Important Tea Party Etiquette

Proper tea party etiquette is something people are still interested in today. Perhaps it is because we (especially in the western world) have become so comfortable with casualness, that there are times we wish for the return to good manners and formal affairs - if even on a small scale, such as teatime parties.

Proper Teatime Etiquette

teapot silhouetteInvitations

Host/ess: Invitations for a tea party may be extended and accepted many different ways, depending on how formal or casual the affair is. Mail is the traditional and more formal method. Telephone or face-to-face is also acceptable. Email is only acceptable for very casual get - togethers.

Guest: Good Etiquette requires you to answer the invitation. You must RSVP with a yes or a no by the deadline, unless otherwise stated on the invitation. Don't be rude and ignore the RSVP - or worse, just show up!

Couple Tea Party Silhouette


Host/ess: Greet your guest, take their wrap, escort them to the room, make introductions (at smaller affairs), give them direction on what to do (such as invite them to take a cup of tea, take refreshment, or have a seat).
It is good tea party etiquette during larger parties to circulate and see that everyone has met and is comfortably enjoying the party.
Guest: Greet your host/ess, present host/ess gift if you have one, and then mingle (at larger socials, introduce yourself to those you don't know).
If you are wearing gloves, remove them before tea service - it is not proper to eat or drink with gloves on.

 During Teatime

Host/ess: It is your duty to make sure everyone is comfortable and included in the conversation. If there is a lull in conversation, start a topic you know will be of interest to at least two of your guests.

If you are having teatime in a residence, the host or a close friend (not the servant/caterer) always pours and serves the tea.


Handling the cup and saucer: Good etiquette states that you hold a cup that has a handle with the index finger through the handle, and the thumb slightly gripping the handle above it. The second finger is below the handle. The last two fingers follow the natural curve of the hand and it is actually not proper to raise the pinky(surprise!). The saucer is held in the other hand.

Stirring is done gently, without hitting the sides or rim of the cup. Replace the spoon on the saucer, behind the cup, with the handle pointing in the same four o'clock direction of the handle.

Plate: If you are not eating at a table, then find a chair and with great
tea party etiquette, balance your plate on your knees. If there is a table nearby, place your cup and saucer on it. When ready for a sip of tea, lift both the cup and saucer together. If a table is not handy, then hold the saucer in one hand and eat with the other, having chosen ahead of time, dainty finger food.
If you are eating at a table and using flatware, when finished, place the flatware in the finished position with the tips at ten o'clock and the handles at four o'clock.
And of course, tea party etiquette says that one does not slurp when sipping - but you knew that -right?


The napkin is placed on your lap when eating. If you get up, place it on your chair, not the table.


When eating portions that are not bite sized and require the use of a knife and fork, cut one bite at a time. In this case, it is easier to use the continental style of cutting with the right hand and eating with the left hand, tines down. The knife remains in the right hand. If you want a sip of tea, place the fork over the knife, in an inverted "V" position.


Host/ess: If you have a gift for your guests, present it at this time, thank them for coming and see them to the door (tea party etiquette does not require you to have a guest gift).

Guest:If there is a guest of honor, it is not proper tea party etiquette to leave before the honored guest.
When leaving, be sure to thank the hostess and send a thank you note within 2 days.






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