How To Throw a Tea Party

Tea cups

Below you will find a simple guide to hosting an elegant, thoughtfully planned out, and slightly untraditional tea party. The task of throwing a tea party can seem very overwhelming. When you start to consider the dishes required, the invitations to go out, the food to prepare, and the bringing of these things together to make an elegantly coordinated event...well the task is enough to send most to their local caterer or event planner.

The reality is that given appropriate time for planning, an idea of how much money to spend, and proper consideration for the guests, a tea party can be a fun and elegant way to show your friends and family how much you care for them. And incorporating some "untraditional" aspects can give your guests a surprising twist to the traditional tea party.

The suggestions below are not all traditional but incorporate some new ideas to the traditional tea party.

Step 1

Select a date and time of day.

Traditionally tea takes place between meals at 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

A spring tea would generally happen between the months of March and May. The best time of day in my experience is between the hours of 11am to 12 noon. In this case you need to prepare enough food for a luncheon tea party

A Christmas time tea would need to be scheduled so that your guests are around for the holidays. Generally the best time for this is November to early December.

Consider a Christmas tea party, candle lit around 6 pm in the evening. When having a tea party at this time, again prepare food enough for an evening meal, not dinner, but substantial finger foods.

Step 2

Prepare guest list.

A group of 6-8 is a good number of guests for an intimate celebration. More than 8 guests at your party means you need to have your food buffet style, unless you have a table that extends enough to accommodate many tiers and platters of food.

Step 3

Deicde on color scheme or theme of your party.

Is this going to be a traditional Victorian Tea? In this case you need a tablecloth made of lace, floral patterned china and silver trays.

Maybe you would like to plan your tea around a certain color like bright pink or yellow. Is it a birthday party? Consider an Alice in Wonderland theme.

Step 4

Select and send invitations.

Look for invitations that give your guest an idea of what to expect and something that speaks to them of the theme of your tea. Send out invitations 4-6 weeks ahead of time to allow your guest proper time to respond.

Invitation example:

You are invited to a tea party

given by : host or hostess name

April 12, 2008

12 O'Clock in the afternoon


Kindly respond before

March 30, 2008

phone # of host or hostess

Step 5

Plan your menu...Here are some tips to keep in mind when planning the menu.

  • Take help where you can get it...order pastries and scones from a bakery. 3 desserts per guest and 1 scone per guest.
  • Take into consideration the dietary restrictions of guests in attendance...if you have a vegetarian, serve a variety of vegetarian-friendly items.
  • If you will be hosting a luncheon tea or a evening dinner time tea add a chicken salad and almond casserole or a chicken and almond salad in addition to the finger sandwiches and desserts.
  • Prepare as much as you are able the day before...this would include the hot dish (all you need to do is cook it the day of the party) cookies, punch, condiments in bowls and covered in plastic wrap, etc...
  • Prepare a list of your favorite recipes, make a grocery list, go shopping for your ingredients.

Here are some menu suggestion:

  • Hot chicken and almond casserole
  • Egg salad sandwiches cut into triangles
  • Cucumber, dill and cream cheese sandwiches cut into rectangles
  • Chicken salad sandwiches
  • Watercess sandwiches
  • Hot Hearts of Palm and artichoke dip with crackers
  • Scones with lemon curd, strawberry jam and devonshire cream
  • Oranges, grapes or any seasonal fruit cut into small slices or cubes
  • Coconut cookies or chocolate bottom macaroons
  • Lemon bars
  • Chocolate peanut clusters or chocolate truffles
  • When appropriate include a champagne berry punch - rim the edge of the glass in sugar and drop in a raspberry
  • Hot earl grey or black tea
  • Sugar cubes and lemon slices for the tea

Step 6

Brewing a pot of tea.

Fill your teapot with water, then pour that water into a stove top kettle.

Boil the water and then pour some of the water into your teapot, swish it around and then pour out the water...This allows the teapot to get warm.

Fill the teapot with boiling water again and add 3 tea bags. Let these steep for 3-5 minutes and remove them.

Step 7

Setting your table.

  1. Use luncheon or salad plates unless you are serving a larger luncheon/dinner time tea party. In this case use a dinner/ buffet plate and charger.
  2. The teacup is placed to the right of the place setting.
  3. Turn the teacup handle out.
  4. Place a small spreader above each plate horizontally and a small tea spoon above that. Guests will find it difficult resting a large knife on a small plate.
  5. Use only silverware that you need. A fork and spoon if needed.
  6. Use unscented candles and flowers without strong scents for your centerpiece.
  7. Use linen napkins in white or in the color scheme you choose. Place them to the left of the plate or on the plate folded into a pocket, tied with a ribbon, or secured with a napkin ring.
  8. Champagne and Water glasses sit on the right above the silverware and to the left of the tea cup.
  9. 4 condiment bowls and tongs or spreader, each filled with lemon slices, lemon curd, jam and devonshire cream.
  10. Consider investing in a teapot warmer. It is placed on the table and lit with a tea light to keep your teapot warm through a few hours. This will keep you from getting up from the table to refill your cold teapot.
  11. Use placecards - they are a fun way to incorporate creativity into your event and serve a useful purpose. Guests should not arrive at your party and wonder where to sit. Using a placecard will put them at ease.

Here are some placecard suggestions:

  • Consider using a mini potted plant and using a tag attached to a branch.
  • A favor box tied with satin ribbon and the guest's name or monogram.
  • A folded menu card with the guest's name on the front and place on the charger or plate.

Extra's to make your party stand out

  • Plan a game like tea party bingo (look online for this) and give the winner a tea cup as a gift.
  • Have a notecard exchange - instruct each guest, in your invitation, to bring a box of wrapped stationary. When they arrive, have them pick a number out of a tea cup and choose a wrapped box to open around the table. At Christmas use ornaments.
  • Give each guest a handwritten note and persoanl gift thanking them for their friendship.

Remember that a tea party is about relaxation and enjoyment of your guests' company so plan, plan, plan and then sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor!


Share this article!

Follow us!

Find more helpful articles:



This is a great idea. It is a simple way of inviting people to a party.

By Mary Norton