How to organize and host the perfect tea party? We will tell you everything that you need to know – from the necessary tableware to the choice of colors. You will find the best tea party ideas for kids, moms-to-be, brides-to-be and we shall help you choose the theme of your party, the decoration, the menu and the party favors for any occasion!
Tea parties are especially appealing to women – stylish table decoration, elegant tableware, beautiful and tasty treats and whatever the occasion is – from birthdays, baby shower, bridal shower or Mother’s Day – this is a lovely way to celebrate it! As beautiful as these parties are, those who have never organized such an event need to know how to plan it properly, how to choose the best place for a tea party, how to invite the guests, etc.
Many people associate tea parties with the traditional English afternoon tea. English traditions observe strict time frames, for example, the English have three types of tea: morning, afternoon and evening tea, which takes place at dinner. It is, actually, the afternoon tea that is the inspiration for what we nowadays call “tea party”. The afternoon tea drinking appeared in 1840 and according to the legend, it was Lady Anna Maria Stanhope, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, who was a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria, who invented it. Back in the 1800’s lunch was typically a light meal and dinner was served at 8 o’clock. The long hours between lunch and dinner without food left Lady Bedford with a “sinking” feeling which led to the request to bring her a cup of tea and a light snack and soon enough she began inviting friends to join her for tea and this is how she invented a new social event which eventually became a tradition for the English society which has not lost its popularity to the present day.
A good planning is the key to any successful party, including a tea party. There are some simple steps and you can create your own planner or a “check list” is you wish, which will help you formulate your tea party ideas and organize your event without missing something out.
One of the first questions is who do you want to invite to your party? Is this an event for children or adults?
What is the occasion for the party – is it a birthday, anniversary, baby shower, bridal shower, fund raising or a friendly gathering for a cup of tea?
How many guests do you want to attend? The answer of this question will also give you a good idea of the size of the venue for the event.
The location of the event is another important decision to make. There are several options to choose from – you can hold it in your home, in the garden or in a restaurant. Of course, in the summer, it is very tempting to organize your event in the open air. Without any doubt, any time of the year is suitable for a tea party, but you can take advantage of the warm weather and use the season as a decoration theme, for example – spring or summer. However, your living room can accommodate a small party without any problem, especially if you want to create a warm, comfortable atmosphere.
Choose the date and time for the tea party. Perhaps the best option is to organize it on a day off, around 11 am, or in the afternoon.
Send out invitations to the guests in advance. You can craft the invitations by yourself or buy them form a store. If you have chosen a theme for the party, it will be a good idea to choose invitations in accordance with the theme.
Prepare in advance all that you will need – from tablecloths and napkins to tea cups and saucers. You can use a set and matching serving plates or, if the theme allows, a mixture of beautiful tea cups. A classic tea pot is a must . Check the cutlery – you will need tea spoons, a cake knife, butter knives, possibly forks and make sure you have enough pieces for the number of guests. Cake stands and food platters are a great way to display the food. In addition, they will add to the fantastic appearance of the table!
Plan the tea party menu. Remember that the main idea is that everything should be convenient to eat, so the dishes should be small. Decide whether your guests will serve themselves and how to arrange the tables and dishes? Do you prefer a buffet table or food and tea will be served on each table? You may need to hire a waiter who will help you. Plan the drinks that will be served – tea (of course), coffee, hot chocolate or champagne, if the party is for a special occasion. Take care of the details – serve lump sugar as it is much more convenient for your guests rather than add sugar with a spoon from a common sugar bowl.
Think for the decoration which should be suitable for the theme of your party. Sometimes a small vase with fresh flowers adds tons of charm to the table.
Choose soft, gentle music as a background which will not interfere with conversations and will add to the pleasant atmosphere of the event. If you organize a tea party for kids, plan some interesting activities.
Make sure that empty plates are carried to the kitchen.
Tea party table setting – how to do it the proper way?
A tea party is all about elegance, and a formal table setting, although it may sound pretentious, is something that one should know. As we said, an Afternoon tea is a ritual and has strict etiquette rules for both host and guests. Of course, if you organize an informal event or a party for children, you can opt for a more casual style. However, if you want to do it properly as per the English tradition, here are the most important rules that you need to observe.
