How To Throw The Perfect Tea Party: A Gentle Guide

by vanessa, laneia, and rachel
tea party (just image)

Header by Rosa Middleton

If your heart flutters every time someone says you must try this new tea or pass the finger sandwiches or goodness I love your sun bonnet, you are the kind of human who will probably feel right at home at a tea party. We are throwing several tea parties at camp this session, and we want to invite you to follow along at home. These rules are not strict at all – in fact, you can bend almost all of them to fit your special snowflake needs and desires. There is only one important steadfast rule that absolutely must be adhered to no matter what, and that is that you MUST be in fancy dress for your party, whatever that means to you. “Otherwise it’s just Saturday afternoon,” says Laneia, blunt and brilliant as always.

Now go put on your fancy clothes and let’s throw a tea party!


How To Throw The Perfect Tea Party


tea party_(with text and border)


A tea party is a special occasion, so it’s important to set the mood. Think about where you’d like to have your party: will you be indoors or outdoors? Will you keep the room dim with some gentle fairy lights and candles or will you relish in the glorious summer sun? Do you want to put a pretty lacy table cloth on your table or will you spread out a fuzzy blanket on the lawn? “Flowers are important to tea parties / life,” says Rachel, and you know she’s right. You should probably buy some flowers, like Mrs. Dalloway.

oh this? i just threw it together! just a small casual get together outside, you know... via sweet designs

oh this? i just threw it together! just a small casual get together outside, you know…
via sweet designs

Fancy Dress

As we’ve already said, it is very important to dress appropriately for your tea party, and by appropriately we mean you should look kind of fancy. This doesn’t have to be a huge deal, but you should put in a tiny bit of effort. Afterall, a tea party is a special occasion… so why not look your very best? “Fancy” means different things for different people. Don your favorite floral print dress, throw on your suspenders, or whip out the aftershave. Maybe you want to wear hot pink heels or maybe you’re ironing your best button down and grabbing a fedora. Who knows! It’s up to you how you dress fancy… we’re just strongly encouraging that it happen in some way, shape, or form. We also have a feeling that themed tea parties would be really intense and amazing so you should probably try that out and let us know how it goes.

this is how you dress fancy

this is how you dress fancy

The Tea

You’re going to want to offer a wide variety of tea. This is the part where you can really follow your heart. Loose tea or tea bags, flavored or plain, black or green or white or anything else, expensive or cheap… you cannot go wrong because serving tea at a tea party is what you do. It can be fun to ask your guests to each bring their favorite tea so that everyone definitely has one tea they love and also so you can all try new things. For example did you know there is such a thing as Almond Cookie tea? It tastes like a marzipan cookie and is a gift from the goddess, just FYI. And now you know about it!

If possible, it’s really nice to have a few tea pots available at your tea party, so you can brew a few different kinds of teas and then everyone can pour their beverage from the teapot right into their tea cups, with no hassle of tea bags or spilling loose tea or any of that. But if you don’t have a tea pot that’s okay, don’t worry! It’s also really nice to offer sugar, milk, lemon… anything people can and often do add to their tea. We really love the idea of sugar cubes and a little milk jug and a pretty tray covered in thin lemon slices, that sounds really beautiful and special to us.


Finger sandwiches are key. You can cut the crusts off or use cookie molds to make cute shapes, or you can literally just put some cucumbers and margarine on some bread and call it a day. As long as you’re eating a sandwich type thing with your fingers, you’re golden. Tiny delicious snacks that you can pop in your mouth in one bite are also highly recommended – they can be savory or sweet. Cookies, biscuits, petit fours, tiny cupcakes, and cheese plates can be excellent options. You could also bake a cake! Maybe an ombre cake. I’ve been dying to make a pink ombre cake. If you’re really fancy you can get a tiered cake plate and display your treats in a way that is very pleasing to the eye, but I’ve noticed that when you offer people delicious things they often don’t care how those delicious things are presented, only that they eventually can put those delicious things in their mouths. So. It’s also a good idea to offer your guests some water; you can make it fancy by putting orange or lemon slices or mint leaves in a jug of water.

this is everything i've ever loved on a plate via krissy's creations

this is everything i’ve ever loved on a plate
via krissy’s creations


What does one do at a tea party! Well, you drink tea, duh. You all eat snacks, possibly the ombre pink cake above. And you chat, and catch up, and enjoy everyone’s company, and feel fancy. But what else? What if there are people at the tea party who don’t know one another very well, or what if you’re just the kind of host who likes to have lots of activities planned? That’s perfectly fine! We have some suggestions.

