How to Host the Perfect Afternoon Tea Party

tea party

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An afternoon tea party is perfect for loads of occasions. From grand formal events to casual gatherings. It’s also a brilliant way to celebrate your birthday by doing something a bit different than a typical night time birthday party. But how do you plan an afternoon tea party? It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, and there are plenty of opportunities for you to put your own spin on it. 

The first thing you’ll need to do when planning your afternoon tea party, is decide when you want to host it and who’s invited. Then you can move on to picking the perfect place to host, whether that’s at home or in a hired venue. After that, you can move onto the fun stuff! Like the menu, theme, decorations and games. You’ll then just need to get everything organised by purchasing your supplies and sending your invites. 
 
We’ll go through all this and give you plenty of tips and ideas along the way so you can host the perfect afternoon tea party. So let’s get started! 

Best Time to Host an Tea Party

Usually a tea party should last around 2 hours. This is enough time to serve all the food and drinks, enjoy each other’s company and play some games if you wish. 

We recommend starting your tea party at around 2:30-3:00. It’s not too late in the afternoon for guests that haven’t had any lunch yet, but not too early so that any guests who have had a light lunch won’t want some snacks again. 

Sunday is a great day to host a tea party. Saturday also works really well too. Try and avoid having your tea party midweek because most people will be working during the afternoon and hosting in the evening doesn’t really fit the vibe. 

Choosing the Guest List

The next thing you’ll need to consider, is the number of guests you’re inviting. This is dictated mostly by your budget, as the more guests you invite, the more you’ll need to spend on food and drinks, as well as hiring a larger venue. The size of your guest list will also depend on what type of tea party you’re hosting, whether it’s a large fundraising event or a small family gathering. 

If you have no idea how many guests to invite to your party, think about how much your party will cost per person first. Consider the food and the venue size and go from there. This will give you a realistic number to base your guest list on. So if you need to, come back to the guest list a little later on, that’s fine!

If you need more help deciding, check out our guide on how many guests you should invite to your party for some more things to consider.

Where to Host a Tea Party

You first need to decide if your guest list warrants a hired venue. If you’re hosting for over 20 people, then it’s definitely worth considering hiring a venue for your tea party to make sure everyone fits in comfortably. Unless you’ve lucky enough to have a massive house to host in! But if you’re on a tight budget, it’s still possible to host a great tea party at home too. Take a look at our quick tips to plan a party on a budget for some more advice. 

Once you’ve decided if you’re hosting at home or away, you’ll need to have a think about whether the tea party should be inside or outside. This will probably depend mostly on where you live and what season you’re in.

If you live in Britain, you’ll know that the weather isn’t always predictable, so hosting your party indoors might be an idea. That doesn’t mean you cant host it in your garden though. If you’re worried and are looking for some advice, then check out our guide on what to do when it rains on your party to make sure you have a plan just in case the weather doesn’t go your way on the day!

Here are some great tips for hosting a party at home. 

Hosting a Tea Party at Home

Get Rid of Any Clutter

The first thing you need to do to maximise your party space is get rid of all the clutter. Furniture or ornaments that don’t serve a purpose at your tea party need to go elsewhere. Moving clutter either upstairs or in a garage is a great way to help host a party in a small space.

Think About Re-arranging the Furniture

Stackable chairs are a great space saver. You can have them upstairs to keep your main party space free, and bring them out if more of your guests want to sit down. 

If your living room is square-shaped, rather than rectangular, it’s best to have all of your furniture on the edge of the room and your food and drinks tables in the middle to maximise the space. Your guests are likely to congregate around tables, so dot them around to spread people out. You can have a few different small tables to ensure your guests can move between them without creating a queue. 

But if your space is narrower instead, it can be a good idea to have one long table in the centre with all your food and drink. Then you can place chairs around the edge. This will create a flow around the area that prevents congestion when your guests are moving about. 

If you don’t have enough room for many chairs, you can always throw down some pillows and blankets. It’s a good space saver because more people can usually fit on a blanket than a bench and it’ll take up less room. 

Have Plenty of Bins

Make sure there are enough bins at various places in your house. Number one, it’ll make the cleaning up process a lot quicker. Plus it’ll stop more people getting up and moving around creating congestion if there is a bin near them. Having a lot of people moving about is what makes your area seem smaller. When people are sat down and settled, you’re likely to feel the effects of a small space a lot less. 

Stagger the Arrival Time

Another thing you can do that’ll help you host your tea party in a small space, is to stagger the arrival time. Having a large window for your guests to arrive, stops a massive influx of people at one time. This will make it seem like the area is larger, because trying to cram everyone in at once will highlight a small space even more. 

