You don’t have to travel to London to have afternoon tea, you can throw your very own adult tea party right at home!
Whether you’re hosting a bridal shower, birthday party, baby shower, sweet sixteen, or just want an excuse for a cute ladies luncheon, I’m sharing exactly what you need to bring your tea party to life, from traditional teatime foods to easy affordable décor.
Did you know that there are two kinds of tea times? There’s Afternoon Tea and High Tea, and they both have different times, beginnings, and accompaniments.
Afternoon Tea is typically served around 4pm. It’s what most of us associate with teatime: a fancy tiered serving dish with bite sized tea sandwiches and tiny desserts to snack on while you sip tea. Often, afternoon tea even involves sparkling wine.
Whereas afternoon tea started as a staple in British society, High Tea was enjoyed at the end of the workday by the working class, around 5 or 6pm. Given the time of day and limited access to fancy food items, High Tea is a heartier spread. Meat dishes, vegetables, breads, and cheese are typically served at High Tea.
I opted for Afternoon Tea for my setup.
How to Host a Tea Party at Home
The great thing about hosting a tea party at home is that you can decide how elaborate you want to be with everything, including the China, food, and teas.
Once you have the date for your at-home tea party, it’s time to send some invitations!
Usually when I host people, my invite is just a casual text message. But, for a special occasion like a birthday or shower, you’re going to want to send out proper invites. These could be paper or digital.
Digital invites tend to be a little more affordable than printed ones, and you get the convivence of easily tracking RSVPs. My digital invite website of choice is Paperless Post; they have cute, elevated designs and the “opening” experience is like that of a tangible card.
For paper invites, I love Minted. I get my holiday cards from them every year, but they also have a large assortment of greeting cards and invitations that you can personalize, right down to envelope liners. There’s flexibility on quantity, so you can order as little as 10 cards if you’re hosting a more intimate tea party. Minted also offers free address printing, which not only saves time, but the designs always match the invites so that you can keep the *aesthetic* cohesive from start to finish.
Choose Your Menu
As mentioned above, Afternoon Tea and High Tea have different menus. For this tea party, I focused on Afternoon Tea menu items.
Traditionally, this menu consists of three courses, usually served on a tiered tray:
- First course: finger sandwiches
- Second course: scones, butter or clotted cream, and jam
- Third course: sweets
Plan on at least 2 sandwiches, 2 scones, and 2 desserts for each person. If you don’t own a tiered server, try this one. It comes as the frame only and fits standard dinner plates you already own.
You don’t have to make every item in your tea party from scratch. I only made the tea sandwiches, then purchased premade scones from Target and mini desserts and macarons from Whole Foods.
Tea parties are becoming increasingly popular, so you can also do a quick Internet search for Afternoon Tea wherever you live. Many tea rooms offer to-go options, which helps save time from having to prepare a full tea party menu on your own.
Here are a handful of classic tea sandwich recipes in case you want to make them on your own:
- Curried Chicken Salad Tea Sandwiches
- Cucumber Tea Sandwiches
- Bacon and Egg Salad Tea Sandwiches
- Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches
Since you’re in control of the budget for your tea party here, you can splurge on expensive tea or grab a pack or two from Trader Joe’s.
Your guests probably have varying tastes, so be sure to provide a variety of teas. Although you can offer well-known black tea options like English Breakfast or Earl Grey, you also can totally serve your favorite tea, even if it’s not common. Or better yet, use your tea party as an opportunity to try something completely new! Include a non-caffeinated option like lemon or ginger tea, too. (There are lots of times when I want tea without an energy jolt, and some of your guests may not be able to have caffeine for various reasons.)
You can set you tea options out on a small plate or display them in a tea box. There’s no right or wrong here, it’s really your preference.
If you’re serving loose leaf tea, make sure you have tea infusers for your guests to steep their tea.
Set the Table for Your Tea Party
Decorating the table is always my favorite part of any event I host. For this spread, I wanted a vintage tea party vibe. However, I do not own any vintage tea sets or teacups and didn’t want to spend a ton of money on these very specific items.
Instead, I used a mix of our Kate Spade China from our wedding and paper goods from Talking Tables to get an eclectic, mismatched vintage feel. I found this paper goods brand on Amazon a few years back when I threw my mom a surprise tea party for her birthday. They have the cutest stuff for tea parties, from vintage prints to Alice in Wonderland-themed goods.
If you don’t have fancy China, don’t worry. Use what you have, then incorporate fun paper items like I did here. Or, if you want to avoid using real plates altogether – then go for a full paper plate spread for zero washing post-tea party!
Here’s everything you need to set your tea party table at home:
- Teacups and saucers
- Cream and sugar
- Small bowls and tiny spreading knives for jam, butter, etc.
- At least one teapot with hot water
- Tiny stirring spoons for your tea
- Tiered server with your tea party food items
The main star of your tea party (other than the tea of course) is the tiered server with your snacks! You don’t need a tiered server for each person; place it in the center so that you guests can grab their bites buffet style.
If you have a larger group of guests and don’t want to buy multiple serving trays, then set the food on everyone’s individual plates before your guests arrive, and let the tiered server act as an interactive centerpiece if they want to grab more of something.
Other Things to Consider
I’m always a big fan of flowers everywhere, so pick up a few flower bouquets that match your plates or theme and place them throughout your entertaining area.
Music plays a big part in ambience. Brab a Bluetooth speaker and play some music high enough to hear but low enough so you can enjoy the conversation. Classical music always works, as does the Bridgerton playlist on Spotify (pop song covers done in classical). If you’re hosting a holiday tea party, try Christmas music to keep things festive.
I’m not big on favors, but if you want to give your guests a little take-home treat here are some ideas:
- Vintage teaspoons
- Tea infusers
- Mini jars of jam
- The actual teacup and saucer
- Loose leaf tea from the party (if you served it that way)
- Mini bottles of champagne
Last but not least, don’t forget to dress the part! A tea party is the perfect excuse to pick up a feminine floral dress. Shop my exact dress here.
I like to set up my tea party table the night before so that I have one less thing to do on the day of the event.
If you’re planning a tea party and use any of these tips, I’d love to know in the comments below!