How to Prepare a Tea Party for a Crowd


So you’ve decided to throw a tea party for a crowd.  Great!  Let’s start by first, defining the term” crowd.”

One of my tea mentors taught me that intimate is never more than eight. If you plan a sit-down tea party for more than eight (don’t forget yourself!) you will need more than one table. So some would say nine is a crowd. And some of you are here wondering if you can pull of a tea party event for a hundred or more.


I want you to know it’s easier than it seems and much harder than it seems.


It’s harder than it seems because the successful tea party pays attention to the details, down to the napkin folds and sandwich garnishes. And all these details take time. A tea party should transport the guests and make room for them to relish in beauty, taste, and connection with others. As a host or hostess, this is your goal.

It’s easier than it seems because like anything else, once you prepare yourself with some knowledge you will know where to put your energy for the most reward. That’s where I come in. So let’s get started:


First, if you are preparing a tea party for a crowd, you must have help.

Who will be your team (volunteers or professionals)?

What will you delegate?


Your first area of focus involves the guest list and the invitations. It’s important for you to have an accurate number and RSVPs can be difficult to collect.


How will you handle these?

Will you sell tickets?

How will you collect the money? If you want to host a tea party as a fund-raiser or club/church event I recommend making a budget, selling tickets, and choosing a reasonable cut-off date for making reservations, say one week before.

What will your policy be for cancellations?

Will you sell any tickets at the door the day of the event?

How will you plan seating and food quantity if you do this?


When it comes to managing a large group of people, I recommend giving your guests as much ownership as possible to make the reservation, pay, and have an incentive to show up (i.e. no refunds after a certain deadline). If you are not charging for your event, I recommend you consider not hosting a sit-down event where each person needs a specific seat. Instead provide places for people to sit and gather informally, low tables for setting their cups and serving finger food buffet-style. The tea buffet also works well with the large paid event, especially if you cannot provide a server per table or two (especially if they’re volunteers).


Take the time to read my thorough article, The Steps to Creating a Tea Party Menu, and make your food decisions. A great amount of food prep can be taken care of beforehand. I received a number of these tips from my local tearoom, Afternoon to Remember.

  • Sandwich fillings, like chicken salad, taste better when made up a day or two ahead. Sandwiches can be prepared the night before if you spread a thin layer of butter on your bread and fill the bread with a filling (all the way to the crusts). Lay the sandwiches on trays lined with parchment paper. Lay well-wrung damp paper towels over the sandwiches and then cover the tray with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight. All that needs to be done the day of the tea is cutting and garnishing the sandwiches.


  • Scones are best made ahead of time, frozen, and baked straight from the freezer right before your event. They will be served warm and your guests will be greeted with the fragrance of fresh baked goods.


  • Soup and quiche can be made ahead of time and reheated the day of the party.


  • While Afternoon to Remember does make everything from scratch, they do acquiesce that not everything needs to be. If it is in your budget, consider working with a local bakery. They will often make certain specialty items, like small iced tea cakes if you order a certain quantity.


Many large events ask for volunteers to serve as hostesses and decorate a table with their own china, teacups, and silver from home. If you choose to go this route, I recommend writing down what your hostess needs to bring to help them prepare. (See How to Set the Table for Tea).

And be sure to spend some time orienting your servers, especially if they’re volunteers. Teach them how to address those they’re serving (No “You guys all done?”), pour tea (don’t pick up the cup without the saucer or reach across someone’s face…), and what to wear (cover those bellies, girls!).

If using a buffet table, use boxes under the tablecloth or three-tiered trays for visual height. Determine how you can incorporate your theme into the buffet’s decorations and provide plenty of serving utensils so people don’t have to use their fingers. And remember, no scented candles to interfere with the fragrance of the food and tea!

Speaking of tea, preparing and providing enough hot tea for a large group can be the trickiest part of your event. Over and over, excellently planned large events I’ve attended completely fall apart when it comes to serving the actual tea. I think people treat the tea as an afterthought, tacking it on at the end and believing it’s the easiest part of the event. This is not the case! Be sure to read my article, “The Tea Party’s Most Important Ingredient” for all the information you need to know to serve tea at your event. Some key reminders when serving large groups:

  • You cannot store tea or make the hot water in used coffee urns or the tea will taste like bad coffee. Urns used only for tea are the best choice. If they are unavailable, run the coffee urns through an entire cycle of clear water with baking soda and make sure they are as clean as possible with no coffee smell or residue.


