classic Victorian-themed tea party.
Some sure-fire ways to have your guests feeling festive are to choose the right attire, music, and make sure people are social.
If you plan your tea party far enough in advance, you can keep your eye out for party supplies at places like HomeGoods, where you’ll be able to stock up for less. Garage sales and thrift stores are also fantastic spots to pick up things for a future tea party.
Once you’ve assembled all of the right tea party tools, you can store them together and be ready for the next one.
What To Wear To A Tea Party
As mentioned earlier, an easy way to set the right mood for your tea party is to ask that guests come dressed in their prim and proper tea party best. To avoid any last-minute stress for your guests, try to give them ample notice so they can be prepared with their best tea party attire to match your party scheme.
Ideal tea party outfits for women include floral sundresses, airing on the longer-side, between knee and ankle length. Pencil, peasant, and pleated skirts worn in bright colors or flirty patterns like polka-dots or floral are a fantastic idea, as well.
Chiffon blouses or silk shirts pair well with an elegant skirt or pant option. Keep things classy by wearing a dainty flat or sandal. Or dress things up a bit by rocking a wedge or high heel. The key is to dress-up but not dress too formally.
To truly rise to the occasion, try throwing on a pair of white tea gloves and a pearl necklace. These are both quintessential tea accessories that will quickly put your guests in a festive mood.
For men, the best tea party attire is to dress in pastels and khakis. Keep things light by sticking to subtle colors like light green, blue, pink, or white.
A khaki pant pairs well with any range of pastel and will look dressed-up but not like you are attending an evening event. Be sure to tuck in your shirt and pair everything with a nice set of loafers or leather boots.
Picking the right music is a sure-fire way to bring the proper tea party energy to your event. If you are striving for a more traditional tea party, then choosing a light instrumental playlist is the best option. Classical pianists like Beethoven or Chopin can be a cultured addition to the affair.
For a more upbeat vibe, try incorporating some jazz or alternative instrumental tunes.
While many folks will choose to play it safe by keeping the music low-key and traditional, you can easily switch the vibe of your tea party to be a more modern and adult affair by playing electronic music or indie rock.
Thankfully, there is no shortage of resources for finding your perfect tea party music. Spotify has several tea party playlists that range from classical music to Disney, to modern, and everything in between.
Creating a seating chart prior to your event is optional and not necessary for occasions with small groups of close friends. But if you will be throwing a larger-scale event with people who may not be well acquainted, then creating a seating chart can be a great way to get people mingling.
Be sure to do this some days in advance so you can have everything set up in time for your guest’s arrival. The easiest way to facilitate a seating chart is to print out some delicate place cards and have them set on each individual’s plate.
Try to have people mixed in with some friends that they know and some new people that they can meet. Having a seating chart is a great way to keep the party from becoming stale or having guests group off into pods. Everyone will have a great time at your party by leaving with some new-found friends.
How To Set a Tea Party Table
Now that you’ve created the perfect ambiance for your tea party, it’s time to focus on what will be the center stage of the event. Your guests will spend most of the afternoon around the table, whether in being set up buffet style or as a sit-down affair.
Some creative liberty may be taken when setting your table, but to help make it an authentic experience for guests, there are certain staples found at any tea party event.
Find a table or counter space large enough to hold:
- Cups and saucers
- Cake Stands
Using a tablecloth at a tea party is beneficial for two reasons. First, it is a quick and easy way to add a dainty compliment to your table and match the theme of the event. Second, it will protect your table or counters from any mess or unfortunate spills that may happen.
Remember, spilled tea leaves stains, so be sure that whatever table cloth you choose is machine washable or can quickly be sent to the dry cleaner.
As for the color or pattern, it should follow the same trend as your guest’s attire. Pastel colors and floral patterns are best to match the overall theme of the room.
There is no tea party without the teapot. You should plan to have a separate teapot for each tea flavor that your guests will be sampling. This means you will likely have anywhere from three to eight teapots, depending on the size of your event.
As the teapot will take center stage throughout the afternoon, it’s important to select a group of teapots that offer a unique and interesting flair. To avoid confusion of which teapot holds which tea, try to select a variety of pots with different patterns.
You can really get creative here and choose from a series of beautiful and delicate pot designs. Many vintage shops will sell classic teapot sets, or they are easy to find on craft sites like Etsy or even ebay.
Teapots have also become such a collector’s item that many cities have stores dedicated solely to the sale of teapots. With a bountiful selection, you are sure to have an eclectic set of teapots at your party.
