Bridal shower tea parties are a very traditional, elegant and sophisticated way to celebrate a bride's upcoming wedding. A bridal tea can be intimate, with just the bridal party attending, or a larger event including other female friends and relatives that will be invited to the wedding.
This shower theme isn't usually best for a co-ed shower since the food is lighter and the decorations are more feminine, but it doesn't mean male friends or family of the bride are not welcome. If a bride is interested in opening her bridal shower tea party up to members of the opposite sex, so be it! An exclusive party is never a fun one, so it's nice to keep an open mind about who might enjoy this kind of event when sending out invites.
A bridal tea party is not necessarily a food-focused event so make sure guests know in advance they are joining for refreshments in light snacks so they can plan accordingly (either grabbing some heavier fare pre or post-shower). This is the brides moment to share her happy news with those nearest and dearest to the almost newlyweds. After all, you only get married once (alright maybe for some a couple of times) so might as well make some happy memories to remember the joyous occasion.
Using the theme of a tea party for a bridal shower immediately elevates and event, so make sure you choose venues appropriately. A tea party theme typically should be arranged at a nice hotel restaurant in your town or a neighbouring city, but an upscale restaurant or rentable hall space should do. Avoid hosting a bridal shower tea party in your home unless you have put a lot of attention and detail into your outdoor entertaining or dining room space. Setting a great atmosphere and a sophisticated tone for your event is step one before the cute little sandwiches even make their appearance.
Party planning can be a difficult and time-consuming matter, so these are some ideas for hosts of upcoming tea parties to delight brides with an elegant and well-planned event.
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When planning a tea party, what's the vibe to strive for?
"These affairs are feminine and elegant, with a fun, girly element. Picture an English tea, with beautiful teacups and scones and pastel colours. Very proper and dainty. Set the tone with your invitations: Choose a formal, feminine font on heavy paper."
What should you serve?
"The great thing is that tea foods won't break your budget. You'll want to feature light, delicate fare and a selection of desserts. Often, I suggest that the girls and the mother of the bride try their hands at making tea sandwiches — of course, you don't have to do that if you don't want! Think cucumber sandwiches, for example. You take thin-sliced cucumbers (seeds removed) and arrange on pressed bread with a little butter. A favourite cost-effective idea: deviled eggs. Yes, just the way they served them at cocktail parties in the 1950s."
You can also do deviled eggs in a salad; spice them up with gorgonzola and bacon or go southwestern with diced onion or chipotle. Carry the theme through with chocolate-accented cookies shaped like tea bags for a festive finish (see recipe, below).
And the "proper" beverages to serve?
"Hot teas, of course, as well as chilled lavender or chamomile teas. A Bellini cocktail made with peach nectar and prosecco (less expensive than champagne) is wonderful. I also like a traditional kir royale, made with prosecco and raspberry liqueur, topped with a fresh raspberry. Put out sugar cubes, not regular sugar, and rock candy sticks to use as stirrers."
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Must tea parties be small? And what time of day is best?
"You can have groups of 50 to 100 people, or you can keep your shower very intimate. For a larger crowd, do a fabulous tea buffet on a dining room table. Use three-tier tea stands on which you can arrange your sandwiches and pastries. Traditionally, tea is served at 4 p.m., but noon or 1 p.m. is just as good."
What about décor?
"If your mom has a silver tea set, go for it! Or maybe someone has crystal goblets or a cake stand you can borrow. Use nice linen or lace or floral design for a tablecloth — nothing that looks contemporary. Tie each napkin with a beautiful ribbon bow. For centrepieces, fill antique-style teapots or teacups with one type of flower (a few pink or white tea roses, for example). For single-use, silver-plated is an inexpensive option. Another affordable idea is to go to an event rental company for vintage-style three-tier stands and dishes (plastic or paper are fine) for an appropriately old-world effect."
This theme is perfect if you're celebrating a bride who loves a mix of vintage and romantic styles. A tea party bridal shower isn't necessarily about having all of the decors look matchy-matchy. Instead, it's about creating a space that's a bit eclectic and shabby chic, as though you've collected all of the pieces over time. Use details like chinoiserie vases, mismatched china, fresh flowers, and lacy tablecloths to create a whimsical, cozy vibe. Are you planning your tea party bridal shower on a budget? Make a day out of thrift store hunting — you can find vintage plates and teacups galore without breaking the bank — or ask to borrow decorative pieces from willing friends and relatives, like your grandmother, aunt, or mom. When you're sourcing decor from a lot of different places, always keep your colour palette in mind, and remember that sometimes less is more.