The number of guests attending your event, the available space and the size of the table will determine whether your guests will be seated or will serve themselves in an informal buffet style. Tea party table setting begins with a beautiful tablecloth which will protect it from spills.
A small cake plate is placed in front of each chair, the cup on a saucer is placed to the top right of the plate. The handle of the teacup should be facing to the right at the three to four o’clock position. Napkins are folded on the left of the plate while the cutlery – a cake fork, tea knife and teaspoon – are lined up on the right of the plate. Make sure that the blade of the knife is facing inwards to the plate and the tines of the fork – upwards. The teaspoon is placed to the right of the knife.
A place card, if you use place cards, is set to the center at the top of the plate.
The teapot and strainer are placed to the right above or near the teacup and saucer as it has to be accessed easily.
The water glass is placed to the right above the plate. If you serve Champagne, the Champagne glass is placed to the lower right of the water glass.
Devon Cream (Clotted cream) and jam (preserves, lemon curd) are placed on the left in proximity to the luncheon plate.
Sugar, milk and sugar tongs are placed on a tray (if you opt for the buffet style), or in close proximity to the hostesses place setting. Traditionally, the hostess pours the first cup of tea for each guest and would ask if sugar or milk was desired before pouring.
When you decorate the table with floral arrangements or other decorative elements, they should be placed properly and not interfere with the service or sight line of the guests.
How to serve the food on a three tier stand? You need to know that each tiered plate is meant for only one course. Scones are served on the top tier, sandwiches and savories – on the middle one and sweets are served on the bottom tier.
Tea party menu ideas
A well planned menu is the key to a successful event. We shall pay a special attention to the menu and will give you some practical tips how to plan it, how to serve your food and drinks and what to avoid. The menu will be determined on the type of party you are planning, whether you will serve the food on three tiered trays or you prefer the buffet style. Keep in mind that a typical serving for an afternoon tea consists of a layer of sandwiches a layer of cakes and a layer of scones or cakes. Of course, the budget plays a huge role in the planning of any event, and if you have enough of budget you can add petits fours, Madeleines, cupcakes or biscuits, crackers, etc. A Victoria sponge cake and Bakewell tart are also traditional classics for an afternoon tea.
It will be a good idea to plan the menu in accordance with your party theme, but keep in mind that you may have guests who are vegetarians, vegans or have particular food allergies. Color makes food more attractive – whether sweet or savory. You can choose to decorate the food as per a particular color theme – for example – pink and red if your main theme is strawberry. Use different shapes for the sandwiches and different garnishes for each one. Seasonal ingredients like fresh fruit, edible flowers and herbs add to the flavor, the texture, the color and the fresh appearance of the food.
Another consideration that you need to keep in mind when planning the menu for a tea party is whether the event is for kids or adults. Spicy food and alcoholic beverages should not be included in the menu for children. Plan the food carefully so that there is enough food for the entire party. Prepare some more food just to be on the safe side.
Here are some practical tips which will help you:
Arrival drinks are an elegant gesture, especially if you are hosting an event with many guests. A glass of champagne or a mimosa cocktail, Sloe gin royale, Prosecco, etc. or cocktails or fruit flavored drinks – these are just a few ideas to choose from.
Tea – obviously, when you organize a tea party, you shall be serving tea. Whether you brew it or it will be served in packs, the choice of the varieties is very important. Earl Gray is probably the most famous black tea in the world. Include herbal varieties – chamomile, mint, lavender, etc. Milk, lump sugar and lemons should be served as optional ingredients and guests can add them to their cup in accordance with their personal taste. Iced tea, juice or punch can be served at kids’ party as well as herbal and fruit flavored teas.
Scones are a true classic and can be sweet or savory. They are best freshly baked and are served with jam and clotted cream. There are numerous scones recipes – simple raisin scones, Walnut scones, Cherry scones, Blueberry and lemon scones, Cheddar scones, etc. and you can serve classic strawberry jam or a variety of jams, including some tropical ones. Scones are really traditional but many people consume them the wrong way. Usually scones break easily in two so do not cut them with your knife. They can be halved horizontally or you can break off small bite sized pieces with your hands. Once you add jam and cream to the scone do not sandwich it back!