You can provide books or magazines for your guests to browse and discuss, or you could get more personal and bring something to share with the group: new photos you’ve developed, a poem you wrote, or a knitting project you’re working on. Knitting and tea drinking can be kind of radical, FYI. You can also organize a craft, or plan to bake a delicious treat at the actual party (though personally that would stress me out because I do not like guests “helping” in the kitchen – if you’re more laid back though this could be perfect). If you decide to make crafts it’s a nice idea to make some things that you can either donate or share with your guests. Another thing that sounds like fun is a slam poetry tea party (or a regular poetry tea party!). Anything that you enjoy doing solo or that makes your heart sing is probably something that can be repurposed as an activity at a tea party.

Now drink up, buttercups! We’ve taught you all you need to know, and you’re the masters and mistresses of your own destiny. It’s time to throw your very own perfect tea party. Cheers!

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Vanessa is a writer, a teacher, and the community editor at Autostraddle. Very hot, very fun, very weird. Find her on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 404 articles for us.


  1. Re: clothes – “Fancy” for me means a shirt with a collar on it. I would also suggest Thai iced tea!

  2. Almond cookie tea? That sounds so delicious!

    My favorite tea of all time is chai with vanilla soy milk & sugar.

    I would dress like the mad hatter if I knew enough people who understood how awesome this could possibly be.

    • Ash- Yes!

      My friends and I JUST had an Alice in Wonderland themed tea party at a local park and it was so great! We had 3 Mad Hatters, an Alice, a Cheshire Cat, a Door Mouse, a White Rabbit and a Tea Pot(Myself of course) as guests! We did make gluten free tea sandwiches for the glutards, as well as regular tea sandwiches, tiny tea cakes, scones with clotted cream and lemon curd and bacon wrapped potatoes(Someone had to bring bacon something) We played Croquet with plastic flamingos cut and put on the mallets and little hedgehog faces drawn on the croquet balls! It was pretty amazing!

      Also… it may be an Ashley thing but Chai is the drink of the Goddesses. True. Story.

    • The almond cookie tea was indeed smashing. The verisimilitude was remarkable, but without the cloying sweetness of a cookie. I deem it best to drink my cookies from now on.

  3. Where’s the clotted cream and lemon curd? While I know some tea party lovers are gluten free, for myself a selection of tea sandwiches remains essential. And if it’s a low budget affair, a toast rack full of buttered cinnamon toast goes perfectly with tea, especially a black current blend.

  4. this was too cute a read! :)

    I wish I could learn the Japanese tea ceremony art! Every step so precise, a different kind of fancy.

    • Check around your area for tea ceremony practitioners (if you’ve got a Japanese cultural centre anywhere nearby, or a college with a Japanese studies program, they’d be good places to start). There are more people out there who do the Japanese tea ceremony than you realize (I’m one of those maniacs…I did tea earlier today because somebody gave me a flower, and it seemed to need a celebration.)

      Even small towns can have tea people in them.

  5. I’m not sure the irish weather would hold up for a tea party but it’s been scorching the last few days so fingers crossed!

    Have a need to make finger sandwiches!

  6. That header is awesome and I want it as a poster. Does Rosa make posters? Rosa should make posters!

  7. but cucumber sandwiches have to be made with butter!!
    also must have scones + clotted cream + jam.
    (clearly if i wrote a guide to tea parties it wouldn’t be quite so gentle…)

  8. What is this was an aggressive guide to throwing a tea party WHAT THEN?

    (actually an aggressive guide would likely necessitate recruiting the Mad Hatter to take care of all your planning needs)

  9. I made a pink ombré cake the other day instead of doing productive things like cleaning my house and it went to waste because I didn’t know what to do with it. I should have thrown a fancy tea party!
    Also everyone should make ombré cakes because they are awesome. And they still look pretty even if you kind of screw up the frosting

  10. I love this! It’s my birthday on saturday and I am going for afternoon tea, I’m very excited about it. I am totally dressing up, wearing a pretty green dress and hoping the British ‘summer’ doesn’t spoil it by raining.

  11. I came out this year and I turn 32. No better time to have a tea party birthday! Thanks Vanessa for this wicked idea!!!

  12. Maybe it’s because of the title “A Gentle Guide” or maybe it’s Vanessa’s voice, but I read this whole piece in voice that’s a cross between Dori impersonating a whale (Finding Nemo) and Martha Stewart. I consider this a good thing.

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