How to Set the Table for Tea–Eight Helpful Tips



So you’ve decided to host a tea for your next event!  Congrats!


If your event is not a buffet, and each guest needs a place-setting. What do you need to know?

  1. Afternoon tea, by definition, is a light meal.   Luncheon/salad plates are the best size to use.
  2. The teacup is placed to the right of the place setting.
  3. Turn the teacup handle OUT (pointing to the right of the cup) and the blade of the knife IN (toward the plate).


  1. Use only non-scented candles and lightly-perfumed flowers. Let the smells come from the food and tea.
  2. Try and find luncheon-sized (nine-inch square) instead of dinner-sized (twelve-inch square) napkins. Place them to the left of the plate or on the plate folded prettily or with a napkin ring.
  3. If you use regularly-sized butter knives, instead of smaller spreaders, knife rests are lovely additions and almost necessary. Your guests will find it difficult to rest the larger knives on the smaller plates.


  1. Other normal place settings apply. Use only the necessary silverware. Forks on the left, knives and spoons on the right. Water glasses sit on the right above the knife.
  2. Place-cards are a lovely, helpful touch.


Setting the table is my favorite part of preparing for a tea-themed event. I love to see all the pretty elements come together. Have fun with it and send us a photo!


I suggest these articles:

Easy Steps To Creating a Tea Party Menu

Beginners Guide To Brewing Loose Leaf Tea

Why Placecards At A Tea Party Are Important



Tea Party Girl Asks: What one thing can you add to your home to help you set a pretty tea table?


  1. Steph W says:

    This is a great post! I think so many people don’t know how to set a table anymore – perhaps because we so infrequently sit down to eat together. (sigh) I always enjoy a well-set table!

    I’m especially grateful, on a personal note, about the caution against scented candles. I’m sensitive to smells and artificial ones (like most candles) just go over the top in many cases! I prefer beeswax or soy, unscented.

  2. Eileen says:

    I appreciate all your well-thought-out instructions and photo. You explain things very well. If you are not actually a teacher, you should be!

    I love your blog, and subscribe to the RSS feed.

    Best regards,
    Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas (in the Middle East)

  3. MzRita says:

    As I have mentioned earlier in another post, I am planning a Christmas Tea. There will be over 30 ladies in attendance. I went to Ebay to try and find some items that I needed in bulk. I was fortunate to find 35 white dessert plates at a real steal.

    I also looked for luncheon napkins. I had no idea that luncheon napkins were only 9 inch square. The auction that I bid on was for 48 white linen napkins and they were 17 inch square. The larger size was 20 inch square. So, I thought the smaller square was the luncheon napkin. Will I still be able to use all the napkins that I purchased, or will they look much too big?

  4. Mz Rita, thank you for calling my attention to a place I need to do a little more research. There seems to be a discrepancy of opinions out there on the exact sizes.

    In the meantime, I think your napkins will work out just fine. I have used larger napkins at my events with cute folds or decorative napkin rings.

  5. Brenda says:

    I appreciate everything I am reading on this site. I just love hosting tea parties for children. I am planning a valentine tea party for adult ladies next month.

  6. Cassidy says:

    Looks Great!!!

  7. Tammy says:

    I was so excited to find your post!!! I am hosting a tea party this coming Saturday and wanted to make sure we set the table correctly!! Thank you soooo much for also including a picture!!!

  8. Jenn says:

    Oh, knife rests! What a wonderful idea!
    This makes me want to have a tea party.

  9. Nancy says:

    I am planning a Ladies Tea at our church–the first one I’ve known them to have. This will be very helpful as I make plans. Of course, I have to expand everything to accommodate probably 60 or more women and young girls. I think it’s going to be a great experience! Thanks!

  10. Peggy says:

    Thank you!

  11. Lilly says:

    I am sorry you have decided to close down this site but I understand. Maybe you should concentrate on writing books. You have great knowledge and a heart for tea :)
    I am having a tea party for the young ladies at my church and I wish you were hear (my first and I am a little nervous!) there are 20 of them. However, I have read your advice and feel I can pull this off! Thank you for providing the answers to the questions I had!
    God Bless you and yours!

  12. JoAnna says:

    Thank you for your post! I love the many colors on the table. It looks sooo pretty and celebratory!

    I have a set of Anchor Hocking Sandwich luncheon plates, tea cups, and saucers. Is there anyway I can combine these with a “modern” feel? I just got married and asked for the Anchor Hocking, which I love. Everything else in my home is modern, and generally, odds and ends. Nothing else is crystal. Do you have any ideas?
    Thanks in advance for your help!

  13. Ashlee says:

    Thank you so much for your ideas and tips! I am hosting a tea party for my mom and sisters this Saturday and you have been so helpful! Thanks a million!

  14. Jeri Balmes says:

    Your blog is especially precious to me. I live in Arizona, and I have loads of friends (acquaintances), and most of them say they “enjoy” tea, but none have ever hosted an Afternoon Tea, and don’t seem to be very interested in the “finer points” of tea. I feel like now I have a friend that I can talk to about Tea and share the things that makes tea so special. The Women’s Ministry at our Church doesn’t have Teas because, “they are too much work.” Sometimes I feel like changing Churches. Thank a million for your blog. Blessings, Jeri

  15. Samantha says:

    I just wanted to tell you what a joy this site is. Throwing a tea party for the first time was overwhelming until I found you. Thanks so much!!!!

  16. Bridget says:

    I am an event coordinator and I was hired to plan a tea party for a group of middle school and high school students. The event sponsor got the idea of having a tea party from your website. She was so excited about your ideas; she insisted that I take a look for myself. As an event coordinator, tea parties are not in high demand, but I became very excited when BTS Events, Inc. ( was asked to plan this one.

  17. Terri Thomas says:

    I’m planning a Dolly & Teddy Bear Tea Party, your site is very helpful. Thanks

  18. Joyce M says:

    have a question about settings – I would like to serve a dessert tea with cookies and a fruit cup for children. I need a spoon for tea and a spoon for the fruit cup. How should I position the two spoons? One at the top of the place setting as for dessert and one to the right? Or both to the right?

  19. lyalyafa says:


  1. [...] a nice table setting with lace and china cups is a must, fancy sandwiches,… Edit> Ladies welcome to my home ! I thank you all for making this day a very special one , a tea [...]

  2. [...] 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. [...]

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