An afternoon tea party is a perfect time to bring out the fine china. While not everyone might have fine china in their possession, the good news is that it is easy to find affordable but chic looking china at thrift stores and garage sales.
If you’re looking for china for an extra fancy event, it’s also possible to rent china for a tea party from sites like Fairy Tale Tea Party.
Choose smaller plates that can easily be held or fit within a small space on a table. Typical tea party food is small and therefore doesn’t require a full-sized plate to accommodate it. Small plates with a cute floral pattern or some gilded lining will make the perfect fit for your tea setting.
Tea Cups and Saucers
You can’t host a tea party without teacups. These will differ from a tea mug, which is large and thick in stature. Teacups are tiny, dainty, and light. They will come paired with a saucer and should also be easy for guests to carry in one hand as they move around the room.
If you love the look of a matching set, try to find cups and saucers that will match your plates, though this is not a necessity. It’s also possible to have a perfectly charming table set with mismatched sets of cups and saucers.Having some extra cups on hand is a good idea in case some guests want to sip on more than one tea at a time.
A more formal tea party table will be set using the plate as the centerpiece, surrounded by two forks to the left (large and small), knife and spoon to the right, and a dessert spoon and dessert fork to the top.
That said, this is not a requirement and is certainly a more traditional setup than most. For those who choose to have a buffet-style event, simply providing enough forks, knives, and spoons for your guests will be suitable.
One key item to make sure to have on-hand is enough teaspoons so that each guest can stir in any cream or sugar that they may want to add to their tea.
Napkins are essential to have at any tea party because some drips and spills are bound to occur. Guests are often mobile at tea parties, so it is nice for each guest to have a small napkin that they can use to dap their mouths or hands-off during the event.
Tea party napkins are generally white or pastel and will be folded into small squares to be set on the table. Floral patterns can also be a nice way to bring a pop of color to the layout. Etsy has a wide variety of tea party napkins for sale, some of which can even be personalized to really match the theme of your event.
Three-Tiered Cake Stand
The three-tiered cake stand will be the centerpiece of your tea party table setting. This is the perfect piece of hardware to serve all of the bite-sized snacks that your guests will enjoy throughout the party.
Each tier of the stand holds a different course: Finger sandwiches, scones and sweets.
Depending on the size of your party, you may want to invest in more than one cake stand to ensure that guests have easy access to them from any end of the table or area of the buffet.
Most home goods stores will keep these cake stands in stock, or they can easily be purchased from online stores at an affordable price.
Condiments And Extras
Don’t forget the extras your guests may want to flavor their tea and embellish their scones with some extra goodness!
For the tea make sure to provide:
- Lemon Slices
- Sugar Cubes
For the scones, set out:
- Selection of Jams
- Clotted Cream
In an ideal world, every tea party would be hosted outside on a lovely spring afternoon in the middle of a budding and vibrant English garden.
Many modern tea party hosts must make do with apartments, condos, or homes that offer limited space, be it indoor or outdoor. If you don’t have access to a garden or outdoor area, don’t fret. Introducing some well-placed flower bouquets will bring the garden atmosphere right into your home.
Some ideal arrangements for a tea party setting are lilies, pink and white roses, daisies, and lilacs.
What is Tea Party Food?
As tea parties are typically held in the mid-afternoon, the food offerings should be focused more on snacks than on entire meals or even appetizers. Tea time is considered a “mid-meal, ” meaning that guests should be able to have a few bites from a variety of options.
Remember to keep things light and focus on finger-foods. As mentioned earlier, guests are often mobile throughout a tea party and should be able to carry their food plate around the party with ease.
To make the best impression on guests, go with a combination of sweet and savory snacks to suit everyone’s palate.
Traditionally, each level of the three tiered stand should hold a different course:
- Top Tier: Sweets
- Middle Tier: Scones
- Bottom Tier: Sandwiches and savory bites
The courses start on the bottom with the tea sandwiches, and move to the scones next, ending on the top tier sweets last.
Finger Sandwiches and Savory Bites
The afternoon tea first course is usually finger sandwiches and savory foods. A well-organized tea party will offer guests a few savory options for snacking. These finger foods are great choices:
- Tea sandwiches: try savory spreads like crème fraiche, yogurt, aioli, or cream cheese
- Bruschetta: add tomato, balsamic vinegar, basil or pesto, on toasted breads
- Canapés: a traditional hors d’oeuvre; might be easier to pick up from a local bakery
- Crudite: simply put, veggies and dip; serve in individual cups to up the fancy factor
- Charcuterie board: meat and cheese is a staple of any party, but looks especially lovely on a tea party table
- Mini quiche: these are easy to make on your own with mini puff pastry shells, or you can find some in the freezer section of just about every grocery store
The second course of a tea party is traditionally scones. It wouldn’t feel like a true tea party without a selection of scones. Make sure to have butter, jam, and clotted cream available for extra yummy goodness.
