Tea Party Etiquette
Tea Parties, with all their intricacies, are small social events hosted in honour of a person for various reasons such as to welcome new neighbours, entertain a visiting VIP, celebrate birthday parties or even just for the pleasure of it. They are ideal occasions for socializing and making, as well as maintaining, the acquaintance of those around you. But, along with the tea and the cups, tea parties also bring to the table, certain etiquette that must be followed to make it more respectful and all the more interesting. Etiquette work both ways—there are rules both for the hosts and the guests and these rules determine the amount of decency and fun in such get-togethers. Not only does this process make the tea party a pleasurable one for everyone involved, it also makes the coordination a lot easier. The process starts right from the act of sending out invitations and then moves on to other little details which you would do well to keep in mind.
Etiquette For Tea Party
- The host spells out the purpose and the requirements of the party. The invitations are sent out accordingly. A mail is used for the most formal of them.
- An invitation in-person and telephone calls can fill in for both formal and informal occasions. E-mails are sent only for the most informal of tea parties.
- The invited must make sure that they respond to the invitation immediately. It is not polite to keep people waiting.
- Tea parties are occasions to take out the dresses or non-business attires for the ladies, while the men must present themselves in business suits, jackets and ties.
- Make sure the colours are never the dull and gloomy shades of black or grey; keep it toned down yet cheerful.
The Party Begins
- As a host, you have to make sure you are there to welcome all guests once they arrive. Help them with their wraps and jackets etc.
- If the party is in honour of a person, introduce all your guests to him/her. Help your guests become comfortable with the settings.
- As a guest, you first greet your host and then move among the other guests. At a tea party, you can initiate a conversation with other guests without being introduced.
During Tea Time
- The tea is usually served by the host or a close friend of the host. The host will specify if the guests have to serve the tea by themselves.
- Handling the tea cup and the saucer is an art in itself. The index finger is slipped in through the handle. The thumb holds the handle on the top while the middle finger serves as a support from the bottom. The last two fingers follow the natural curve of the hand and stay there. Sticking out your little finger is actually considered rude! The saucer is held in the other hand. Lift the saucer along with the cup when you take your sips.
- When it finally comes to drinking the tea, make sure you drink it slowly. Never make slurping sounds as you drink. Also see to it that you do make small talk with people around while doing so. Standing alone and sipping the tea isn’t considered good etiquette at tea parties.
- As the host, make sure that the food is optimally and ergonomically arranged. Scones and sandwiches, along with cream, jam and butter, traditionally adorn the table at a tea party.
- If you are the guest, take note that you do not overload your plate with food. You can always ask for more. Since the tea party involves a lot of conversation, take small bites so that your mouth is never too full to join in a conversation.
- Scones are never eaten with forks so, make sure you do not set a precedent. Break the scones into small pieces and dip them in the jam, butter or cream that you have dolloped on your plate.
- Tea party etiquette also requires you to closely watch the host for any indications or message. Start only when the host indicates so. The same goes for winding up your tea. If you have to get up mid-way then excuse yourself and make sure to leave the napkin (if you are using one) on the chair and not on the table. The end of the tea party is signaled by the host/hostess picking up his/her napkin. The guests follow suit.
Socializing is an important aspect of a tea party. The informal nature of it means that you can move around the place freely mingling with others. Tea parties are therefore, never confined to the table.
While Leaving the Party
It is proper to leave the party only after the guest of honour leaves. Make sure you wish him or her before leaving. Finally, thank the host for having invited you to the party.
Following all the above etiquette is really quite simple. All you have to do is understand that your conduct in the party reflects not only your mettle as a social person but also the social stature of your host. Just think about this and act accordingly.