Sandwiches are another must for any tea party menu. Nothing is more classic than cucumber sandwiches, egg salad sandwiches, watercress-egg salad sandwiches and smoked salmon finger sandwiches. Of course, you can add roast beef, sliced ham or chicken salad sandwiches, prawns or crab sandwiches, Goat cheese and walnut sandwiches, etc. As far as tea sandwiches are concerned there are a few things that you need to remember – they are small, crustless, thin sliced, full of favor and never soggy.
Tea party savories ideas include a variety tasty treats which you can serve. Remember that they should be small sized and you can include your favorite ones or choose particular recipes that will help you enhance the theme of your party – Mini quiches, Tarts, Tartlets, Crostini or Canapes – numerous ideas which will add taste and flavor to menu.
Tea party biscuits and other sweet treats include a plethora of options – shortbreads, cookies, mini eclairs, profiteroles, raspberry millefeuilles, different cakes, etc. Cupcakes are not a part of the English afternoon tea menu. Of course, unless you plan a traditional English afternoon tea for royalties, you may include them in your menu.
Tea etiquette – dos and don’ts that you need to know
Those of you who are invited to a tea party for the first time or organize one for the first time, need to know that there are certain rules of behavior while having an afternoon tea with guests and friends. Although the Victorian times when tea etiquette was first established are long gone, good manners are a must and even if the party is informal, there are still a few simple rules to follow.
The invitations are a must, if you host the event. They give you the chance and opportunity to instruct your guests on what to wear. For example, if your party is in the garden you can include on the invitation that your guests would need to wear a hat. If you are invited to a tea party, it is good to know that a classic invitation is a two-hour visit, but an average afternoon tea lasts about an hour and a half. Of course, arriving on time is a must. When the hostess folds her linen napkin and puts it on the table – it is a signal to the guests that the tea is over. Always say goodbye to the host and the guest of honor.
The hostess should pour the tea. However, if there are many guests, she can ask one of them to help her and should you be asked for help as a guest, it is obligatory to respond.
Tea should be taken slowly, in small sips. It is unacceptable to drink loudly. When adding sugar the spoon is always removed from the cup and placed on the saucer. Do not blow on the tea to cool it but gently and quietly swish the spoon back and forth without touching the sides of the cup. When the spoon is no longer needed, it must be taken out. The spoon always goes behind the cup. Do not lick it!
The rules of the napkin may sound weird to many, but they are an important part of good manners. Typically, each place should have a napkin. It can be placed on the tea plate or beside it. Unfold the napkin and place it on your lap. Do not use a linen napkin to blot or wipe your lipstick and never ever use it as a handkerchief. If you need, for whatever reason, to leave the table, lay the napkin on your chair and not on the table. When the hostess folds her napkin and places it on the table, you need to pick up your one and lay it to the left of your plate.
Take small bites as these parties are social events and you will be involved in a conversation. It is unacceptable to dip biscuits or any other food into your tea. Finger sandwiches are eaten with hands, that is why they are called “finger sandwiches”.
Your cell phone has no place at the table so turn the sound off and leave it in your bag.
These are just some of the basic rules that you need to know. As you can see they are not that hard to remember and follow.
Tea party ideas – choose a theme for your event
Now that you know how to plan a tea party, let’s discuss some party ideas and themes. Choosing a theme for a tea party can be only limited by your imagination. Obviously, the theme will be determined by the occasion, the guests and the place. We shall help you with ideas which you can use for tea parties for kids, bridal shower, baby shower, wedding, birthday or any other festive occasion.
Tea party ideas for kids – how to choose the theme, the decoration, menu, etc.
Probably there is not a more famous tea party than the one of the Mad Hatter. Alice in Wonderland and Mad Hatter themes are suitable for both children and … grown up children. Here are some ideas how to organize a Mad Hatter party for kids.
The place – the perfect place for a Mad Hatter tea party is any place outdoors – your garden or a nearby park, even your veranda. If you have to organize the event indoors, this is not a problem – you can still create a colorful, joyful and memorable environment.
