Tea Party Table Setting Tips

An inviting and visually interesting tea party table setting is important when you're hosting a tea party. You'll want to make sure your table and/or buffet looks as fabulous as possible.

This doesn't mean the table setting has to be traditional. Not at all.

It can be English chintz and country roses if you want, but it can also be loud colors, whimsical (think Mad Hatter), rustic, vintage (meaning get yourself to a thrift store), or just about anything else you can think of.

In fact, choosing a theme for your tea party gives your decorating a focus and will influence your table setting.  

6 Things Your Tea Party Table Setting Must Include

  • Serving dishes, platters, silverware, plates, and tea cups (Please, please, please use china tea cups! Tea tastes so much better in the real thing.)
  • Linens (tablecloths and napkins)
  • Centerpiece(s) (check out our 3 rules for centerpieces here)
  • Food (usually just light fare and dessert)
  • Tea (several varieties and a selection of other beverages)
  • and the ever-important Miscellaneous Decorative Touches (this is the part where you get to show off your creative flair)

"I Have All That Stuff. Now Where Do I Put It?"

Presentation is everything!

Whatever your tea party style will be, you absolutely must make your table (and your party area too) visually interesting. The tea party table setting is a huge part of your party atmosphere. Go over the top and make your table setting a grand show!

Place Setting Basics

To save some much needed space, use dessert or salad plates instead of dinner plates (unless you're serving high tea, which is a full meal). Arrange the place settings the way you would for any formal meal, with one exception. So...

  • Knives on the right (blade pointing toward the plate) and spoon next to the knives
  • Forks on the left
  • Napkins placed on the left under the fork or decoratively on top of the plate
  • Water glasses on the right, above the knife
  • And (here's the exception), the teacups are placed to the right of the place setting with their handles turned out to the right

Pretty simple.

More Table Setting Necessities

photo of a tea party table setting

If you have a three-tiered dessert stand, use it! Create a pretty arrangement of tea sandwiches or desserts on it and let it do double duty as your centerpiece as well.

To pretty up your tea party table setting even more, add garnishes to your serving plates. 

Try using some of these:

  • fresh flowers (edible flowers are always fun)
  • sugar-dusted champagne grapes (pretty and so easy to make)
  • bunches of grapes
  • cherry tomatoes
  • sprigs of lavender, thyme, or rosemary

These should also find their way onto your table:

  • a bowl of sliced lemons
  • a bowl of sugar
  • a small pitcher or two of milk (never cream for tea)
  • several small spreading knives to go with the jams and Devonshire cream
photo of a colorful group of cloth napkins

A tablecloth is a must for a traditional tea party table setting (not that we think you have to be traditional, mind you). It's also an easy way to add color and/or texture to your table. If you don't have one that will do, go to your local fabric store and browse around. If you find the perfect material, buy several yards and trim to size with pinking shears.

If you don't own cloth napkins, buy some coordinating fabric and make your own. Cut the fabric to napkin size (luncheon napkins are usually 9" squares) and trim with pinking shears. No sewing necessary! 

The Fun Starts Here...Those Must-Do Decorative Touches

This is where you really get to have fun. Go crazy and embellish your table, buffet, if you'll be using one, and your party room with lots of pretty things.

Some examples:

  • mini terra cotta pots planted with a single flower
  • candles or tea lights (unscented so the smell doesn't mingle with the food)
  • decorative napkin rings or pretty fabric or sheer ribbon tied in a bow around each napkin
  • elegant or artsy placecards tucked into unique placecard holders
  • the tea party menu framed in an antique picture frame (check thrift stores for these)
  • mirrors in ornate frames from the thrift store
  • mason jars or vintage tins of different sizes and colors holding sprigs of herbs
  • old china tea pots filled with flowers or planted with herbs

You can use party favors as part of your decorating scheme too. 

Experiment, be creative and have fun!