Bridal Tea Party
by Inquiring Bridesmaid
Question: I have been asked to hostess a Bridal Tea Party, but I have no idea what the common protocol is. Can you help?
An Inquiring Bridesmaid
Answer: Dear Inquiring Bridesmaid,
You have a great question that deserves an in-depth answer, so here goes!
Hostessing a bridal tea party is a wonderful way to have the bridesmaids and the bride have a relaxing time together before the wedding. The days before a wedding can become rushed and full of anticipation and worry trying to make sure everything is done and taken care of.
The normal time frame for a bridal shower is 2-3 hours if you are not playing games, and if you are, I would plan 3-4 hours to allow plenty of time for visiting, games, opening gifts and of course eating!
When the guests arrive, allow some time for friends to be introduced to each other and visit especially if some are from out of town. This can be followed by a game or two, or if you are not doing games, you can lead right into having the tea and refreshments served. Allow the bride to enjoy her 'tea and cakes' and then you can begin the gift opening. The other guests can continue to eat or go back for seconds especially if you are having a buffet.
If you are planning games, you might consider these Easy Printable Bridal Shower Games. They relieve you from having to plan out games so all you do is provide the gifts for each winner. A great resource for prizes and bridal party gifts is from Beau-coup.
There are several ways to have a bridal tea. The first is with just the bride, the bridal party, and immediate female family members of both parties, the second is with immediate family(male and female) and the whole bridal party including the groom and the groomsmen, and finally the third would be a normal bridal shower where all the ladies who were invited to the wedding are invited and an afternoon tea is served. You will find more ideas in our bridal tea section.
In general, the maid/matron-of-honor is the one who plans the bridal shower/s that are given to the bride. If she lives out of town, she can ask someone local to help her with the 'hands-on' planning.
Regardless of who is doing the local planning, the maid-of-honor is the hostess, the other bridesmaids are 'assistant' hostesses, and the bride is the guest of honor. The 'duties' of each are simple, and follow similar protocol of other parties. The guest of honor has no 'duties' except to show up and be gracious. ;-) The matron/maid-of-honor is responsible for welcoming everyone and to make sure everyone is properly introduced to everyone else, and the rest of the bridesmaids assist the maid-of-honor.
In a normal tea party setting, the hostess meets and greets, but she asks some close friends to help pour tea and make sure the platters are replenished and cups are filled with tea when needed. It is a great honor to be asked by a friend to assist her in this, because it shows to her friends that she trusts them and thinks they will be kind and courteous to her guests. Each friend should have a shift no longer than a half hour, so she too can enjoy the party. She is relieved by another whom the hostess has asked to help.
With that having been said though, in a bridal party situation, the bridal party members are in a way all guests of honor, and although they should, as good hostesses, make sure all the guests are taken care of, they shouldn't be part of clearing up or doing 'kitchen' work during the party. It is common for the bridesmaids to all pitch in and help prepare food and decorate and even afterward, especially if the party is held in one of their homes, they all help clean up, but not normally during the event itself. The bridal party should be allowed to have a couple of relaxing hours together especially if the bridal tea is held near the date of the wedding itself.
If you are the maid-of-honor, or a friend helping her plan a tea, ask some friends or family members to help in the 'waitressing' of tables(if you are planning a 'sit-down' tea which is sometimes referred to mistakenly as a high tea), or if you are planning a typical afternoon tea where everyone mills around, ask them to take empty plates from the guests and offer more tea if needed. An easy way to have a bridal tea is to set everything up buffet style even if you are having tables where everyone sits down. This eliminates a lot of need for 'waitressing' and the ladies have more time for visiting.
If you are having the tea at dining tables, the bride and her bridesmaids should be sat together at a 'head' table, mothers and other important relatives like grandmothers, aunts and sisters should be at another table or two of distinction, but not as 'fancy' as the head table.
Bridal Shower Favors can be placed at each lady's seat, or passed out as guests are leaving, which ever you choose.
If the party is being catered, all the prep work and waiting of tables is normally done by the catering company, or if you are having the event at a tea room, the normal staff of the restaurant takes care of all the guests, serving and clearing. It is common if you make arrangements with the manager that they will provide a cake, and if they can't, they will usually allow you to bring one to the party.
I hope this helps give you an idea of what is involved with a bridal tea. It will be a very memorable part of the wedding plans that the bride and all will remember for ages to come.
Our congratulations to the bride!
Your Tea Party Guide