Since the table is the centerpiece of the theme, it should be arranged accordingly. You can use colorful cups and saucers and there is no need to use a set. Mismatched cups and saucers in different colors will do just fine. A huge hat can be a great centerpiece or a large clock set to 6:00 pm, when the Hatter and Hare had their tea. Add Alice in Wonderland themed napkins and disposable tableware, a checkered tablecloth and some fresh flowers and your table will be spectacular.
Here are some Mad Hatter tea party menu ideas for kids – tea, of course is a must, but when it comes to kids, some ice tea is a better idea. Include sweet and savory treats – sandwiches, crackers, scones, theme decorated cookies, cupcakes with Alice in Wonderland toppers, punch with “Drink me” labels and if you order a cake decorated in the Mad Hatter theme, you will have all that you need. Costumes are also a great idea and even if you are on a budget you can add to the party fun – make a funny hat for each child and decorate it with bows and ribbons.
Enchanted forest tea party for little girls, for example, is another theme, which allows you to get creative and organize a memorable party. Your garden is the ideal place for a magical tea party and you can decorate the table and the yard with branches, moss, mushrooms, dwarfs, fairies and butterflies. Get beautiful fairies costumes for every girl, a magic wand, fairy wings and make wreaths of flowers and leaves for them to wear. Think of cute names for magical food – for example – Pixie’s cupcakes, Enchanted strawberry mousse, Dwarf’s cookies, etc.
Another favorite tea party theme for girls is the Princess theme. It could be any princess from a fairy tale – Cinderella, Snow white, Sleeping Beauty, Elsa and Anna from Frozen, Merida from Brave or Rapunzel. You can organize the party in the garden or in your living room. Of course, you will need a variety of princess party decorations – tablecloth, napkins, glittering tiaras, golden dust, purple and pink tulle, satin ribbons, rhinestones, etc.
Here are some more tea party theme ideas for children – Robin Hood and Tinker Bell, Indoor picnic, Teddy bear, Rainbow tea party, Little Kitty, Pirates or Knights, Ballerina, etc.
Original tea party ideas for adults
Organizing a tea party and spending a couple of hours with your friends or celebrating your birthday, even Mother’s day, is a great option to show your creativity. You can choose from numerous themes depending on the experience you want to have and the atmosphere that you want to create. We shall look at just a few ones to help you get inspired.
Victorian tea party theme is an elegant gesture of honor to the time when the afternoon tea was invented. The decoration should reflect the style of England in the 1800s – framed vintage photos, lace, mirrors, old books, jewelry would be the perfect decorations. In addition, you can use lace ribbons and roses which will add a touch of elegance. A linen tablecloth and napkins will also help you create the atmosphere of the Victorian era and an elegant tea set is a must. Whether tea and food will be served in “buffet style” or while guests are seated at the tables will depend on your personal choice. However, if you choose the buffet, make sure that you have enough space for a separate serving area. The menu should include traditional food as finger sandwiches (without bread crust), small cakes and tarts, scones, etc.
Shabby Chic and Vintage themes are excellent ideas for a tea party which are also suitable for a Bridal shower event. You can choose a special location or decorate your own garden or living room in a Shabby Chic or Vintage style. Choose decoration in white or soft pastel colors, lace, ruffles, doilies, beautiful floral chinaware, fresh flowers as a centerpiece and a tiered stand for your food. If you want to keep to the style, send invitations to your guests, informing them for the theme of your party and the dress code. Serve small, elegant bites of cream cheese sandwiches, herb scones, honey cakes, lavender and lemon cakes, a variety of tea blends and depending on the occasion – champagne.
Downton Abbey or English tea party is a suitable theme when you want to make it really elegant and sophisticated. The series have millions of fans all over the world and if you are one of them here are some useful guidelines for an exquisite afternoon tea. To make it even more special you can ask your guests to come dressed as their favorite characters. Pay attention to the details of the table decoration – tablecloth, napkins, china and servingware, flowers, etc. The menu should contain the classic English afternoon tea cucumber sandwiches, English scones, Victoria sponge, etc.
Beach style party gives you a chance for a more informal setting. You can combine the idea of a picnic and a tea party, especially if the event is actually held at the sea shore. Of course, you can use the beach theme as a decoration and organize the party in your backyard or porch. You can choose any style for a beach tea party – from Bohemian chic to glamorous Shabby Chic.
