Tea party decorations aren't just doilies and lace tablecloths anymore. The tea party has evolved!
From your napkins to your teapots to your platters piled with scones, everything on your tea table is part of your decorating scheme. Choose all of it with a good bit of thought to showcase the style or theme you've chosen for your tea party.
Or at least have a particular style in mind when gathering your decorations and supplies. Let's talk styles first. We'll get to themes in a minute.
When you imagine a tea party, what comes to mind first? For many people, it's an elegant Victorian affair with silver tea service, ladies in fancy dress, rich fabric on the table and even richer food. This ultra elegant (some might say stuffy) style of tea party can certainly be adapted to a less formal occasion, but it's generally among the more expensive style of tea party to host.
An English countryside or shabby chic style is a great option if you're going for something less formal. We love the look of layering different textures, colors and patterns (tea-stained florals, plaids, laces) of fabrics, along with mismatched floral patterned china teacups.
Check out Rachel Ashwell's books on shabby chic style and Maggie Stuckey and Carolyn Bucha's book, Country Tea Parties, for inspiration. Between them, you'll find lots of beautiful and do-able tea party decorating ideas.
We can't say it enough: a theme always helps bring a party into focus. When you organize a party, even a tea party, around a theme, it's much easier to choose your decorations, your music, your invitations, even your menu. If you're stuck for theme inspiration, try spinning off a theme of your own from one of these ideas:
Candles work for every tea party. Tapers, pillars, votives, and tea lights all add to a festive atmosphere. Keep them unscented so they don't mingle with the smells of your foods.
Get creative with candleholders.
Other options for decorative lighting: pretty tabletop lanterns and strings of tiny white lights.
Your centerpiece, of course. The centerpiece is a key focal point of the tea party table. It shouldn't dominate the table and overwhelm your beautiful display of food, however, but complement it instead.
Usually the centerpiece is a fresh floral arrangement of some sort, but you don't have to follow tradition. Create an interesting centerpiece and get your guests talking!
A few ideas to start you off:
Keep the centerpiece low enough so it doesn't block your guests' views of each other. If you must have a tall centerpiece, place it at an end of the table where no one will be sitting, or on a buffet table.
Use only unscented or lightly scented flowers (you don't want the smells competing with your food!)
Use only unscented candles (for the same reason).
Before you go crazy and buy lots of tea party decorations, especially doo-dads and knick knacks for your table (and we do understand the temptation), consider this:
A table that's set for a tea party will have a lot of things on it. For example:
And those are only some of the necessities.
Add to that list a cute candy dish here, some votives there, and well, one wrong move with an elbow and ... you get the picture. Make an effort to streamline the table and make sure your guests have ample elbow room if they'll be sitting down. Using another table as a buffet will give your guests more space.