Wedding Tea Etiquette

tea and cake image by hazel proudlove from

A wedding tea, also called a bridal tea, is a time for the bride to gather with her closest companions before her wedding. Bridal teas can take the place of a bridal shower or they can be their own separate event. Ideal locations for this afternoon event are the bride’s own home or a cozy tea house with an intimate feel. Although the wedding tea is casual, it still has its own set of rules and etiquette.

Hosts and Attendees

The bride and the bride’s mother traditionally host the wedding tea, but bridesmaids can also plan the gathering. In either case, the hosts only invite women from the wedding party or intimate friends. If the bride is hosting, the tea serves to catch up with and refresh the bridesmaids, who often fly in from other areas to attend the wedding. If the bridesmaids are hosting it, the tea serves as a friendly farewell gathering for the bride, giving her a chance to relax before her big day. Both hosts and guests should dress casually yet nicely. Tea time is neither a time for fancy gowns nor a time for cut-offs and flip-flops.


Hosts designate at least one person to pour the tea and serve any food. Rather than someone invited to enjoy the event, pick someone outside of the wedding party circle who is not invited to the wedding. Serve the tea and food on a buffet off to the side to keep it out of the way and allow guests to easily refill their cups and plates. The pourer fills the tea cups and slices any cakes or other food. Stock the buffet with lemon slices, milk, sugar cubes, sticks and crystals for guests to add to their tea. The server asks guests if they want milk in their tea before filling their cups and then adds milk to the cup before adding tea.


Light snacks and sandwiches are proper fare for a wedding tea. Options include a fresh, hot bread on a covered plate, a selection of small sandwiches and cake. You can also choose to a few different types of cakes, pastries, cookies and crackers. Get fancy with paté de foie gras. Offer jam and butter for the bread.


Drinking tea has its own set of rules. Drink tea by picking up both the saucer and cup, keep the saucer in one hand and use your other hand to raise the teacup to your lips. Hold the teacup with your index finger looped through the handle, your thumb pressing on the top of the handle and your middle finger on the bottom of the handle. Never stick out your pinkie but rather curve it toward your palm. Never clink your spoon against the side of the cup when stirring your tea and never leave the spoon in your tea. Place it on the saucer.


Gifts are a welcome tradition at the wedding tea. If the event is hosted by the bride, the tea is her time to give her bridesmaids a thank-you gift for being part of her wedding. Individual or group gifts are both acceptable. If the event is hosted by the bridesmaid or serves as the bridal shower, guests should bring gifts for the bride.