The final course to top off your tea party is a selection of sweets. To satisfy your guests’ sweet tooth, offer a selection of bite-sized treats. For the adventurous host, there are hundreds of recipes online to guide you through the process of baking your selection of sweet treats.
Creating your own baked goods gives you the opportunity to be creative and decorate the snacks as you wish. Some hosts choose to follow a theme by color, coordinating, or choosing a specific design for each dessert.
For those hosts who would rather not spend all day baking, there are plenty of options for purchasing your tea party snacks. Many chains of grocery stores will carry things like donut holes, cookies, and cupcakes. To find some more traditional options like cakes, scones, and pies, check out your local bakery.
Here are just a few suggestions of things to add to your tea party menu:
- Fruit kebabs
- Crème wafers
- Crème puffs or mini eclairs
- Mini cinnamon rolls
Which Teas Should Be Served at a Tea Party?
Even at the simplest tea party, it’s a good idea to serve three teas: black tea, green tea, and an herbal or decaf version. If you’re expecting many guests, you may want to add a few more types of tea so your guests have several options to choose from.
Take things to the next level by having a printing out and displaying a menu that describes the origins and aromas of each tea so your guests can have an elevated tasting experience and know exactly what they’re pouring into their cups.
You can find tea at your local grocery store or specialty tea shop, which is common in many cities. It’s also easy to buy tea online and explore a variety of options from the comfort of your own home.
Black tea is a staple of any tea party because it’s the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. Black tea is the most caffeinated version of tea and comes in a variety of flavors.
Some of the most common are:
- Earl Grey Tea,
- Assam Black Tea, and
- Darjeeling Black Tea.
Earl Grey hails from England while Assam and Darjeeling are both grown in India. With these options, your guests will be able to try different flavors from around the world.
Green teas are some of the most popular and healthy teas around. Green tea has a bit less caffeine than black tea and still pairs well with all the food you’ll be serving at your tea party.
Herbal teas are a great non-caffeinated option and will help guests relax with their natural aromas. Some popular herbal tea flavors are chamomile, mint, and lemongrass.
Floral teas offer a light and refreshing taste that even non-tea drinkers are sure to enjoy. These flavors are subtle and fruity and will pair perfectly with many of the snacks offered at a tea party.
Some excellent floral flavors are rose, hibiscus, and chrysanthemum. To take your floral tea to the next level, explore serving these teas as an actual flower.
Many floral tea flavors can be steeped in a dried flower form, and upon entering hot water, they will bloom to release their delicious flavors. It is not only a treat for the taste buds but for the eyes as well.
Alcohol At a Tea Party?
It goes without saying that tea is the most essential aspect of any tea party. But that doesn’t mean that it has to be the only beverage item on the menu.
Adult beverages with bubbles are always a great option for daytime events. Prosecco and champagne fit the profile and offer a fizzy alternative to tea. White wine spritzers can also be a refreshing treat if you want to add a little alcohol.
To bring a little life to your tea party, present the option for your guests to sip on some bubbly or a refreshing cocktail throughout the afternoon. Champagne is a sophisticated option for folks who want something light and simple.
Preparing the Tea
Prepping your tea takes much more than just hot water and a teabag. There are some tips and tricks to making sure your guests’ tea drinking experience is at its most optimal.
Warm The Teapots
First, it is important that you heat the teapots before steeping the tea. Prep the pots by adding boiled water and letting it sit for 2-3 minutes. Then, pour this round of water out and add in your tea water. This will ensure that your pots are preheated before steeping, and the tea will remain warmer for longer.
Brew According to Tea Type
There are different steeping times for different types of tea. Pop over to this article for a complete guide on how to brew the perfect cup of tea.
Ready For a Tea Party?
Throwing a tea party for family and friends is a fantastic way to add your unique spin on this beloved and cherished pastime. Tea parties are no longer a tradition just for the Victorian age.
They are making a comeback with modern folks who seek to explore the art of hosting with a casual and elegant event.
Tea parties are the perfect excuse to bring people together. What better way to pass an afternoon than by mingling with new friends over some delicious snacks and refreshing teas.
Whether you throw a casual party or a formal affair, know that whenever you add tea, good food, and friends, it’s bound to be a fantastic event.