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You can host a tea party bridal shower practically anywhere, but there are a few types of venues that work especially well for this theme. The first one is obvious: a formal tea house! Search for traditional tea houses in your area or check with local hotels and restaurants to see if they offer sit-down tea services. Historical mansions and museums are other good places to start — larger venues will often have a tea room or café on the property, which you might be able to reserve for a private party. By hosting your bridal shower at a traditional tea house, you'll get the benefit of expert tea recommendations, table service, and the built-in charm of the venue.
It's also easy to host a tea party bridal shower in your own home (or the home of a relative, friend of the bride, etc.). If the weather's nice enough, a backyard or garden setting is even lovelier! As the hostess, make sure you have enough space in your home to fit everyone comfortably — don't forget about parking arrangements, tables and seating (especially for elderly guests), food displays, and space for everyone to gather as the bride opens her gifts.
Our favourite colour palette for this bridal shower theme: pastels with pops of bright, cheerful colours. Limit your colour palette to three or four complementary hues (you don't want to go full-on rainbow mode!) for the chicest effect. You can even look to vintage pieces for colour palette inspiration — floral china, patterned tablecloths, and embroidered handkerchiefs all fit the theme of a tea party bridal shower, and you can even use them as decor!
Your tea party bridal shower invitations don't need to be over the top. Classic white invitations with letter-pressed or embossed text are a tasteful option, and a floral motif is always on the theme! Be sure to include all of the important details on your invitations, such as the guest of honor's name, your name (or whoever is hosting), the theme (and dress code, if appropriate), date, time, location, and the couple's wedding website/registry information. Read more about bridal shower invitation etiquette here.
Flowers are an easy way to freshen up any space. For a tea party bridal shower, we like garden-style flower arrangements that aren't overly neat or perfect. If you're having a professional florist design the arrangements, ask for classic flowers like roses, peonies, carnations, and tulips with touches of greenery, Queen Anne's lace, or astilbe.
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Traditionally, tea party attire follows a semi-formal dress code. For the ladies, this means dresses and skirts that are slightly fancier than what you'd wear on an average day, but there's no need to rock a full-length, formal gown. Bright colours, patterns, and short silhouettes are all appropriate — just avoid anything that's too casual or revealing. Accessorise with sensible heels (or chic flats if you'll be outside), statement jewellery, and a hat if you're going all-out with the theme.
Food & refreshments
If you're following a traditional British tea menu, there are a few items that you can't skip. For the savoury course, miniature sandwiches are a must-have — cucumber, watercress egg salad, and smoked salmon are three popular types. Pair these with bite-sized desserts, such as sponge cakes, trifles, scones, and a variety of toppings, like jam, clotted cream, and marmalade. Serve everything on a tiered cake stand for a display that's worthy of The Great British Baking Show.
Next on the menu: tea! You don't have to know the differences between all the types of tea (there are six main categories and thousands of varieties, by the way), but we recommend having a few different options on hand for your guests. Serve at least one black tea (Earl Grey, English breakfast, and ceylon are popular options), one green tea, and a caffeine-free herbal tea (try chamomile, peppermint, and rooibos). Offer condiments such as milk, cream, sugar cubes, lemon, and honey so guests can customise their cups of tea accordingly. A formal tea set makes everything feel extra-swanky. You can find modern tea sets at most home decor stores and online (try Amazon for a variety of styles and prices), or check antique stores for vintage options.
The best favours for a tea party bridal shower are — you guessed it! — gifts inspired by the tea theme, like bags of tea, tea infusers, or even personalised ceramic mugs. A few other options we love lavender sachets, wooden honey dippers, or cookies in the shape of teapots or tea bags.
Bridal Shower Etiquette
Generally, the maid of honour and/or the bridesmaids host the bridal shower. Modern women, however, may prefer to put something together themselves and ask the bridesmaids and mothers to help, which is perfectly acceptable.
Tradition also suggests that bridal showers be an intimate gathering of only 10 to 20 of the bride's closest friends and family. Feel free to invite as many guests as you please, though, but be mindful that the people attending the bridal shower are also usually invited to the wedding.
Bridal showers are commonly held four to six weeks before the wedding, so there is still plenty of time for organisation and preparation. An informal afternoon gathering will suffice, as bridal showers do not have the same formal etiquette as a wedding.