  • Coffee percolators do not get water hot enough for tea. If you must use percolators, find ones that can get the water as close to boiling as possible.  Also! Do not use if they have been used for coffee as they will maintain the coffee bean oils and spoil the tea.


  • Make tea ahead of time (an hour or two) and store it in glass-lined air pots. This will help you at the last minute crunch of getting everyone hot tea. Be sure to temper the pots with hot water before pouring in the tea so there’s no risk the glass will break.


  • Use a resource for water besides the tap, especially if there’s any hint of a chlorine taste.


Planning a tea party for a crowd can be a lot of work. But it’s the details and the planning that make it work.

Don’t try to do too much, but take the time to plan your event well. Set a realistic budget, ask for help, borrow what you don’t have when possible, and take the time to really think through all the elements.

A tea party for a crowd is doable!

What makes you hesitate when you think about planning a fund-raiser or church event, for example? Be sure to ask your questions in the comments below. Or let us know about the holiday tea you’re helping to plan.



Planning your tea party for sixty or more? Need a simple favor? Be sure to see my recommendation in this article, “Three Tea Party Favors for the Creatively Challenged“.


Tea Party Girl Asks: Have you hosted  tea for a crowd?  If so, do you have a secret tip to add?


  1. Garrett says:

    So happy you found me, I’ll be checking back here to read your posts! Are you in Sac?

  2. Rebecca says:

    I am looking for game to play at a church tea party………..i really enjoy the tip on preparing ahead of time the sandwich

  3. Deborah says:

    Our church was looking for an event to get more ladies involved and I suggested a tea. Naturally, I was asked to organize one which we titled Hospitali-Tea (from Romans 12:13).

    We just had Hospitali-Tea IV which was a Valentine themed tea. It was a sold out event.

    Previously we had III which was the Queen’s Royal Tea and had an actor from the Renaissance Fair provide the entertainment; II was a St. Patrick’s tea and we had an Irish entertainment show. No two teas are the same or it will just be another ladies event and the interest won’t be there.

    As far as a game play, we always include an ice breaker event. One of the more popular ones was a pocket book scavenger hunt. Each table received a list of 10 items (key, postage stamp, tape measure, etc.) and they had to put the items in a zip lok bag. When they were finished, the hostess of the table had to run it up to the front of the room. It was great fun and certainly sounded like a hen house.

    This year for the Valentine tea they had to list as many couples as they could think of. Again, the ladies were very competitive!!! The committee really thinks this helps break the ice because not everyone at each table knows one another and this gives them something in common.


  4. kathy says:

    We are hosting a tea at my church on May 10th. Inviting 13 and up and adults. We are at about 130 invites. It is free. Any suggestions for such large group.
    Thanks God Bless

  5. jackie childs says:

    I really appreciate this valuable information. Last year I hosted a tea party for about 20.
    This year there will be about 50, and this article on a tea party for a large crowd really, really helps. I have a question. I am considering purchasing a large white metal enamel pot with a dispenser. I want to heat and keep it on the stove to dispense the water into my teapots. I’d like to know, if it would be safe to heat water in that type of container? I am using distilled water.

    Thank you,

  6. Rachel says:

    I am planning a ‘morning family reunion tea’ for about 50 ladies/girls. Thanks for the advice on the coffee urns for tea only. I was thinking of serving an almond tea. I haven’t looked yet, but if there are almond tea bags, about how many bags would you suggest for 60 cups? I just plan to serve a scone with the tea. Or do you have any other suggestions to go with almond tea, or some other tea and finger food that would be real nice for a morning tea? I plan to just use a pretty paper napkin and cup. Do you have any other ideas? I want it to be very nice and memorable, but simple. Thanks for your help!

  7. Rachel, use 30 tea bags for 60 cups of tea. That’s the most economical for tea bags, but I encourage you to try loose-leaf tea. Look for Snowflake tea at Amazon (if you go through my site by clicking on my Tea Reads in the side bar, I will receive a small commission)-the best almond tea in my opinion. Scones and tea are always a great combination. Hope your event goes well!

  8. Barb says:

    I’m hosting a Mother and Daughter tea for Mothers day. Your info is great thank you so much. It is a church event with maybe 60 or more ladies.