Tea Party Food Ideas

Of course, a tea party is primarily about the refreshments, so you need to make sure they’re the focus of your planning. There are a couple of options you can take to sort out your tea party food. 

Firstly, you can sort the food yourself. But be wary, this is a massive task, especially if you’ve got a lot of guests to cater for. To make it a bit easier, you can order finger food from the supermarket to be collected on the day of your party, but this tends to lose the authentic tea party touch. 

Instead, you can ask for some help from your friends and family. Have all your guests pitch in by bringing some food each so you can enjoy the benefits of homemade catering, but without all the time and effort!

If you don’t want to ask for help, consider hiring a caterer. This is of course a more expensive option, but it’s definitely easier and usually higher quality. 

If you need more help deciding which option is best for you, check out our ultimate party food guide for some more advice. It’s full of great ideas and gives you an idea of serving sizes per person so you can gauge how much food you actually need to buy. 

So what food should you serve at a tea party? Here are our favourite ideas that we’re sure your guests will love! Remember to check if your guests have any allergies that you need to be aware of before serving any food. 

Scones

Not everyone can agree on how to pronounce scones, but one thing everyone can agree on, is that they’re essential on any tea party menu. Here are our favourite things to serve scones with at a tea party.

  • Classic jam and clotted cream
  • Top them with strawberries soaked in Pimms!
  • Lemon curd
  • Forrest fruit copot
  • Chocolate sauce
  • Soft cheese
  • Salted caramel sauce
  • Nutella

Jams

It doesn’t matter what else is on your tea party menu, we guarantee that there’s something that’ll be made 100 times better if you slap some homemade jam on it! Here are some great flavours to choose from.

  • Blackberry and elder-flower
  • Strawberry
  • Rhubarb and ginger
  • Damson gin
  • Sweet chilli

Biscuits

Biscuits are another staple at a tea party. You can either purchase some popular classics from a supermarket, or get creative and bake your own for added brownie points! Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Peanut butter
  • Ginger nut crunch
  • Hazelnut and white chocolate
  • Triple chocolate chip
  • Raisin oat biscuits 

Cupcakes

Have some fun and try your hand at decorating some homemade cupcakes. Your guests will love it if you manage to tie in your tasty decorative designs in with the theme. Here are some classic cupcake flavours you should try.

  • Carrot cupcakes
  • Classic vanilla butterfly cakes
  • Nutella cupcakes
  • Red velvet 
  • Black Forrest fruits 
  • Lemon drizzle 

Sandwiches

In addition to all the sweet treats, you’ll need to serve some savoury snacks too, and sandwiches are a classic. Here are some great sandwich fillings that you can serve.

  • Roast beef and horseradish
  • Chicken and stuffing
  • Crayfish and rocket
  • Avocado and egg salad
  • Tomato, mozzarella and prosciutto
  • Duck and spring onion

Salads

It’s also a good idea to serve a healthier option to counter all the indulgent cakes and desserts. Salads are a great option, and they don’t have to be boring! Here’s some inspiration.

  • Pasta salad
  • Pesto and potato salad
  • Chicken teriyaki
  • Sweet chilli and halloumi
  • Chorizo and manchego 
tea party guest

Choosing the Perfect Tea

One thing you definitely need to get right at your afternoon tea party, is the actual tea! You can either go for easy tea bags or authentic loose tea. It’s completely up to you! 

So how do you brew loose tea leaves? Here’s a classic method.

  • Add 12g of tea leaves to a pot
  • Heat 1000ml of water to 100 degrees Celcius and add to the pot 
  • Brew the tea for around 3-4 minutes.

Try and offer a range of different flavours too. Some popular ideas are: chai, fruit, herbal, peppermint and green. You don’t have to serve every type though, just pick around 3 to keep everyone happy. 

Remember to offer extra hot water for those that prefer weaker tea, sugar, milk and lemon slices too.

More Tea Party Drink Ideas

You’ll need to serve some other drinks too if you want to keep all your guests happy. Make sure you serve some fruit juices and soft drinks. You can also offer some alcoholic drinks too if you fancy. Pimms is a classic summer drink that’s perfect for a tea party on a hot day. 

If you fancy being a bit more adventurous, try making some cocktails too. Here’s a great recipe for Long Island Iced Tea that your guests are sure to enjoy. If you want to give your tea party a modern twist, check out our list of the 10 best party drinks for some more ideas.