Due to the casual nature of the bridal shower, invitations can be issued informally as well. Regular post, email, phone or via your favourite social media platform are all acceptable ways to issue invitations. Handwritten or self-printed invitations are a lovely touch, though, and can include wedding theme colours to give guests a small preview of what is to come.
People often wonder whether they need to bring a gift to a bridal shower, and the answer is generally yes. The gift is usually smaller than the wedding gift and is traditionally something for the couple's home. In today's modern age, many couples live together before marriage and may already have their home set up. A lovely alternative is to gift the bride-to-be something just for her.
Bridal Shower Menu
A traditional tea party is generally a relaxed and informal affair with an abundance of delicious food. It can be held indoors or out, and the food can be anything you desire. The best option for your bridal shower tea party is minimal fuss with maximum effect.
Imagine a beautifully decorated table laden with delectable treats for all to enjoy. Your guests will be delighted to peruse the table, helping themselves to whatever takes their fancy. This will free you up to enjoy your party without losing time individually serving the food. People love to try little morsels of this and that, and choosing what to eat can be half the fun.
You can mix both sweet and savoury foods in abundance and let everyone enjoy the tea party at their leisure. Use your imagination, and by all means, put the food you love best on the menu; after all, this day is all about you!
Bridal Shower Games and Activities
While bridal shower games are completely optional, they can be a great way to start the party. They can be a good way to break the ice and set the scene for a memorable bridal shower. Prizes can be anything from chocolates to gift vouchers. Get together with your bridesmaids and have some fun planning. Here are a few ideas.
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Guess the Romance Movie Quote
Come up with as many popular romance movies as you desire. Select a quote from each movie. Read each quote aloud one-by-one as guests must try to recall the movie title for each quote. The highest number of correct guesses wins the game. This is a fun game to get started with, and usually, much laughter ensues.
Guess the Love Song
Similar to guess the romance movie quote, this game is won by correctly guessing the name and singer of each song. A small part of each song is played for the guests to guess. Again, the highest number of correct guesses wins.
Words of Wisdom
Each guest is given a piece of card and a pencil to write a note to the bride-to-be. It can be happy marriage advice, good wishes or a family recipe to pass on to the bride. Set up a large glass bowl for the cards to be dropped into. I attended a bridal shower where this was done, and it was lovely to see everyone passing on their wisdom, advice and love to the bride.
Polaroid Camera Station
Set up an area where photos can be taken with the bride-to-be. Be creative and have a little fun with props such as novelty glasses, feather boas, tiaras and of course a mini veil. The bride to be can keep the polaroids and put them into a scrapbook. This is an activity everyone loves to be involved in!
Hide as many novelty rings as you like around the garden, house or venue. By the end of the tea party, whoever has found the most rings wins.
Guess How Many Sweets
Fill a beautiful glass jar with sweets and set up with some colourful paper and pencils. Each guest writes their name and number of sweets they think are in the jar. The person whose guess is closest to the real number takes home the jar of sweets.
A bridal shower tea party is a great way to celebrate the wedding engagement of a bride close to you. The tea party theme will encourage guests to dress to impress and sip on hot tea or fancy cocktails while nibbling on small bites, all in honour of the bride. Start by determining the venue and the guest list. Then, organise the drinks, food, and invitations for the party. Set up the party ahead of time and be a stellar host for your guests as you all honour the bride to be.
Frequently Asked Questions
Traditionally, a Bridal Kitchen Tea is just that – an afternoon tea in which guests bring a gift for the bride suitable for the kitchen only. A Bridal Shower, on the other hand, sees guests bring a gift of any description to “shower” the bride with.
The bridal shower is usually hosted by the maid of honor, close friends, bridal attendants, or bridesmaids. No matter who is hosting, be sure to communicate clearly to make sure you aren't planning two separate showers.
It is customary for the hostess to get the bride a gift for the shower, just like everyone else. You may want to coordinate the buying of a major gift, or you might want to give her something small but very nice just from you if the shower is setting you back financially.
The maid of honor, along with the rest of the bridal party, is expected to cover all wedding attire costs. This includes the dress (plus any necessary alterations), shoes, and any jewelry you'll be wearing the day of. Occasionally, the bride will gift her bridesmaids with whatever accessories she wants them to wear.
What Is the Groom's Role? Unless you're having a Jack and Jill bridal shower, the groom does not need to attend the bridal shower. However, it's not uncommon for the fiancé to make an appearance towards the end of the event to say thank you. After all, many of the gifts are for him, as well.