Tea parties are the perfect social event. A tea party can be hosted for any occasion any time of year. I’ve been to tea parties for birthdays and baby showers just because someone wanted to host one. There is a lot that goes into a tea party, either as a guest or hostess. The important thing is to not stress about Most of this is advice to the hostess, with some information useful to a guest…
In this article, I will be walking you through some of the different parts of tea parties, including picking out the perfect tea party dress. But first things first: what happens at a tea party?
The Basics of a Tea Party
Simply put, a tea party is a group of people sitting together drinking tea.
Tea parties originated in the 1840s during Queen Victoria’s reign, although there are earlier records of similar gatherings. The group would gather together at an appointed time and sociably chat. Refreshments were provided in the form of tea and baked goods of some kind. Not much has changed. The variation of the tea party comes if you intend to host one for a special event. Baby showers and birthday parties were previously mentioned, but a tea party can also be the theme for an engagement party, bridal shower, or anything else you can think of. You may even want to host a tea party to network.
Tea Parties are a perfect way to catch up with old friends or family. If you have a lifelong friend visiting from out of town, throwing a tea party could be a fantastic way for her to mingle with people she knew. Maybe your Great-Aunt Matilda isn’t able to get out of the house much. Throwing a tea party will get her some valuable time with their family.
Tea parties don’t necessarily have a specific end time, but a start time is highly recommended. Guests know when to show up and can leave when they have had their fill. That being said, if you have a very long-winded relative, it won’t hurt to have a loose end time.
In addition to eating delectable baked items and delicious tea, games may be part of the fun. If you are hosting a tea party for a particular reason, have games that coincide with the event. If you are hosting a tea party just for fun, a quick game will work as entertainment.
Additionally, playing background music will add to the atmosphere. I would recommend instrumental music. Lyrics can often distract from the conversation. In my experience, classical music has always been widely used. However, lo-fi and movie soundtracks can be used. Make your music selection based on the overall vibe you want to establish for your tea party. Keep music at a reasonable volume.
What happens at a tea party will also be greatly influenced by your guest list. Tea parties at least need to have a civil ambiance. Create your guest list accordingly.
Make sure that there is enough comfortable seating for everybody. Open seating allows for good conversation flow. Comfortable seating is self-explanatory. Ensuring the comfort of each guest is your number one job as a hostess.
Tea party decorations will really make the tea party special. Not only can you have traditional decorations, but the food and tea can be used as decor. Selecting the right tea party set will create a central aesthetic for the rest of the decorations.
Have cupcake displays for whatever pastries you have planned. We will discuss picking the right tea party set later.
Floral arrangements with seasonal plants can make beautiful centerpieces. A touch of nature ties the whole thing together in a beautiful way.
If fresh greenery or flowers aren’t available, there is no shame in getting artificial flora. Smaller arrangements are best for centerpieces to avoid blocking sight and conversation lines. Bigger arrangements can be put off to the side. They will still be visible but not distracting.
If available to you, a fabric table cloth to go over the serving table can add sophistication to the environment.
Opt for fabric napkins instead of disposable napkins or paper towels. Don’t fret if you don’t have access to either of these. If you do have access, but they don’t match the color scheme or vibe, decide if you want to use them or not.
Pastels and soft colors like pinks and purples are popular in the Spring and Summer months.
Bold colors, such as jewel tones, are great for Fall.
An example of a Winter color scheme could be a frosty lavender and silver, or ruby red and emerald green. Both color families can be used for Winter.
When it comes to tea party decorations, you don’t need to go overboard. Make sure your venue is clean, and the decorations are cohesive. Let the tea party set and pastries speak for themselves.
Tea Party Set
When I say “tea party set,” it includes the teapot, cups, saucers, and any of the other dishes that may be used. Selecting the dished can be tricky. There are hundreds of options if you know where to look. Ensure that the teapot can hold enough tea or water to satisfy as many guests as possible without refilling. I would find a fairly neutral style and color of the teapot. Patterns shouldn’t be too bold.
A different option that I’ve seen in recent years has been an electric teapot. It functions like a kettle, but it’s cute like a teapot. It saves space and dishes. The pot sits on a heating base with an automatic switch that clicks when the water is done.
Most teapots come with matching cups and saucers. To add a little more dimension to the tea set, you could also buy mismatched teacups and coordinating saucers. Find cups that work well with each other and are roughly the same size. Having coordinating but different cups allows guests to keep track of their drink if it’s put down. If buying and storing a tea party set and a bunch of cups and saucers won’t work for you, the option to rent a tea party set may be available in some areas.
Serving dishes, such as platters and cupcake displays, should also be cohesive to the tea set. They should be large enough to accommodate a great demand but not overcrowd the serving area. Each treat should have its own platter or tier. This prevents cross-contamination if there is a food sensitivity and generally looks nicer.
If you will opt for disposable dishes, look for something that fits your tea party vibe. Suppose the guests will be eating on their laps (there isn’t a table). The plates will need to be sturdy. Take into account what you are serving to know what dishes are needed.
Teas and Treats
Now that we’ve discussed the basics of tea parties, decorations, and the tea party set, let’s talk about refreshments. In my opinion, food is what makes or breaks a gathering. It is vital with tea parties. Obviously, tea needs to be served. I would also recommend an alternative beverage for people who don’t like tea. The tea needs to coincide with the time of year as well. I’m partial to herbal teas because there are so many varieties for every season. Let’s break it down even more.
If your tea party is during the Spring months, oolong tea or green teas are both great choices. Floral tea and fruity herbal tea add a little poetry to the new life melting out of the Winter. The non-tea alternative would be any fruity drink, like a fruit punch. Light pastries, such as cream puffs, would make excellent sweet hor oeuvres. For something a little more savory, spring veggie slices on cream cheese and crackers. Have a selection of food and tea, but not so much variety that it will overwhelm people.
