A tea party is one of the most common bridal shower themes, but it can sometimes come off a bit matronly. Don’t fall into the trap of pastel-on-pastel or doilies overload! I’ve compiled inspiration and ideas for creating an elegant tea that’s the perfect mix for a vintage yet modern bride.First, let’s talk decor. The key to a strikingly gorgeous tea party is restraint. It can be tempting to pile pattern on pattern—doilies, lace, patterned tablecloths, floral china, bright burst of flowers—but it’s all too much. The intricate beauty of china patterns will be completely lost if there’s no respite. The eye needs negative space to appreciate the beauty of a simple object. Solution? A neutral canvas. Stay away from patterned or lace tablecloths, instead opting for the plain wood grain of the table or a cloth in a solid, warm shade. If you must incorporate lace, use it as a table runner. Above, brightly patterned seat cushions and beautifully mismatched china are balanced with white flowers and a sandy tablecloth. Here, a lace runner adds a little touch of femininity to a strong wood table, and rattan place mats balance the floral china. The white teapot doesn’t distract from the delicate pale pink roses—a patterned pot might overwhelm them! (Learn how to make teapot flower arrangements here.)
You can use this image as a guide to creating a proper table setting, gorgeous in its simplicity. Again, there’s plenty of wood here to balance the pastel pink and lace. The china is the star and the flatware and glassware become neutral accents.
Next up, invitations. By now you should be seeing a theme in the types of invitations I choose—modern and clean with strong typography. Pastel, lacy invites with birdcages and curly calligraphy are really, really not my cup of tea (excuse the pun). So it should be no surprise that my two favorite tea party invites have clean, crisp designs with a little dash of cute. You can find the pastel orange invite here and the charcoal and pink teacup invite here.
Your first important decision is what tea to serve. Whatever flavor you choose, make it loose leaf! The difference between bagged and loose tea is night and day. Loose tea has a much more concentrated and complex flavor. This is a party, so spring for the good stuff! It’s not even that expensive! You can find lots of nice affordable loose teas at Whole Foods or World Market. Can’t find loose tea in your area? Mighty Leaf is an online retailer with a good variety at reasonable prices. Here’s a great video that shows how to brew loose leaf tea.
If you haven’t tasted a certain tea before, you can get a pretty good idea of what it will taste like by smelling it. It might be nice to choose a few different types of teas, like a black, a green, an oolong, a chai or a flavored. At a traditional tea party, you would brew the tea in the kettle, pour it into pots and then serve your guests from the teapot. But if you want to let guests sample several teas, create a tea bar with a kettle of hot water and filters or tea balls, and guests can brew their own cups. Either way, be sure to use some of the tea as decoration by setting out little bowls so the smell of it fills the room.
The traditional accompaniment to high tea is an array of tea sandwiches. I’ve compiled some of my favorite finds here, from modern spins on traditional tea sandwiches courtesy of the BBC to healthy updates on multigrain crackers.
Gingered pea and green goddess tea sandwiches
I love this triple berry kale salad as an accompaniment. It’s light and refreshing with bursts of sweetness from the berries and a bit of crunch from the almonds (plus, there’s a tart strawberry vinaigrette).If it were up to me, I’d make the tea sandwiches, but order dessert. I just do not have the skill nor the time to produce gorgeous fruit tarts like these!
If you’re inspired and brave enough to make your own desserts though, try to strike a balance between decadence and freshness. This honey tea cake could be paired with fresh berries and whipped cream, while these shortbread tea cookies would be perfect for dipping (though the Queen would disapprove). Have you heard of a champagne tea? Well, now you have! Champagne teas are actually quite common (and traditional) for celebratory events. Start the party off with a glass of pink champagne, move onto your tea, sandwiches and cakes, then cycle back to champagne to keep the guests in the spirit.
You’re hosting a tea party, so you’re going to need tea things. The ideal situation is that a friend or relative has a tea set you can borrow, but as social calls no longer seem to involve much tea, you may have to purchase a teapot and set of cups for the event. Beautiful vintage pieces can be found on Etsy, some at surprisingly affordable prices, or you can buy modern pieces (many of which still look vintage). I particularly like the selection of patterned teacups at Anthropologie.
Want to play a party game that doesn’t involve toilet paper wedding dresses? I’m sort of in love with this tea-leaf reading kit.For your gift to the bride-to-be, I love these personalized teacups with a custom sketch of the happy couple.For guest favors, give tea! The cute little packages on the left come filled with chai tea (my personal favorite), stamped with a sweet slogan and wrapped in twine. Loose tea is so beautiful by itself, so test tubes are the perfect way to show it off. Plus, it’s an easy DIY project—all you need is loose tea, test tubes, corks and gift tags.
For more inspiration, check out my tea party bridal shower board on Pinterest.