How To Throw An Afternoon Tea Party For Adults

How To Throw An Afternoon Tea Party For Adults: not just for little girls, ideas for a gorgeous table, flowers, and three course menu.

afternoon tea party for adults

A tea party is such a great way to celebrate a birthday party, baby shower, bridal shower, engagement party, Mother’s day, or just an afternoon with your girl friends.  And tea parties aren’t just for little girls.  This stunning tea party celebration was for adults and we all loved it. From the gorgeous decor, fresh flowers and table setting to the delicious menu this elegant tea party was filled with special touches.  A tea party theme is such a great idea for a special get together.

tea party table

This tea party was for my sister’s birthday.  She planned it all herself, did the food and flowers, and invited 7 of her closest friends for an afternoon of fun.

tea party floral arrangements

Guest List

For a party like this you will want to invite all your favourite girl friends.  It’s a good idea to keep the party fairly small, so you can all sit at one table together.  Let your guests know ahead time of there is a dress code, like semi formal, or even hats.

tea party flower arrangements

Flower Arrangements

Set the tone for your high tea party with a gorgeous table setting.  Nothing says special occasion like gorgeous fresh flowers.  For this party my sister, who used to be a florist made the most beautiful arrangements.  She used seasonal spring flowers, many from her own garden to create these arrangements.

spring floral arrangement with hellebores

The arrangements use big bold flowers like peonies and roses, mixed with some smaller spring blooms.  The arrangements are tight with no greenery used as fillers, and beautiful quince branches used to add interest.  To create a similar look at home use lots of bold big blooms, keep greenery to a minimum, and incorporate branches jutting out for interest.  The vases are just simple glass that coordinate, but don’t take away from the flowers.  These gorgeous flowers made the party feel like a garden tea party.

spring floral arrangement peonies and roses

The Table

A high tea is the perfect time to pull out all the stops for your table.  Use your best dishes, get out your real cloth napkins and tablecloth and don’t forget your china teacups.  We set each of the place settings with vintage pink petalware dishes.  I love the different creative ways to fold a napkin for a special occasion.  We turned each napkin into a flower blossom for the perfect special addition to each plate.  And we used some vintage silverware for the cutlery.

tea party tablescape

We used vintage tea sets with matching pink petalware cups and saucers, cream and sugar, and a teapot perfect for this special occasion.  If you want to use some pretty antique teacups or teapots, it’s the perfect excuse to look for them at antique shops, thrift stores or even at a yard sale.  As well, you can look for serving pieces like cake stands with pretty floral patterns.

tea party place setting with flower napkin

napkin folded into flower

You set the mood with the gorgeous and elegant table and flowers, and you should also consider the music.  It’s lovely to have some classical music playing softly in the background to make the occasion feel even more special.

The Tea

It won’t be a tea party event without tea.  There is an art to making a good cup of tea.  It starts with boiled water and a warmed tea pot.  Add some of the hot water and swirl it around your tea pot to warm it, then dump out the water.  Add your tea bags or loose leaf tea to the pot and add the hot water.  Be sure to allow your tea time to steep.  Depending on the variety you should let it sit between 2-5 min.  As soon as you make a fresh pot of tea, remember to refill and boil your kettle for the next pot.  And be sure to serve your black tea with some milk (not cream) on the side and sugar.  You might also want to include some honey, or lemon wedges.

tea party table

You should offer your guests some different varieties of tea.  Making one kind per pot.  Black tea is the traditional kind to serve at a tea party.  Try varieties like English breakfast, orange pekoe, and Earl Grey.  Remember to have some decaf black tea options as well.  You can also offer guests a variety of herbal tea options, or green tea.

While hot tea is what’s traditionally served at tea parties, it always nice to have a cold beverage option like iced tea or lemonade, and some cold water available.

