Afternoon tea time has long gone from pretending to sip tea with your favorite dolls and toys. Today, a tea party has become an excellent way to celebrate your love for your favorite drink and to get together with your favorite tea aficionados. But how do you plan a tea party at home?
Before you get overwhelmed with all the elegant Victorian decor, Alice in Wonderland motifs, and cute pastries and scones, take a deep breath and relax. While tea parties nowadays have been depicted as the epitome of British elegance, you can still go beyond the traditional formalities of “afternoon tea” and have fun with your tea party.
In this article, we guide you through planning your tea party. From themes, food, and activities, we’ve got you covered with this comprehensive guide to DIY planning for your tea party ideas!
What is a Tea Party?
A tea party, described in the most basic way, is a social gathering where tea and complimentary accompaniments are served. However, there’s more to tea parties than just serving tea in a social setting. So what is it that makes tea parties so special?
When you think of tea parties, your first thoughts might veer towards the posh British-style afternoon tea. Filled with dainty teacups, fine china, elegant scones, and of course delicious tea, this refined tradition has truly become an iconic part of both tea and British culture. Tea parties, however, weren’t always just confined to the British nobility.
Perhaps one of the often overlooked parts of the development of tea is the tradition of high tea. Today, “high tea” and “afternoon tea” are used interchangeably, but they’re actually two different things! “Afternoon tea” refers to the stereotypical elegant tea party that we see in mass media, while “high tea” actually refers to tea or supper time for the British working class. Over the years, our notion of tea parties seem to have evolved with more and more elements from afternoon tea but it does retain elements from high tea.
British tea parties might be your go to inspiration when it comes to tea party planning, but you can definitely go beyond the traditional themes. As the second most popular beverage in the world, tea has a lot of traditions and variations. Take some inspiration from new tea flavors, tea ceremonies, and even how to brew tea properly!
How to Plan a Tea Party
A tea party can be highly versatile and can be appropriate for any type of occasion. It’s a great way to celebrate almost any milestone in your life. For baby and bridal showers, birthdays, graduation celebrations, and small get togethers, throwing a tea party can be the perfect alternative to hosting a dinner party.
You can also have your tea party almost anywhere, depending on the ambiance and setting you’re going for. Tea parties at hotels and refined establishments are perfect for more formal or refined celebrations, while a casual tea party at home can be nice for those intimate gatherings with you and your closest tea lovers. Because a tea party isn’t as labor-intensive as a dinner party, you can easily adjust and rearrange details depending on how casual or formal you want your party to be.
Whether you’re having a small, casual tea party or a grand formal affair, here are some things you should remember when planning out a tea party:
Decide on Your Theme
Before anything, decide on your tea party’s theme. Tea is beloved worldwide, so you won’t really have a shortage of ideas when choosing tea party themes. All you have to do is make sure that the theme is appropriate for your celebration and that your guests will enjoy it.
Send out Invites
Much like any party, an invite is necessary for a tea party! After all, how else will your guests know? Be creative with your invitations and make sure that it reflects the theme and formality of your affair. Send out beautiful and elegant cardstock for more formal occasions or blast a fun email for the more casual parties. If you do decide to send out physical invites, a cute idea is to add a small sample of tea with the invitations. Make sure to send out invitations ahead of time! A good rule of thumb is to give invitations 2-3 weeks ahead so you and your guests can do some planning.
Get Your Tea Necessities
At least a week before your party, make sure that you have everything you need so that your tea party will go off without a hitch. That means making sure that your tea necessities are ready and good to go.
If you’re having your tea party at a hotel or restaurant, chances are they’ll have everything you need. It’s just important to double check with the venue so you can make appropriate arrangements.
On the other hand, if you’re having a tea party at home, then you might need to buy some extra supplies. Make a list of everything you and your guests need, from tea leaves to tea accessories, and order them beforehand. Thankfully, you can buy your tea accessories online now so you can have an easier time getting what you need!
Plan Your Menu
No party is ever complete without food–especially a tea party. Tea party menus usually consist of scones, pastries, and finger foods so make sure that you have a wide selection for your guests. It’s also important to have several options between sweet and savory foods. Depending on the time, you may also want to include some heavier options in your menu, like pasta and some sandwiches, but these are completely optional. It’s also important to plan your menu based on the tea you’re serving so that they perfectly complement each other. Finally, make sure that your menu is appropriate for guests that may have allergies and dietary restrictions.