Here are some more tea party theme ideas to choose from – Flowers and herbs, Sunflowers, color theme – pink and green, white, purple, blue and pink, etc., seasonal themes and holidays – Christmas, Spring, Summer, etc.
Tea party favors
Party favors are small gifts that the host gives to the guests as a thanking gesture for their attendance or as a memento of the occasion. The type of favors will depend on the particular occasion – a bridal shower, a baby shower, an engagement party, a birthday or anniversary, etc.
Choosing tea party favors will depend on many factors. The first one is your budget. You may opt for party favors connected with the particular theme or choose to give handmade party favors to your guests.
From a small poetry book to personalized tea bags, infusers, candles, cups and teapots, nuts or sweets – there is no limit to creativity and imagination.
Tea party favors can be arranged on a separate table so that each guest could take one. They could be used as an element of the table decoration as well, especially when wrapped in a beautiful gift pack, and placed on each place setting.
Bridal Shower tea party ideas – how to host the perfect event?
A bridal shower tea party is a beautiful, elegant event, very feminine and sophisticated. This is the perfect way to celebrate a bride’s upcoming wedding and as any party, the event is usually not focused on food or drinks but on the bride who shares a happy moment with her closest friends. Here are some major guidelines which will help you organize the perfect bridal tea party.
When planning a bridal shower tea party one needs to start with the venue – an elegant restaurant or an outdoor space with great atmosphere would be an appropriate place.
Choose a theme for the bridal shower party. From traditional Victorian tea to Shabby chic, Alice in Wonderland, Mad Hatter or any other theme, style or color – the choice of themes is virtually unlimited.
Send invitations to the guests on your list. Those who are invited to the bridal shower tea party must be also invited to the wedding, so carefully check the guest list for the wedding reception.
Bridal shower tea party decorations should be chosen in accordance with the theme. Whatever the theme is, do not forget that the whole event is exceptional and beautiful tablecloths, linen napkins, antique-style teapots or tea set and fresh flowers are the major decorative elements which will make the table look exquisite.
A bridal shower tea party menu can include anything from traditional scones to cupcakes, an assortment of sandwiches and savory treats, a cake and any other sweet treats that you wish to have. Remember that the food must be small sized, tasty and full of flavor. Make a list of the beverages that you want to serve to your guests – tea, coffee, Champagne, etc.
Bridal shower tea party favors should be chic and sweet – small boxes with a variety of teas, succulents potted in tea cups, handmade sweets in beautiful boxes, heart shaped tea strainers – the sky is the limit of imagination.
Baby Shower tea party ideas
Baby shower tea party ideas are aimed at creating beautiful memories for the mom-to-be. Planning a baby shower party is more or less the same as planning a bridal shower or a birthday tea party, except that the theme is focused on the expected little one.
Choosing the theme for a baby shower party would be easier if you knew the gender of the baby, but even if you do not, there are many ideas which will make this event a really special one.
A baby shower tea party for a girl can be themed “Little Princess”, “Pink clouds”, “Vintage pastel colors”, ”Pink Roses”, “Hello Kitty”, “Ladybug” or any other theme that you like.
Baby shower theme for a boy can vary from a nautical theme to little prince and you can arrange the decor, the menu and the party favors in accordance with the main theme.
Do not overdo the decor, keep it simple and elegant. A few well-chosen elements, floral arrangements and a banner would be enough to transform any room.
Tea and food can be served on a buffet table, if you prefer a more informal gathering. Keep to simple but flavorful food – sweet and savory – freshly baked scones, shortbreads, madeleines, sandwiches, etc. A variety of teas, coffee, fruit juices, iced tea and eventually a glass of Champagne will give you a good assortment of drinks.
Baby shower tea party favors may range from tea cookies to tea tins, craft boxes or vintage cups.
As you see there is a whole Universe of tea party ideas which can be used for almost any festive occasion. It is good to know the traditions and the etiquette yet it depends entirely on you to organize a memorable event. Hopefully, the tips, ideas and guidelines we gave you will help you plan and organize the perfect tea party. Remember that the most important is that you enjoy it as much as your guests!