Long Island Iced Tea Recipe

  • Rum 17.5ml
  • Vodka 17.5ml
  • Gin 17.5ml
  • Tequila 17.5ml
  • Orange Liqueur 17.5ml
  • Sugar Syrup 17.5 ml
  • Lemon Juice 17.5ml
  • Lime Juice 17.5ml
  • Cola
The Long Island Iced Tea is very easy to make but definitely packs a punch! Shake the lemon, lime, sugar and alcohol with ice. Then pour into a chilled glass filled with crushed ice and top with cola.

Tea Party Themes

Giving your afternoon tea party a theme is a great way of taking it to the next level. But what theme should you go for? 
 
An Alice in Wonderland theme is a classic idea for a tea party. It’s great if you want a fun but traditional theme that’s perfect for the event. 
 
But if you want something a bit different, that’s great! Just because tea parties have been around for centuries, doesn’t mean to can’t give yours a modern twist. So let your imagination run wild! Check out our list of the 20 best party themes for some great ideas for your afternoon tea party! 
 
If you don’t want to choose a theme, then that’s no problem. But you’ll need to pick a colour scheme instead. Unless you’re going for an eclectic mix of decorations and teaware (which can actually be really cool), think about a few colours for your party supplies. Pastels work great for chilled afternoon events. But if you want some bright colours thrown in then go for it! 

Tea Party Decoration Ideas

Once you’ve picked a theme or colour scheme for your tea party, you can look at getting some decorations to tie in with it. Here are some of our favourite ideas for tea party decorations. 

  • Fairy lights dangled across the top of your room or garden work great if you’ll be hosting towards the end of the afternoon in the winter months. They’ll create a warm and cosy vibe to make your guests feel at home.
  • Bunting is a classic afternoon tea party decoration. Pick a colour or pattern that fits with your theme or colour scheme and go crazy hanging it over the top of your venue! 
  • Floral decorations are a staple at a traditional afternoon tea party. Have some large bouquets located around the food and drinks and use them as table centrepieces. You could even have a flower garland at the entrance to your venue as an added touch. 
  • If you want to be a bit edgy, hang some bright or pastel coloured umbrellas high up over your tables. It’s a great creative decoration idea that’s not too difficult either. Plus it’ll be a talking point for your guests! 

Shindigz is a great online party supply store that you can use to find great decoration ideas with over 34,000 party supplies for every occasion and next day delivery!  

Stumps Party is another awesome party supply store offering custom event supplies and regular deals and discounts. 

Essential Supplies

You’ll need to make sure you have these essential supplies to be able to host an afternoon tea party.

  • Teapot
  • Another pot for hot water
  • Milk jug
  • Bowl for sugar
  • Tea cups
  • Napkins
  • Crockery
  • Silverware/cutlery 
  • Tea strainer
  • Table cloths

You can either get matching sets or take a relaxed approach and mix and match. You’ll be able to find everything really easily if you’re on a budget by looking on Amazon. But if you want to enjoy the shopping experience a bit more, then go to your local garden centre, home ware or department store to browse their selection. 

Perfect Table Setting

You’ll need to think about how many tables you’ll need and how to arrange them first before thinking about how to set them.

Choose either small tables that fit around 4-5 people around them, or one long table depending on your guest list. If you’re hosting a small tea party with close friends or family, one table is fine. But if you’re hosting a bit event with separate groups of guests, smaller tables will work better. Here’s how to arrange each guest’s table for a tea party.

  • Lay a table cloth down first.
  • Have a small plate in the centre of each place with cutlery. 
  • Fold the napkin on the centre of the plate.
  • Place the tea cups on the right of each plate on a saucer with a teaspoon on the right. 
  • Have a teapot, hot water, sugar, lemon and milk in the middle of the table. 
  • Think about placing a floral centrepiece on each individual table. 

You’ll also need to set up some tables for your food and drinks. Tiered serving platters look great and are perfect if your space is limited. Have a table each for the food and drink and separate the savoury and sweet foods and the non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks.

Send out Your Invitations

So now you’ve got all the essentials sorted, you’re in a position to start sending your tea party invitations. But there are a few options to consider when deciding what format to send your invites.  

Handwritten invitations offer a personal touch, which is very fitting with a formal tea party. The only disadvantage though is that they are quite time consuming if you’ve not a lot of invites to send out. 

You can also mail invitations that you’ve created using a Microsoft programme like Powerpoint or Office. This way is much quicker to create a lot of invitations and you can design them however you like without needing to know a lot about IT. 

Our favourite way of creating professional looking invitations easily is to use Canva. It’s a website that allows you to create a range of graphic design media using a range of ready-made templates. They look great, are really easy to create and you can print out as many as you need. 

The quickest way of sending your invitations out is to make a Facebook event. It’ll allow you to add everyone in one go, and keeps a track of everyone’s response so you know exactly who’s coming.

