Home News How to host an affordable-yet-classy tea party

How to host an affordable-yet-classy tea party

A tea party is a great way to host both formal and informal get-togethers. It’s sophisticated yet understated, and a fun alternative to going out to lunch or brunch. While it might feel upscale, there are plenty of ways to host a classy tea party without spending a fortune.

What is a tea party?

A tea party is a two- to three-hour afternoon gathering with an elegant but low-key vibe. You can send out invitations, and the dress code ranges from casual to business casual. It’s more formal than a barbecue but less dressy than a cocktail party.

In the Victorian era, a tea party featured eight guests, but this is no longer a hard-and-fast rule. The important thing is the ambience. You want to serve light food and refreshments against a subtle yet refined backdrop, with plenty of tea to go around.

Selecting a tea

Black tea is the standard for tea parties, but you can serve any tea you like. Loose tea tends to provide a richer experience than individual tea packs, but either is acceptable. Make sure to have caffeinated and non-caffeinated choices.

Give your guests the option to customize their tea with sugar, lemon, honey or milk. It’s a good idea to offer alternatives such as almond milk, oat milk or skim milk to accommodate different dietary needs.


One benefit of a tea party is that much of the food prep can be done ahead of time. This means that when it comes time to socialize, you get to enjoy your guests instead of running in and out of the kitchen or worrying about hot trays.

Finger sandwiches are a tea party staple. They are easy to store and to eat, without much mess or fuss. Depending on your guests’ dietary restrictions, it’s best to include sandwich options such as vegetarian or gluten-free selections.

A tea party isn’t like a birthday party with one big cake. Instead, an assortment of scones, tea cakes or pastries are suitable. Include assorted jams and creams on the side. You can lay out refreshments buffet-style on a separate table or prepare tiered trays as centerpieces for each table. Either way, make sure to leave a teapot out for easy refills.

Budgeting tips

There are a few simple tricks to keeping costs down without sacrificing style or substance:

  • Consider sending out evites instead of paper invitations. It is simpler, less expensive, and often makes it easier to keep track of who has and has not RSVP’d.
  • Shopping vintage can help you save. Instead of acquiring new teacups, select mismatched cups and saucers from vintage shops for a shabby-chic look. The same goes for tablecloths and serving trays.
  • Host at your home. It’s more work than booking a venue, but it’s the best way to keep costs down. Depending on the weather and available outdoor space, a backyard garden tea party lets nature do most of the work when it comes to setting the scene.
  • Do as much on your own as you can, from decorating to preparing refreshments. If you aren’t an expert baker, you can order tea cakes from a bakery, but make the finger sandwiches yourself to save money.
  • Print your own place cards. This elegant touch looks high-end but is quite easy. All you need is an appealing font and good cardstock. Then, you can cut, fold and set out the cards however you like.

Best tea party essentials

Amazingware Porcelain Tea Set

This dishwasher-safe, gold-trimmed fluted porcelain tea set includes a 28-ounce teapot with a tea infuser, a sugar bowl, a cream pitcher, and six teacups with matching saucers. The set is elegant, available in five beautiful colors and comes with seven teaspoons.

Harney & Sons Loose Leaf English Breakfast Black Tea

This Chinese Keemun loose leaf blended black tea comes in an 8-ounce tin that produces 65 to 75 cups of tea. It is caffeinated, with a rich, classic flavor.

Sweejar Royal Teapot

If you already have teacups or want an extra pot for serving decaf, this 28-ounce fluted ceramic teapot is dishwasher-safe and has a classic design with gold trim. It comes with a stainless steel tea infuser and is available in six lovely colors.

NWK 4-Tier Clear Cupcake Stand

Designed with silver-toned metal struts, this stand comes with four round plates in different sizes. Each plate is plastic, but features a pattern that resembles crystal. It’s great for displaying scones, tea cakes and other treats.

US Acrylic Set of 3 Serving Trays

These white plastic trays are 15 by 10 inches and perfect for laying out sandwiches or extra treats. They are durable, reusable and top-rack dishwasher-safe.

Teabloom Teapot Warmer

This clear teapot warmer will keep the tea hot even if the party runs long. It’s constructed from borosilicate glass and stainless steel with a functional, pretty tea light at the center. It’s about 5 inches in diameter and accommodates most standard teapots.

Biscaynebay Textured Fabric Round Tablecloth

Available in six sizes and over a dozen colors, this polyester tablecloth is thick, machine-washable and water-resistant to minimize staining. If you’re hosting with a long table instead of a round one, there is a rectangular version.

Szuah Ceramic Dip Bowls Set

This set comes with eight square 3-ounce white bowls well-suited to serving jams, honey or clotted cream. These porcelain bowls are microwave- and dishwasher-safe.

Glitterymall Stainless Steel Tasting Fork and Spoon Set

This set comes with 10 forks and 10 oval spoons that measure 5 inches long. While tea parties are known for finger foods, serving spoons are appropriate for jams and some guests might prefer to use cutlery when they eat.

Fingercraft 12-Pack Cotton Linen Napkins

These square napkins are made from a machine-washable cotton and linen blend. While 18-inch napkins might be a little large for afternoon tea, the quality and variety of colors make this set a great value.

Worth checking out

  • This 24-piece disposable tea set comes with paper plates, cups and napkins with a rosy floral print.
  • If you don’t like loose tea, a tea packet sampler provides more flavor options and individually packaged honey sticks.
  • Mini serving tongs make it easier for guests to move delicate cakes or pastries onto their plates.
  • Fresh flowers provide great ambience, smell lovely, and add an extra touch of class to any tea party.
  • Scented soy candles make for wonderful party favors so your guests can leave with a little something to remember the day by.

Prices listed reflect time and date of publication and are subject to change.

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