A bridal shower is a pre-wedding celebration for the bride to enjoy with her closest friends and family. Many bridal showers have themes, and there is no better one than a tea party. It’s delightful to have a room full of well-dressed guests sipping from elegant china and indulging in towers of fluffy scones and flavorful sandwiches.
We consulted with Eden Passante, founder of wedding blog Sugar and Charm, for tips on the art of entertaining. She shared insight into every stage of the planning process from picking the best venue to preparing delicious food and drinks.
Meet the Expert
Eden Passante is the founder of Sugar and Charm, a website that helps readers plan beautiful parties. It provides ideas and guidance for food, drink, themes, games, invitations, and more.
Read on for step by step instructions on how to create the dream tea party bridal shower and the proper etiquette rules to follow.
Tea Party Bridal Shower Etiquette
Who gets invited?
Any bridal shower, regardless of the theme, is centered around the bride, so it’s customary to invite her closest friends and relatives. In many cases, the groom’s closest female family members are also invited. Because the affair is more intimate than a wedding there is no need to invite plus-ones, coworkers, or friends of the future spouse.
Do you need to send out formal invitations?
“Sending an invitation via email is perfectly acceptable for a tea party,” Passante writes on her website. “Online sites like Paperless Post, Evite, or Tiny Prints are perfect for picking out an invitation and managing the guest list.”
Where do you hold a tea party bridal shower?
Tea party bridal showers can be as formal or relaxed as the host desires. Sure, staging an event in a grand hotel tea room with china can be memorable, but so can hosting a casual gathering in a backyard with folding tables. The most important rule is to make sure guests are somewhere comfortable. “If you’re hosting an event outside, which is our favorite place to have an event, it can be challenging depending on rain or extreme heat or wind or bugs,” explains Passante.
Should tea party bridal showers have decorations?
For Passante, the answer is an absolute yes: “The best part for me is creating the event and pulling all the details together.” The focus of an event like this is the tea sets, and they are natural decorations for the table. Matching sets can be beautiful, but so can mismatched sets collected from friends and relatives of the bride. Linens and boxes of tea can also make any table look picture perfect.
Should guests bring gifts for the hostess?
While a host should never expect a gift, if a guest wants to contribute to the gathering, small items are appreciated. A candle, bottle of wine, a decorative seasonal item, thank you note, gift card, or flowers are all great suggestions.
Should party favors be given out at a bridal shower?
Yes, it’s customary for guests to walk away with a little treat that helps them remember the occasion. To go along with the theme, Passante suggests gifts such as teacups, boxes of scones, homemade jam, boxes of tea, or local honey.
Can games be played at a tea party bridal shower?
Games are fun at any type of bridal shower including a tea party themed one. They help guests relax and get to know each other, and they always end in laughter.
Steps to Planning a Tea Party Bridal Shower
Decide who is hosting.
Whether it’s just you or a group of friends or relatives, decide who will be in charge. If you want to bring in a professional event planner, this is also the time to do that.
Create the guest list.
Work with the bride to create her ideal guest list. This is a less formal affair than a wedding or engagement party, and only the bride’s closest friends and family members need to be invited. If the groom’s family is throwing the event, it makes sense to invite his close family members as well.
Passante has one firm rule for the guest list: “Do not invite guests who are not invited to the wedding,” she said. “Any guest that is invited to the wedding can be invited to the bridal shower.”
Select a venue and a date.
This is the time to set the scene for the shower. Do you want to stage it in the elaborate private dining room of a five-star hotel or in someone’s personal backyard? You can’t go wrong with the venue as long as it accommodates everyone on the guest list. After you’ve selected the venue, you can choose your date based on availability and what works for the bride.
Send out invitations.
Printed or electronic invitations are both acceptable for a bridal shower. The invitation should set the mood for the event. So for example, if you’re throwing a casual backyard bash, make sure the invitation is light and fun.
Passante recommends using the invitations as a chance to inspire a color scheme for the event or the design for the event. For example, an invitation with blue flowers painted on it can inspire you to decorate your venue with real blue flowers. Guests notice when the theme is carried through from beginning to end.
Plan the drink menu.
A tea party menu should, of course, involve tea. To mark the special occasion consider ordering a variety of fine teas from a purveyor like Fortnum & Mason. Don’t forget to have sides of milk, cream, and honey ready for guests. Champagne is customarily served at tea parties, and it might also be fun to have a special cocktail to toast with.
Plan the food menu.
During tea parties, food is served in individual servings so it’s easy for guests to try a variety of items. Tea sandwiches are a must, and Passante suggests having varieties. Curried deviled eggs, fig jam and prosciutto, and smoked salmon with cream cheese and chives are popular choices. For sweet items try scones (served with jam and clotted cream) and different types of cake. Remember, not every item has to be homemade.
Tea sandwiches are easy to make, but the bread can get soggy very quickly. Consider prepping all the ingredients and making them right before they are served, so guests can enjoy them fresh.
Plan the table setting.
At a tea party bridal shower, the table is the focus of the event, the centerpiece around which guests congregate. Linens can make any table look elegant (rent them if you don’t own them.) Borrow or buy cake stands and tiers to display the food artistically. To personalize the bridal shower, Passante loves ordering cocktail napkins with the bride and groom’s name or initials. “Add a little graphic like a teacup or champagne flutes,” she suggests.
On the day of the party arrive at the venue early to decorate and add personal touches. While the centerpiece of the tables should be the tea set, they can also be decorated with flowers, confetti, garland, and more. Don’t forget to write place cards to instruct guests where to sit during their tea party.
Plan the table service.
One big mistake is forgetting to organize who will be serving the tea and food and when. At a tea party, it’s a big job because it involves having boiling water ready to go at all times. “My biggest tip would be to dedicate one person to food and one person to boiling water for tea—these can be friends or people you hire,” says Passante. “Keeping hot water in each kettle is a job! They need to be refilled constantly. The easiest way to do this is to buy an electric tea kettle that is constantly making hot water within a minute and then fill individual kettles on the table.”