How to Throw a Fabulous Tea Party for Adults

How to Throw a Fabulous Tea Party for Adults

If you've ever enjoyed a life-changing tea party, send your thanks to Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford. In 1840, this monarch noticed she felt peckish around 4:00 in the afternoon each day. She began enjoying a delicate spread of tea and treats in her room, and the habit turned into a centuries-long English tradition.

You can elevate the Dutchess' fine idea by taking your tiny tea to the next level. A tea party is a classic and classy way to mark an occasion, from a birthday to a bridal shower. With the right tea party ideas, your celebration might just become the talk of the town!

Whether you're planning a high tea, an afternoon tea, or something in between, these party planning ideas will ensure a lovely time. Read on to discover our top considerations when tea and scones are on the menu!

Let Them Eat Cake! And Scones! And Sandwiches!

Any good tea party demands a simple but elegant mix of sweet and savoury culinary offerings. The traditional afternoon tea menu should include crustless sandwiches, light cakes, and scones. Each course should be small but decadent - and served with a cup of tea, naturally!

Be sure to provide enough food for each guest to enjoy no fewer than two options from each course. An over-the-top extravaganza might mean providing enough for everyone to try everything. Offering more is wise if you anticipate guests squabbling over the cutest pastry or fanciest sandwich!

Here are our best afternoon tea party ideas for catering your tea service - the centrepiece of your event!

string quartet for hire
Looking to Hire a String Quartet?

Browse our impressive range of string ensembles based across the UK.

The Sandwich Course

You will probably find four traditional sandwiches at any run-of-the-mill tea party in the UK: cucumber, smoked salmon, egg mayonnaise, and coronation chicken. You might wish to include one or more of these offerings to meet expectations. It's traditional to enjoy the sandwich and savoury course first, and don't forget to remove the crusts!

Why are the traditional four options such classics? They offer a bit of something for everybody, satisfying vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Consider subbing a tofu-based cream cheese in your cucumber sandwiches for any vegan attendees.

You may be seeking something more adventurous than traditional for your twenty-first-century tea party. Here are a few inventive sandwich ideas for modern tea parties:

  • Mini club sandwiches
  • Caprese sandwiches
  • Egg and bacon soldiers
  • Ploughman's Scones on mini biscuits
  • Carrot and Raisin sandwiches
  • Mini Meatball Subs
  • Fish finger sandwiches
  • Mini pizzas
  • Prawn cocktail sandwiches
  • Mediterranean hummus spread sandwiches

A mix of hot and cold, traditional and inventive, will keep your guests guessing and engaged throughout the course. Keep it small and light so that everyone has room for sweets!

The Scone Course

The second course in your afternoon tea spread should be the scone course. For most guests, this course is merely an excuse to enjoy delicious jam and cream! You can make your offerings memorable by elevating your scone offerings so that you don't need extras!

Traditional scone toppings include strawberry jam, clotted cream, marmalade, lemon curd, and honey.

Here are some creative ways to approach your scone course:

  • Create pairings or flights of gourmet jams with flavoured scones
  • Include savoury scones with a shot of soup for dipping
  • Keep the scones very simple and make the toppings the star
  • Mix sweet scones with savoury toppings like beetroot
  • Add some iced finger buns for a delicate aesthetic touch
  • Combine the scone and sandwich courses by building sandwiches on your sliced scones

Whether you stick with tradition or try something unexpected, your guests will remember your scone course for more than the cream! A single risk is enough to disrupt expectations and get guests chatting as they sip their tea!

tea party food

The Light Cakes Course

Though it's hard to resist diving in, your light cakes course should be the final tier on your tea tray. Choose your favourite dainty cakes, pastries, biscuits, and sweets to customize your spread to suit your unique tastes. There are few rules for this sugary course, so have fun choosing the prettiest treats to send your guests home smiling.

If you're clever in the kitchen, you might prepare this tier at home. If you're less adventurous, there's no shame in visiting your favourite local bakeries and patisseries to curate the cutest selection of pretty, professional sweets around. A local chocolatier can provide indulgent truffles or bonbons to add some distinctive offerings to your tea tray.

Here are a few of the light cakes we love to see on the sweetest tier:

  • Cream puffs
  • Individual cups of mousse
  • French macarons
  • Mini Eclairs
  • Victoria sponge
  • Bakewell tart
  • Battenberg
  • Carrot cake
  • Mini Cupcakes
  • Raspberry millefeuilles
  • Mini creme brulée
  • Fresh berry tartlets

Remember, this is the last tier your guests will enjoy, and thus the course they'll recall most vividly as they depart. A fun, inventive spread goes a long way toward creating long-lasting memories! Including a few less traditional surprises among the sponge will keep everyone on their toes!

Afternoon tea

The Tea

When choosing the tea for a tea party, your traditional offerings will always be the classics: English Breakfast, Earl Grey, and Darjeeling. At contemporary tea parties, it's common to serve different teas with different courses. Start with a bold black tea, take an adventurous turn with matcha or Assam, and then end with a herbal tea with digestive properties.

Depending on your theme, you may want to offer the tea cups as favours. You can fill each guest's cup with wrapped sweets or trinkets before they go. They will think of your perfect event each time they sip from their lovely souvenir teacup!

