Hosting a high tea can be an intimidating proposition. But spring is the perfect time to host a tea party for bridal or wedding showers, Mother’s Day or graduations. Fine china, crystal, linen napkins and multiple courses of elaborate food is not a requirement (and frankly doesn’t sound like much fun). Think of more of a “low tea,” which was commonly held in the parlor when unexpected guests arrived and involved finger foods and tea served from the coffee table and eaten off the lap.
What we’re going for is a combination of high and low tea and one that requires a lot less time and money: a “tea party on the cheap.”
With a few thoughtful touches, it will still delight your guests and provide an unforgettable experience.
My favorite format is when guests are seated around a table with one or two shared pots of tea, each with her own cup and saucer and plate, and a tiered tray.
The tray is used to serve
- something savory and filling (like finger sandwiches or mini quiches)
- a fruit or vegetable and
- dessert items (think petit fours or cookies)
Guests can then fill their plates one “course” at a time or with a little bit of everything.
I’ve also done a tiered tray with various sandwiches along with a tray of an assortment of sweets and fruits that can be eaten with the fingers (like grapes and strawberries). The idea is to keep things simple and offer a good variety of food that doesn’t require a fork.
You can have one or two pots of popular tea (Earl Gray and English Breakfast are two) plus your sugar bowl and cream on the table to pass or have a “tea station” where guests can choose from a variety of tea bags and doctor their cup how they want it. During the Arizona summer, iced tea in mason jars with a cute straw is a fun twist.
A few ways to keep your tea party budget friendly:
- instead of buying tea cups, trays or tea pots, borrow them, buy them secondhand or ask guests to bring their own
- use pretty paper napkins instead of linen
- purchase small sandwiches and petit fours from Costco
- consider having guests each contribute a dish (like a classy potluck)
- check discount department stores for items like lemon curd, scone mix, gourmet candy and chocolates
- buy a few types of pre-packaged tea instead of using loose
- create a theme or color scheme using items you already have in your house (or leftover from a past party or holiday) for “wow” without the expense
- use inexpensive ribbon and scrapbooking paper to embellish your table and place settings
If your guests are up for it, it’s fun to ask them to dress up or wears hats, too. Consider hosting your tea in your living room or garden for added whimsy. Get creative with floral prints, flowers and anything sparkly to enhance your table.
Women love tea parties and enjoy an excuse to dress up and linger over a meal. I’ll warn you–once you host one, it might become a new spring tradition.