10 Tips for Hosting an Afternoon Tea Party

You needn't be royalty to relish these tea party ideas! Find inspiration for your menu, decorations and more.

Tea Party IdeasTMB STUDIO

It’s true that tea parties come with a lot of their own traditions: tiered serving trays, specific foods, loose-leaf tea, china, etc. But that doesn’t mean you can’t put your own spin on the classic party with some deliciously different recipes, decor inspiration and smart serving tricks.

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Tea Party Theme
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Select a theme

The quintessential tea party has delicate embellishments, florals galore and the dainty food to match. But if you want an expressly themed affair, don’t shy away from the grandiose. Your celebration can be an ode to Alice in Wonderland or the Queen of England. It can be a holiday party or a garden party. The choice is yours!

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Invitation On Table
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Send invitations in advance

A couple weeks beforehand, specify the time, date, location and, if necessary, theme of your party with some pretty snail-mail invitations. Psst! It’s never a bad idea to ask that guests notify you of any dietary restrictions or allergies when they send their RSVP.

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Tea Brewing
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Brew the beverage

No tea-party detail is as important as the tea itself! The secret to preparing a spot of tea that even the poshest partygoers will love: quality black tea and very hot water. We suggest a blend that includes Ceylon and/or Assam varieties. British brands, such as Twinings, Yorkshire Gold or PG Tips, are our go-tos.

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Freshly Baked Scones
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Bake scones

English scones, served with an assortment of jams, butter and whipped cream, are an absolute staple. For added authenticity, find a specialty store that sells jars of clotted cream—or make your own mock Devonshire cream.

Pro tip: If you’re planning in advance, bake scones up to a week ahead, then store them in a zip-top bag in the freezer. On the day of the party, place frozen scones on a baking sheet and reheat at 350°F for 10 minutes.

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Finger Sandwiches With Cup Of Tea
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Stack up finger sandwiches

Whether you stick to the classics, such as egg salad, cucumber-cream cheese and smoked salmon, or do your own thing, finger sandwiches are a fun, playful fundament of the traditional tea-party menu. Make sure to use thin slices of bread, trim the crusts, then cut them into triangles.

For some ideas—both traditional and new—check out our best tea sandwich recipes.

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Tea Cakes
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Make tea cakes

Sweets traditionally sit at the top of the tiered serving tray for a reason! Dessert is the most important course, of course. Offer Bundtlets or other one-bit treats, such as macarons, tartlets, petit fours and shortbread cookies. If you want to finish the meal with something slightly more filling, try larger-scale beloved British desserts, such as sticky toffee pudding or a tasty trifle.

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Eclectic Plates
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Think eclectic

If you’re still ISO that perfect matching china set, don’t fret! Stock up on unique thrift store finds in the meantime. A mix of colored and patterned dishes will lend that much more pizazz to your table. Or, encourage guests to bring a cup and/or saucer of their own to use at the party.

They’re not just for drinking! Discover vintage teacup DIYs.

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Tea Caddy
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Build a tea caddy

Tea is tricky in that everyone likes it a different way. A tea caddy makes passing around all the stir-ins a bit more practical. Fill the tray with lemon slices, sugar cubes, cream, honey, teaspoons, napkins and even tea sachets. Your guests will be glad to do up the drink themselves.

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Fresh Flowers And Jam
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Flaunt florals

And we don’t just mean fresh bouquets on the buffet! Trim the table with floral dishes, napkins, runners or placemats. And if you really want to flex your love of flowers, add floral flavors, such as rose or lavender, to your recipes and place edible flowers on top of them. (This violet jelly is gorgeous!)

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Music For Tea Party
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Play music to fit the mood

Select tunes that are upbeat and as bright as your cheery celebration. Just be sure whatever you choose is suitable for the background—you don’t want to drown out the conversation. You can’t go wrong with some jazz, classical music or instrumental versions of your favorite songs.

Amber Garrett
Amber Garrett is an entertainment and lifestyle writer with passions for cooking, baking, interior design and genius lifehacks. She loves going to the theater, volunteering and hosting tea parties.
Annamarie Higley
Annamarie is Taste of Home’s Shopping Editor and previously worked on the brand’s magazine and special issues. It was during this time she tapped into her love language, gifts, and spearheaded the print holiday gift guides in 2021 and 2022. She’s thrilled to continue creating gift guides full time for the shopping team, in addition to testing and reviewing products, spotlighting viral gadgets and editing freelanced content. A midwestern transplant from the San Francisco Bay Area, she enjoys hiking, crafting and—you guessed it!—shopping and cooking.