Serve Perfectly Brewed Tea
Of course, the highlight of a tea party is tea! Serve your guests delicious and perfectly brewed tea while you laugh around and socialize. Make sure to have sugar, honey, and milk on the ready so your guests can drink their tea exactly as they want it.
Tea Party Themes, Ideas, and Activities
Still not sure what your tea party’s theme will be? Don’t worry! We listed down some cool and creative tea party themes and party ideas to help you brew the best tea party of the season.
Don’t be Late to A Very Important Date!
Alice in Wonderland features the iconic tea party with our titular character, the Mad Hatter, and the March Hare. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then why an Alice in Wonderland theme will always be a fun choice for any tea party. Add a bit of whimsy with some adorable yet elegant chinaware, quirky pastries, and Wonderland-esque decorations and activities to your party.
Bring in a Wonderland of Flavors!
Wonderland was all about silliness and the unexpected. Live up to your tea party’s theme and serve some bold yet delicious teas that will pleasantly surprise your guests. You can also add in unconventional accompaniments and food, such as fruits and unconventional pies.
Be the Queen of Hearts
One of the most iconic characters in Alice in Wonderland is the Queen of Hearts! Channel in her royal energy and play a game of cards with your friends. Compete to see who gets the title of Queen of Hearts–minus the right to yell “Off with their heads,” of course.
It’s A Small World After All
As the second most popular beverage in the world, tea has countless variations across countries. While not everyone of us can travel to these countries, you can definitely get a taste of how they make their tea with this theme.
Around the World in 80 Sips
Bring in popular or iconic teas from all around the world in your tea parties. Serve up some chai, green tea, and more exquisite local teas like the Argentinian yerba mate, the Russian zavarka, or Iranian tea. Serve them as they would be prepared traditionally and pair them with local delicacies and have your guests go on a jet setting trip with their cups of coffee.
Experience His-tea-ry and Culture!
Tea has a vast culture in different parts of the world, so you can definitely feature or highlight those parts in your tea party. Serve your guests a slice of tea culture and have them experience some of the most well-known tea traditions in your party, such as reading tea leaves or perhaps even a traditional Japanese tea ceremony! Just make sure to ask the proper guidance from experts and do these customs respectfully.
The Most Remarkable “Cup” of the Season
Of course, we won’t list down tea party themes without giving you the “afternoon tea” options for your most regal guests. Take a cue from the nobles of Bridgerton and break out your finest china and serve some of the most exquisite tea for your guests–minus the scandal and salaciousness of the show, of course.
All Things Fine for Today’s Soiree
Make your party the diamond of the season by going all out and serving your guests the most regal options. Serve up the most exquisite tea in beautiful teacups and teapots and pair them with lovely and delicious English pastries and pies to match.
Dress Up to the Nines!
Go all out and dress to impress! Wear your finest dress or even a period party dress should you decide to go that route. Flutter your fans and drink your tea with your friends while you relive the elegance and romance of your favorite British period drama.
Tea Party Etiquette
Now that you have your tea party all planned out, let’s make sure that you and your guests are ready for it. If you’ve decided to host a formal, traditional tea party, keep in mind that there might be some traditions or customs that you need to consider. As the host, your guests will most likely turn to you for the lead, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with tea party etiquette.
Here’s a list of the most basic tea party etiquette for the unfamiliar:
It can be tempting to drink your cup of tea with the pinkies out. After all, that’s the classiest way to drink it, right? Wrong! According to etiquette experts, the correct way to drink your tea (from a teacup) is to hold your tea cup with the pinkie fingers down.
Don’t dunk food in your tea
Do some research on how you should traditionally eat or serve some of your food. A traditional English scone, for instance, has the cream spread first, then the jam. It is also important for the most part to not dunk food in your tea.
You’ll be dealing with fine china and of course, the last thing you’ll want to do is break it. That’s why it’s important to stir gently when you prepare your tea. Experts say that a back-and-forth motion is preferred, rather than a circular one and never clang the teaspoons on your cups.
Enjoy the Tea!
Whatever the occasion, a tea party is a great way to highlight your love for tea while celebrating important milestones with your friends.
Dainty, elegant, and refined, a tea party is perfect for kids, teens, young adults, and adults alike. Brew your perfect cup of tea, serve your favorite food, and laugh with one of your constants in life: delicious, perfectly brewed tea!