Another fun addition at adult tea parties is to offer guests a glass of champagne or sparkling wine to enjoy.

tea party pink tablescape

Tea Party Menu

High tea includes three different courses of finger foods.  These are often served on a three tier platter for 2-3 people.  The bottom tier is for finger sandwiches and savory bites, the second layer is for scones with jam and cream, and the top layer is for sweets and desserts.  Because our party was for a larger group the food was served on larger platters for everyone to share and help themselves.

tea sandwiches

Tea Sandwiches

The first course of a tea party is savoury and usually consist of tea sandwiches.  These are small and often dainty and easy to eat in just a few bites.  Traditionally tea parties were for small bites.  The meal was designed to hold you over from lunch until a late evening meal.  Because of that a traditional tea party is filled with mini sandwiches, and small desserts.  The food is dainty and small crustless sandwiches that are easy to eat are the norm.

egg salad on a mini croissant tea sandwich

It’s a good idea to use a variety of different breads and sandwich fillings to make your first course.  Traditional tea sandwiches usually consist of some vegetarian options like egg, cheese, and cucumber, and some poultry and meat options like chicken, turkey, and ham.  There is often also a fish option like tuna or salmon offered.  For a smaller group you can offer less variety with just 3-4 options.  Remember to cut your sandwich into small pieces and offer an elegant mix of options like fingers, triangles, open face, toast cups, mini croissant or brioche.

tea sandwiches

For our tea party we had:

tea party for adults


The second course in the traditional afternoon tea menu is scones.  Classic scones are sweet and served with butter and jam, and often include clotted cream.  Clotted cream can be difficult to find outside of the United Kingdom, so whipped cream is an acceptable substitute.  Look for clotted cream outside of the UK in speciality shops.  You can offer a variety of jams as part of your traditional scone toppings.   Strawberry jam is the most common.  We also served some lemon curd as another option.   Scones also come in many different flavors.  Plain scones are always a good idea,  Find our easy food processor scone recipe here.

scones at a tea party

Tea Party Desserts

butter tarts

The final course of your delicate spread of tea is dessert.  We like to offer a variety of desserts including something chocolate, lemon, vanilla, and berry flavored.  With something from each of these categories, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have at least one option that everyone will enjoy.  Just as with the traditional sandwiches, you want to keep everything quite small in size and delicate.  You can also include some fresh fruit.  There’s also often a whole cake, that is then sliced and served.  Cupcakes are a great easy option too.

mini individual trifles

For our dessert we served:

tea party desserts

chocolate nest cookies

Tips For Preparing the Tea Party Food

Prepping Ahead

Sandwiches are quick and easy to make, but making lots of them and having them fresh to serve, along with scones, and desserts can be a little tricky.  Try to make your sandwich fillings the night before the party, and also set the table then.  You can also make most of the desserts the day before, or pick some up at the bakery.

I usually try to bake the scones fresh the morning of.  When they’re first baked they have a sort of crisp outside, and are soft on the inside.  They lose the crisp outside as they’re stored.  So if possible bake them the morning off, or pick them up at a bakery.

tea party

You will also need to assemble your sandwiches the morning of your party.  Make an assembly line and put them all together.  Store them in an airtight container or tightly wrapped in plastic wrap so that they stay nice and moist, and cut them and put them out on trays before guests arrived.  Keep the platters covered with plastic wrap until you sit down at the table, so that they do not dry out.

Let Guest Bring Something

If your guests offer to bring something, don’t be afraid to accept.  A dessert item is easy for someone to bring, either a homemade sweet or cookies, or something from the bakery.

high tea for adults

Store Bought Options

And don’t be afraid to use some store bought options for a party like this.  You want to have quite a few different options, and it can be a great deal of work to make it all yourself.  Buying some options will make this afternoon tea event much easier.

The main event of a tea party is the food and enjoying it all with many cups of tea.  And it’s often a long afternoon of eating and drinking and talking with friends.

tea party ideas

Tea Party Favors

It’s always fun to send guests home with a special little party favor.  For a tea party a small tin of loose leaf tea or a box of specialty tea bags is a lovely party favor.  For our tea party, because the floral arrangements were so special they were given to guests to take home and enjoy after the party as a special party favor.  Other great ideas for a tea party take home party favors are a package of two homemade scones and mini bottle of jam, or an antique tea cup.

mini trifle for tea party

I hope these adult tea party ideas have inspired you.  We had the most wonderful afternoon, enjoying the beautiful table, and amazing food, and so many cups of tea, pretending we were in our own episode of Downton Abbey, or something come to life from a favorite book.  I just love all the pretty and vintage touches from our own afternoon tea party.  It really is such a fun theme, and a real favorite of mine.

tea party table

With a high tea party for adults like this one to enjoy, life really is a party!

More Tea Party Inspiration

You might also like How To Throw A Garden Tea Party here.

Also check out our Valentine’s Day Tea Party here.

Valentine's Day Tea Party

You might also enjoy our Christmas Tea Party here.

Christmas Tea Party: a British inspired Christmas tea party menu, complete with recipes and decor ideas for high tea.

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