  9. Katherine Eady says:

    Just wanted to let everyone know you can have a beautiful large sit-down tea, but you have to have people helping you who love doing teaparties just as much as you. There is a lot of planning and make sure you have enough urns to keep the tea coming. This tea was very well planned and turned out beautiful. I did a sit down tea for 184 people in April 2009. I decorated 23 tables and they all had their own theme. It was called A tea and fashion extravaganza. The guests were amazed at how beautiful the tables were. They actually walked around the room and looked at the different tables.
    They just kept commenting that they had never seen anything so beautiful.

  10. Brenda says:

    Hello!! I have looking for you for so long !LOL!
    I have wanted to host a tea party for so long, and didn’t know where to start. I am planning a lg Christmas tea for SEVERAL Ladies I work with. I have a lg table that can seat up to 14 people, but that may not be enough room. I am thinking of an elegant buffet. I also want to serve a big punch in a crystal bowl. I will follow the advise of finger foods only. Do I set up the tea cups on a separate table al well? Not quite sure how to set the table. It will be in my formal dining rm, under a lg crystal chandler. I want it to be ELEGANT and BEAUTIFUL!! Having a buffet I can envite everyone.. no one left out. ANY other words of advice I will love. Thank you so much. (MY dining rm and front room are connected. My fireplace will be lit)

  11. Emma says:

    My Girl Scout Troop is thinking of throwing a mother daughter tea for a fundraiser. I have been looking into renting linens and cups and saucers etc. Do you think it is best to rent the china to keep the formal feel or to save a little money and use paper products? I do want it to be a memorable event. We are looking to open it to our whole elementary school (girls and mother), so I want it to be something people will really enjoy, mothers will really enjoy doing with their daughters. Any suggestions would be great.

  12. Laurette says:

    are water glasses required in a table setting for a tea?

  13. Crystal says:

    I am planning a tea party for 100 people this May 2, 2010 for our Relay for life(Cancer). I want to thank Tea Party Girl for being here and helping me in many ways and answering my questions. You have been alot of help to me and I will be back to let you know how its turns out. Thanks again! crystal bumgardner

  14. Crystal says:

    Hello tea party Girl!
    We just had a meeting to prepare for the relay for life cancer tea party this May 2 and found out we have new tables. Do you have any suggestions what we can do with decorating and serving suggestions for 15- 8foot long tables and 7-6foot long tables? We hope to serve approximately 100 people. Any suggestions or helpful hints is much appreciated! Thanks again, Crystal Bumgardner

  15. Rosalyn DeVaull says:

    I need help I want to plan a theme based tea this year for my minstry with the theme being International Tea the focus is on 5 countries those my Pastor has visited on missionary trips and we will explore customs and etiquette in
    those countries I need decorating ideas and tea ideas from the differnt countries please help!!!!! Spain China India Egypt and Israel

  16. katherine says:

    i am hosting a tea party for 40-50 i am so glad i foud this web site!!!!! :)

  17. Stacey says:

    You can always try using a tea concentrate if you are serving a large crowd.
    If you are serving a lot of guests and needing to serve multiple pots of tea quickly, just put in the correct amount of tea concentrate in your teapot and add hot water. No more waiting to “steep” additional pots of tea. This recipe can be doubled when you need to make tea for large groups.

    Tea Concentrate Recipe:

    1/3 cup loose leaf tea
    2 cups cold fresh water

    Bring 2 cups cold fresh water to a boil* in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add loose leaf tea to pot. Let stand 5 minutes.* Stir and stain tea concentrate from saucepan.

    Add 1/2 cup tea concentrate per 6-cup teapot (or 2 Tbsp. concentrate for each teacup) and fill with hot water. Serve! As TPG mentioned – make sure the hot pots or carafes you use to hold the hot water have never been “contaminate” by a prior exposure to coffee!

    *When making white or green tea, bring the water to the appropriate temperature for these teas (170-175 degrees) and steep for their appropiate time (2 minutes).

    What I really like about using the tea concentrate for GREEN teas is I can make a POT OF TEA using the prepared tea concentrate and then add hot water. This is great for those who like their hot beverages HOT!

    Store extra tea concentrate in refrigerator. You can use Mason Jars for this purpose.

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