How To Set A Table For A Tea Party

While a casual tea party with your family or friends doesn’t need to adhere to strict etiquette rules, it’s still good to know how to set out the milk and sugar in a sophisticated way. 

How To Set A Table For A Tea Party

Below we’ll take you through the table arrangements for a tea party step by step, as well as provide some extra tips to take your tea party to the next level!

Things You’ll Need For A Tea Party

Step 1: Think About The Structure Of Your Tea Party

Many people host tea parties in the afternoon between lunch and dinner, and provide smaller snacks like scones or sandwiches.

You can serve these buffet style to avoid having to lay out place settings, or you can make it a sit-down party with a particular selection of utensils and tableware.

If you want to host a more formal tea party, (see also: 8 Tea Party Birthday Ideas To Raise Your Pinkie)you will probably need more implements, but this will also be according to what food you’re serving. 

A tea party that takes place in the evening is officially called ‘high tea,’ but it’s a term that is often commonly misused to describe tea parties generally. 

Step 2: Lay Out A Beautiful Tablecloth

If you’re hosting a sit-down party, the table must be big enough to accommodate every guest, and the food should be able to fit in the middle of the table.

If you’re hosting a party in the evening and serving a full meal, then you just need room on the table for each course.

Step 3: Place Your Plates In The Middle Of Every Place Setting

Tea party guests are normally provided with just one plate, unless your tea party (see also: What To Wear To A Tea Party?)has multiple courses. In an ideal situation, you should serve a luncheon plate that’s around 9.5 inches, but if needed you can use other sized plates too.

Step 4: Fold Linen Napkin For Your Guests

You can fold your napkin into a triangle, square, or rectangle and place them on the left side of your plate, with the open edge on the right side of your plate.

If you want to save some space on your table, you can also plate your napkins in the middle of your plate and it will look just as sophisticated. 

Step 5: Set Out The Cutlery And Arrange The Saucers And Teacups

Providing guests with 1 or 2 utensils may be enough depending on what you’re serving. You should place a small spoon on the right side of each plate so your guest can stir their tea.

When serving food that is messy or sticky you should also place a small fork on the life side of your plate, and at least one knife between the spoon and the plate. 

If you’re serving jam and other spreads, you should also provide a butter knife, and if you’re serving meat then you should provide steak knives too. However, all spreads should have a serving spoon alongside it.

If you’re hosting a high tea party (see also: How To Host A Tea Party)with more than one course, provide suitable utensils for every course.

Step 6: Set Out Small Waste Bowls (Optional)

Waste bowls are where guests put their lemon edges or tea leaves. They are often the smallest piece of tableware on your table and should be on the left of your place settings, above the fork or napkin. 

The waste bowl is a pretty niche component of a tea service, so if you don’t have one, don’t worry! 

How To Set A Table For A Tea Party

Step 7: Place Extra Glasses On The Table If Necessary

Water glasses should also be provided and be placed adobe the knives. If you have no knives on the table, then they should be placed above the teacups. 

If you’re serving refreshments like champagne or lemonade, place suitable glasses on the right-hand side of the water glass. 

Step 8: Set Up The Tea Service On The Edge Of The Table

You should brew a few varieties of tea for your tea party, served in its own teapot. Ideally, the tea leaves should be taken out or in a strainer to avoid tea leaves ending up in the cups.

If you don’t own a silver tray or matching tea service this isn’t a problem, but it’s important you provide all the necessary tea utensils.

These would be a sugar bowl with sugar tongs and sugar cubes, or granulated white sugar and a spoon, a small pitcher, or creamer with milk, a hot water pitcher for those who like to dilute their tea, and a tray of lemon slices that guests can put in their tea, or lemon wedges wrapped in gauze so they don’t spurt when they’re squeezed.

Step 9: Set Up Hot Cocoa, Coffee Or An Extra Tea Tray On The Table

If you’re hosting a large tea party, you can also set up two different stations for guests to make their own hot beverages. Some guests might appreciate hot cocoa or coffee for those who don’t like tea.

However, if all your guests enjoy tea you can just provide a wider range of tea options. Make sure you’re providing enough tea additions on both sides of the table. When serving coffee, you just need to provide cream and sugar at this station.

Extra Tips For Setting A Tea Party Table

Opt to serve tea in a Russian-inspired samovar rather than a tea teapot: Russian tea parties tend to use samovar – tall, thin glasses – rather than teapots to serve tea, but you should make sure the glasses are heat-safe.

Make your tea party more elegant by using traditional doilies: Authentic, hand-embroidered doilies can be found on online auctions and in antique stores. 

Serve food suitable for a tea party: (see also: Tea Party Food Ideas)Biscuits or cookies, brandy snaps, cakes, cupcakes, finger sandwiches, lamingtons, pavlova, and tarts. 

Final Thoughts

Tea parties are a great, sophisticated way to get together with your friends, and while a casual get-together doesn’t need to follow etiquette rules, putting together a tea party following the above steps makes sure your party has everything you need and makes your guests happy! 

Joanne Baltimore
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