Don’t get caught with an empty table!

This post comes during the process of preparing my family’s wardrobe for a semi-formal Saturday evening wedding. It’s taking a lot of work! Not only do I need to gather all the items for all five of us (“hmm…I guess Plays with Fire can’t wear his hiking boot socks with his suit”), but I need to make sure the items that we rarely pull out of the closet are clean, pressed, and mended. My daily lifestyle doesn’t prepare me for this level of wardrobe scrutiny! But every once-in-a-while, special events pull us out of our dailiness and require more preparation. Any work and investment done ahead of time (Boy, am I glad we accepted that suit when my parents offered to buy it!) means a greater ease when the time for needing it all comes.

The tea party can be the same way. While I am a believer in the daily tea ritual and the ability to take advantage of impromptu hospitality opportunities, to prepare for the special occasion tea party takes time, work, and investment. Is it possible you need to be prepared?

From The Art of the Table: A Complete Guide to Table Setting, Table Manners, and Tableware:

“The accoutrements of the formal tea service include a teapot, hot-water kettle with an alcohol burner (to keep water hot), a sugar bowl with sugar cubes, sugar tongs, a creamer with whole milk, a tea caddy with loose-leaf tea, a caddy spoon to measure tea, a tea strainer to strain tea, a waste bowl to hold the dregs of tea, and a lemon plate with sliced lemon, a lemon fork, or a lemon pick.”


Here’s a few of Tea Party Girl’s own thoughts about the formal tea party:

  1. Give the tea center-stage. Make sure it stays hot and is brewed correctly from quality looseleaf tea.
  2. Pour the tea well. This means not filling the cups too full, separating the cups from their saucers, or having to reach across your guests to pour it.
  3. If you’ve been invited to a formal tea as a guest, DO NOT fill your cup to the rim with milk and sugar. Ideally, someone else is preparing your tea for you as is proper at a formal tea party. And nibble, don’t gobble the food provided.
  4. Lay out, borrow, or buy the best you can of silver, porcelain, and white linen.
  5. If you can’t brew the tea neatly in front of your guests with the process described above, brew the tea in the kitchen. Do not expect your guests to brew their own tea, with bags or with leaves.


The book provides a thorough explanation of the serving process and tea table setting. The etiquette of tea pouring at a formal tea party places the proper importance of the beverage as the center of the event and worth reading.

Any other thoughts on the formal tea? My dear mother who went to college in the early 60s in the South was quite surprised to learn the local college sororities couldn’t care less about tea education. What occasions still call for a formal tea service? Do you think it will ever find mainstream status again? Please leave a comment and tell us what you think.

A special note for my email subscribers: If you click on the title of my post in your email or any item highlighted in blue, it will take you directly to my site where you can post a comment or participate in a poll. Please vote in Monday’s poll if you haven’t yet, as I know it’s not possible without directly visiting my site. We’d like to know your opinion, too!

Lastly, I expect to be off-line most of the rest of the week because of the out-of-town wedding this weekend. But look for a new post Monday!