Each Wednesday, we tackle wedding etiquette. At times, it’s a reader question or one from a colleague, friend or family member and other times we’ll cover a popular issue. (Note: Questions may be edited for clarity and brevity.)
Question: My soon-to-be mother-in-law is hosting a traditional afternoon tea shower for my mother, my bridesmaids and me the week of the wedding, but I’ve never been to tea. What’s the etiquette of an afternoon bridal tea?
Answer: What a lovely way for the group to socialize and relax a little prior to the Big Day. For the most part, the etiquette for an afternoon tea doesn’t differ much from traditional dining etiquette. There may be a few items you aren’t used to seeing on a dinner table, such as the tea tray, tea set and a three-tiered serving rack for savories (tiny sandwiches), scones and pastries. Generally, the guest of honor (you, in this case) will stand close to the host when the guests are arriving and she will introduce you to anyone you don’t already know, but in this case you will simply greet them along with your mother-in-law to be. It is considered an honor to pour the tea, and in a larger group there will be more than one “pourer” designated, but as a rule, each “pourer” will pour for only about 15 or 20 minutes. Each place setting will include a butter spreader or knife on the right side of the plate, a fork on the left and a teaspoon on the saucer or to the right of the knife. Here are a few additional do’s and don’ts to round out the basics outlined above:
- Don’t raise your pinky even a little. Do put your index finger through the handle, the thumb above it and your middle finger below the handle for support.
- Don’t swirl the tea in your cup.
- Don’t let the spoon clang the sides or rim of your cup when you stir.
- Don’t sip with the spoon still in the cup. Do place it on the saucer behind the cup, with the handle of the spoon pointing in the same direction as the handle of the cup at the 4 O’clock position.
- Don’t sop spilled tea from the saucer. Do ask for a new saucer (unless you are in a very casual setting, then it’s OK to place a napkin under the cup, then remove it and place it in another discarded dish.)
- Don’t unfold your napkin above or over the table. Do unfold it on your lap and unlike at dinner, rather than folding it in half with the fold facing your body, leave it open.
- Don’t place the napkin on the table if you have to excuse yourself from the table. Do place it on your chair. (If the wait staff refolds it and places it on the table or the arm of your chair, put it back on your lap upon return when you sit down.) When the tea has ended, place loosely to the left of your plate.
If you’d like to go for a practice tea, read this Bon Vivant post about several afternoon tea services here in New Orleans. This particular post centers on Mother’s Day teas, but each place mentioned offers tea year-round. Not mentioned in the post is The English Tea Room in Covington. No matter what, try not to overthink it and enjoy a delightful afternoon tea and the time spent with your loved ones.
Do you have a solution to share or a wedding etiquette question? Respond in the comments or email Melanie@MyNewOrleans.com.
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