Choose a Memorable Tea Party Theme

While event planning, it can be helpful to begin with a theme. Though "traditional afternoon tea" is a fun theme on its own, there are creative ways to help your interpretation of tea time stand out. They can make it easier to select a thematic menu or choose which live musicians to hire.

Here are a few of our favourite tea party themes for any event or celebration.

alice in Wonderland tea party

Alice's Mad Tea Party

Embrace the strange magic of the world beyond the looking glass with a mad tea party inspired by Lewis Carrol's world-famous masterpiece, Alice in Wonderland. Create ambience using wonky signage, mismatched teacups and saucers, and a game of croquet on the lawn. A playing card motif, stopped clocks, rose centrepieces, well-placed skeleton keys, and a few lawn flamingoes are enough to evoke the fantasy world of this beloved children's story.

Bring your garden to life with a performance from a string quartet. Request a playlist of dreamy music that will launch you and your guests into the uncanny valley. It will add a touch of class and cohesion to an intentionally mixed-up affair!

A mad tea party is a perfect way to celebrate an unbirthday or a fun approach to an outdoor hen-do!

A Fancy Dress Fête

Lean into luxury when you throw a tea party with a fancy dress theme! Ask your guests to come dressed in their finest hats, gloves, heels, and jewels. As part of the day's events, you might include a runway show or give prizes to the best-dressed guests!

This sort of event doesn't need to be stuffy or uptight. You can elevate your theme to the level of camp! Cover everything in gold leaf, scatter plastic "diamonds" as table dressings, and choose paper goods that look like bank notes!

Be sure to hire the classiest musicians for the fanciest affair in town! We love the idea of bringing in a live harp player to add a classical touch to your over-the-top tea party. Choose a harpist who can play contemporary hits in this indulgent style for a fun clash of worlds.

Tea in Gatsby's Garden

The roaring 20s were an indulgent time, but no one threw a better bash than F. Scott Fitzgerald's fictional bachelor, Jay Gatsby. He gained a reputation for going above and beyond while hosting poolside flings, complete with full orchestras, live jazz bands, and plenty of dancing.

We like to think that Gatsby threw a tea or two at his palatial property in West Egg. You can combine the simple elegance of afternoon tea with the indulgent jazz age aesthetic by throwing a jazzy tea party in an outdoor setting. Choose art deco-inspired decor, a period-appropriate menu, and encourage guests to come in their finest 20s fare.

No Gatsby-inspired party is complete without a live jazz band to add a distinctive sound to your event. A postmodern jukebox-inspired jazz band makes for the best party entertainment. They can play a traditional jazz set during tea, then kick things up a notch when it's time to hit the dance floor!

Coffee House Cabaret

If you're craving a low-key vibe, consider embracing the coffee house aesthetic and curating an off-beat tea party full of soft music, casual conversation, and high-end eats. Hire an acoustic singer to kick things off and keep the music going during the tea service. As the event continues, invite the guests to become the entertainment, making space to present original music, poetry, and other acts.

Make the beverages the star of your coffee house-themed tea party. Instead of simple earl grey, offer a London Fog with delicious steamed milk. You can include coffee drinks such as lattes, espresso, or macchiatos on the menu for a caffeinated take on this English tradition.

Be sure to keep a casual vibe throughout with a relaxed dress code, low, atmospheric lighting, and time for both art and chatter. You can even end the night with a paint n' sip activity, allowing every guest to bring home a piece of original artwork.

DIY Tea Party

Are you always in the kitchen? Why step out to throw a party when you can throw a hands-on DIY tea party for all your friends!

A DIY tea party is the most fun when each guest brings a recipe to share, pot-luck style. Ask guests to sign up for a dish to avoid duplicates. Nothing ruins a party like 12 different cucumber sandwiches!

You can make it a competition to keep things interesting! Select a few judges and give out prizes for the best of each course. When there are prizes on the line, guests will go above and beyond to whip up their best, and you'll be the one who benefits!

To keep it simple, you might wish to provide the tea, toppings, and a few staple tiers to ensure a balanced menu. You might choose to have guests prepare one of the treats at the party for a chatty, collaborative activity!

Keep things lively with a live band to tie everything together. A roaming acoustic band is a fun addition to an interactive event.

Tea and Tapas

Tapas is a Spanish word referring to a small portion of food. With that in mind, any tea party can be a tapas party! Add a little Latin flair by selecting a menu featuring the flavours of South America.

Your savoury sandwich course might include mini tacos, slices of quesadillas, or mini burritos. Guests might dip their scones in a cup of spicy Mexican drinking chocolate. Your sweets course can include Mexican favourites such as cinnamon-sugar churro bites, mini flan cups, and tres leches cake.

Tie your theme together by inviting a mariachi band to play during the tea service. A roving mariachi band can travel from table to table and serenade your guests. This untraditional approach to afternoon tea will be full of sound and flavour, making it unforgettable.

Tea Party Ideas Fit for a Dutchess

You don't need to be a royal to throw an aesthetically pleasing tea party with all the frills! With our tea party ideas, any celebration can become a memorable event. An elegant tea party is all about the details, so don't leave any element to chance!

The most magical ambience at any tea party starts with hiring live musicians. Band For Hire can match you with a professional musician to elevate your simple tea into a ball straight out of Bridgerton! Contact us today to book your jazz band, acoustic performer, harpist, or other talented act!