Tea Party Etiquette
If you’re planning a tea party now is the time to brush up on your tea party etiquette so the whole event goes along without a hitch. Tea parties aren’t as common as they once were. That means a lot of people find themselves lost – not knowing what to say or do, or when to say and do it. One hint from the get go: practical etiquette says good manners make up for many other mis-reads. If you bring those to the table, you’ll have a fine tea time.
Step one in hosting a tea party is setting up the table. You can have a simple afternoon tea or one that’s more formal with several food courses accompanying it. The afternoon tea is an ideal occasion for finger foods. That means beyond teacups and saucers, you just need flatware and perhaps some tasteful decorations. The flatware selection includes spoons for the tea, a knife for butter and a jam spoon.
High tea is a slightly different creature. Now you’ll need several plates, a full contingent of tableware, and of course whatever you want for the tea. Hint: if you go to yard sales, you can get individual one-cup teapots for guests. They make a whimsical yet very interesting table arrangement. Tea party etiquette is no different than table etiquette
in the manner it sets things up. The only minor change is putting the tea cup to the right of the spoons because it’s a more predominant aspect of this occasion.
If you’re a guest at a tea party, there are some practical etiquette guidelines that will help you navigate the event. Leave any gloves with your coat. They do not belong at the tea table. Women wearing lipstick should blot it with tissue before enjoying tea. Most often the host will serve out tea and any snacks. However, small events may allow guests to serve themselves provided they avoid reaching in front of another guest. If you pass things to the right, the distribution of cream, sugar and lemon should move along smoothly.
While all the little tidbits might seem tempting, take no more than one or two snacks on a pass. As long as the food remains on the table, you can ask for a second pass without breaching any etiquette rules. Oh, and If you’re not a person that really enjoys tea (you’re just here for the company), it’s perfectly acceptable manners to decline gracefully and enjoy an alternative beverage.
Those enjoying tea would do well to avoid clinking their cups when they stir. This comes from the fact that most formal teas include china, which is delicate. After you’re done stirring, put your spoon on the saucer, avoiding the table cloth at all costs. Dribbling on linens is a faux pax in tea party etiquette. As far as the silverware for food, put it on your plate from the right hand side to the left. This indicates you’re finished. As the hostess sees the guests are done, she will put her napkin on top of her plate and then leave the table, with everyone else following suit for whatever else the evening affords.
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