Similar to Spring, Summer teas include green, white, or matcha. Fruity herbal teas, like raspberry or peach, are tasty and summery. To beat the heat, iced sweet tea would be a wonderful option. For non-tea drinkers, lemonade is a great alternative. Fruit tarts and cucumber sandwiches are simple and light food options.
Black Tea can be seasoned with caramel or pumpkin spice and is great for Fall. Herbal options include apple cinnamon, cranberry, or rooibos teas. Serve warm apple cider infused with cinnamon as an alternative to tea. Mini meat pies or quiche are cozy hors d’oeurves. Pumpkin cookies add a sweet and iconic Fall variety.
Peppermint herbal teas, apple herbal teas, or ginger herbal teas pair well with the harsh cold of winter. Winter teas include Earl Grey, Black, and Green. Infuse cinnamon or cranberries, or caramel for a seasonal taste. Serve hot chocolate or wassail in addition to the tea for extra comfort. Gingerbread is a great treat to serve in Winter. Warm croissants bring comfort full circle.
Some treats for any season include Madeline cookies, deviled eggs, cottage cheese on buttery crackers, eclairs, seasonal produce with dip, and chocolate truffles. There are plenty of options to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. If the tea needs to be sweetened, honey, sugar, agave syrup, and artificial sweeteners can be used. You can also add milk or milk alternatives, cream, or coffee creamers to the teas to cool off and round out the flavors. If ice is going to be used, make some tea the previous day and freeze it overnight. When the ice melts, it won’t dilute the flavor.
When planning your edible offerings, keep in mind the dietary restrictions and preferences of your guests.
Tea Party Invitations
If you aren’t hosting a tea party, this section may be irrelevant. If you are the hostess, you know that invitations are important for any gathering. Tea parties are no exception. Your invitation should clearly state the date, time, and location. Have a phone number or email address so your guests can RSVP. It is essential to RSVP because you want enough refreshments prepared. Because food is involved with a tea party, request that your guests send you any food sensitivities or dietary restrictions in advance.
The invites should be sent out a week or so before the tea party. It’s far enough out that people are usually free to attend, but not so far out that they will forget. However, if you plan to invite old-fashioned people, you can print them off and hand out invites personally. Modern technology allows sending of digital copies of the invite through text or personal message on social media.
A lot of websites have free downloadable templates or graphics that you can edit. The font needs to be readable but can still be fancy. Borders are the easiest way to dress up the invitation. Background graphics should be avoided so the information can be seen clearly. The overall design should not be complicated. The invitations should have the basic what, when, where, and RSVP.
Tea Party Dress
Now on to the fun stuff. What exactly does one wear to a tea party? Typically, you would wear a tea-length or midi dress and a hat. With so many tastes and styles now, we can expand our typical tea party dress. This section will go over tea party dresses, shoes, accessories, tea party hats, and general grooming.
Tea party dresses are typically depicted as vintage-inspired dresses. Very vintage, very classy. It’s a perfect place to start. The cut of a vintage a-line dress is very flattering. The style accentuates the waist and is generally easy to style. You can find a vintage-inspired dress online or in department stores, or even in a thrift shop. This tea party dress style is classic and timeless and can be worn over and over. Most vintage dresses are accented with buttons or bows. These tea party dresses are styled beautifully with a pair of shined pumps.
Accessorize with dainty diamond or pearl studs and a pearl necklace. If you can find them, white gloves that cut off at the wrist would look cute and add to the vintage vibe.
Top the outfit with a cocktail or Juliet hat. A coordinating clutch completes the outfit. If you can manage a vintage style, do it. Alternately, curl your hair. Red lips and black eyeliner complete the vintage look.
Another popular tea party dress style is an immaculate and structured cut. When styled correctly, the dress can add even more sophistication to the party. Dresses with figure-hugging cuts can be found nearly anywhere. Movement may be restricted a bit more in this style, but it looks cleaner. This style also accentuates the waist and flatters most body types.
A pencil skirt and a nice blouse are a creative variation to this look. You could go two directions with accessorizing this outfit. On the one hand, chunky jewelry with flats and a wide brim hat with loose hair would look super cute (think 1965). The other direction would be sleek, minimalist jewelry with peep-toe pumps. A fascinator would complete this outfit with a French twist hairstyle or a messy bun. Contour your makeup and keep the tones neutral with a nude lip and eye.
What if you aren’t into dresses or skirts? A nice jumpsuit or pair of slacks with a blouse would be a great substitute. The trousers allow for more freedom when sitting and moving around.
Nice jumpsuits can be clean, classy, sophisticated, and fun all at once. If the jumpsuit is more flared in the leg, try some complimentary wedges or block heels. If the jumpsuit is more fitted in the leg, try a pair of flats or simple pumps. A boater hat or wide-brimmed fedora tops this look. Style your hair in beach waves to add interest. Pink lips and glittery eyes add a pop to your outfit.
Slacks or a pantsuit are equally a good alternative to a dress. A pair of oxfords or flats and minimal jewelry keep the look simple. A modest fascinator or headpiece and coordinating handbag would tie the whole outfit together. Keep the hair simple and elegant with a vintage twist and light makeup.
Keep in mind. There are many more types of shoes and tea party hats that I have mentioned. It’s up to you to find the perfect outfit that fits your style and vibe. Don’t go overboard on your makeup to let your natural beauty shine through. These are all suggestions if you don’t know where to start.
Whether you are hosting your first tea party or attending your hundredth, tea parties are always exciting. There is a lot that goes into a tea party. You can make it elaborate or keep it simple. Most importantly, have fun!