Whichever option you choose, there’s a few things that need including on your invitations.

  • Date and time
  • Location
  • RSVP instruction
  • Dress code
  • Plus one policy

Tea Party Games

Why not add some games into the mix at your tea party. They’re not essential, but will definitely add a bit of fun which your guests are sure to enjoy! Here are some of the best tea party games to get you started.

Charades

 What you’ll need:
  • Just your guests!

How Long Does it Last? Approximately a few minutes per round

How to Play Charades:

  • Each guest needs to get in a pair. 
  • One person in the pair thinks of a book, play or film usually, but it can be anything you choose, just make sure people know the categories.
  • The player then tries to act it out without making any noise and their partner must guess what it is in under a minute.
  • If they manage to, they earn a point. 
  • Some common clues used in charades are: pretending to read a book, pretending to crank a movie camera, and pretending to sing.
  • You can hold up your fingers to indicate the number word you are trying to act out as well.

Pictionary

What You’ll Need:

  • Paper 
  • Pen
  • Timer

How Long Does it Last? Around 20 minutes 

How to Play Pictionary:

  • Get into pairs and choose who is the artist and who is guessing.
  • The artist starts drawing a picture from a pre-selected secret list and their partner must guess what they are drawing.
  • If they guess in under a minute, the pair earns a point.

Giant Jenga

What you’ll need:

  • Giant jenga blocks 

How long does it last? 10-15 minutes 

How to play:

  • Set up the tower by placing three blocks next to each other and then stack three blocks on top facing the other direction.
  • Each player must take it in turns to remove a block, but not one on the top row!
  • Place the block on the top of the tower.
  • Keep going until the tower topples over.
  • The player that knocks it over first loses!

Play Some Music

Music isn’t the most important thing to consider when planning a tea party, but you should still have a think about it if you want to go the extra mile. 

Good music goes a long way in creating the perfect ambience for your afternoon, so think about creating a playlist for the event. It should be a chilled and relaxing mix and include styles such as jazz and lounge music. Avoiding songs with words is probably best, because you just want the music to create a good atmosphere and not distract your guests from conversation. 

If you want some help, check out our ultimate party playlist tips!

Apple Music is the perfect way to create a party playlist. It’s intelligent recommendation feature makes it really quick to add songs to create the perfect track list and it’s cross fade feature makes seamless song transitions. It’s only $9.99/ £9.99 per month and you can get a free 3 month trial to check it out. And don’t worry, you can use it on Android devices too!

Join over 50 million subscribers and sign up for your 3 month free trial today! 

But if you really want to do something special for your afternoon tea party, then why not hire a live band to play at your event? If your budget allows it, it’s the perfect way of setting the mood and entertaining your guests.

Tea Party Planning Timeline

So now you’ve thought about everything you need to plan to make sure you host a great afternoon tea party, where should you start? It might seem like there’s a lot to do, but don’t panic. We’ve outlined everything you need to do with this easy tea party checklist so you don’t have to worry! 

Ideally you will be planning your tea party around 8 weeks in advance, but it’s not a disaster if you’ve left it later. This timeline will just help you prioritise everything so you have a plan and know where to start first. 

8 Weeks Before

  • Set a budget
  • Make your guest list
  • Book the venue
  • Choose a tea party theme

4 Weeks Before

  • Send your invitations
  • Create your menu
  • Shop for your party supplies
  • Decide on the music

1 Week Before

  • Plan any games and activities
  • Follow up with any guests that haven’t responded to your invites

1-2 Days Before

  • Shop for the food
  • Check in with any event services you’ve hired for your tea party

Day of the Tea Party

  • Prepare the food
  • Decorate your venue
  • Prepare the tables
  • Set up any games and music
  • Get your camera charged and make sure it’s got plenty of storage space available

Tea Party Hosting Tips

As the event’s host, you have a lot of responsibility to make sure the tea party runs smoothly. If you’ve followed this guide then you should be in a great position to relax and enjoy the party knowing everything is in order well in advance. But we’ve still got a few tips you should keep in mind on the day!

  • Plan everything as early as possible and know roughly what the format of the afternoon will be.
  • Have a backup plan. If disaster strikes with the food or venue, try and have a plan B ready in your head just in case. Whether that’s hosting at home or nipping to a supermarket. 
  • Introduce guests to each other and spend a little time with every guest.

So there you go! Now you have plenty of ideas to plan the perfect tea party. We hope you have a great afternoon!

Congrats for making it to the end of this massive blog post! As a thank you for reading, here’s our free printable party planning checklist to help keep you on track and make planning your tea party as stress and hassle free as possible. 

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