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Mother’s Day

A garden tea party for Mother’s Day? Here’s how to do it

There’s much more to it than tea

Two women smiling while enjoying tea in a garden. Credit: Getty Images / Vuk Saric

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Tulips and hydrangeas, warm sunshine: It’s spring again. With Mother Nature’s cheery annual rebirth comes the May celebration of the woman or women who raised you. Gifts to recognize her on Mother’s Day are nice, certainly; but what most moms really want is to spend quality time with their kids—adorable tots, moody teens, and grown-up best friends inclusive.

There’s loads of ways to hang out with Mom, from shopping and lunch to a relaxing spa day, but it may be nicest to stay at home for an experiential outdoor Mother’s Day moment that you stage yourself.

And, since all ladies can get behind an afternoon tea party, here are some tips for planning the perfect one. Remember, you’re having a tea party for just a few people, not a huge gathering. You can still make it an over-the-top moment to remember, and we’ll set you up for that. But, this is a pick-what-you-like list of all the stuff we love.

Start with a teapot for your afternoon tea party

Three teapots in front of a background.
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Teapots are a reflection of the host's personality.

The tea tradition is steeped in many cultures, not just British. You can offer a nod to your heritage with the teapot you select, whether it’s Chinese, Turkish, Polish, Japanese, or British.

Or, you can set up with a teapot that fits you or Mom’s personal style: butterflies on porcelain, a fashion-forward piece of Danish design, 1950s fabulous, mid-century modern meets Bedouin, or whimsical and handmade. If you’re celebrating Mother’s Day with your brood, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast-inspired Mrs. Potts teapot may be just what you need.

With teapots come tea cups, of course

A set of tea cups in front of a background.
Credit: Amazon / Reviewed

Tea cups can range from Grandma's vintage porcelain to paper stuff.

There’s nothing sweeter and more nostalgic than using antique or vintage tea cups inherited from a grandmother or an aunt. But, if you don’t have any on-hand, you can find an abundance online, from fancy to faux-frills with paper plates to match.

Add table embellishments

Table cloth, a place card and a sweet stand in front of a background.
Credit: Food52 / Rifle Paper Co. / Neiman Marcus / Reviewed

Decorative flourishes make a lunch extra special.

Once you’ve got your teapot and teacups taken care of, there are many other ways to dress up the table, including spring napkin rings, cloth napkins, and place cards.

Don’t forget tiered servers and cake plates, whether classic, floral, or more modern in style, for holding the delicious tea sandwiches and scones you’ll be serving. Doilies, whether paper or hand-crocheted, make your presentation feel all the more special.

Décor makes all the difference

A hanging teapot and tea cups banner in front of a background.
Credit: Amazon / Reviewed

Make the tea party feel more alive with these decorations.

Special décor like seat cushions and vases of flowers aren’t essential for a tea party, but they sure add to the festive atmosphere.

You’ll be sitting outside for the afternoon, so emphasize comfort, especially if Grandma is attending. Seat cushions are an inexpensive way to pretty-up a patio, and they’re easy to swap around or move from one chair to another or to the ground for a picnic. Seat cushions with a floral pattern are especially spring-y.

If you want to spread out, or have a gang of little ones joining the party, spreading a picnic blanket over the lawn can help keep adult chitchat calm and sticky fingers away from the tea cakes. Many styles please all tastes, from modern-vintage to artful and bright. Most picnic blankets are waterproof, totable, and can be used again and again.

It doesn’t cost much to dress a table with fresh flowers, but the result can be a million-dollar look. Put a tea-party spin on the idea by using a teapot as a vase, and fill it with fresh baby’s breath, tea roses, or flowers you’ve cut from your garden. If this look isn’t for you, a big pitcher or pretty glass works just as well.

You can also vintage-style paper teapot garlands around your patio or pergola.

Let them drink tea!

A teapot pouring tea into a tea cup.
Credit: Getty Images / Evgeniya Lushenkova

Whether herbal or black, tea makes a tea party.

The star of your tea party, should be, naturally, tea. While Red Rose will do, Mother’s Day is a fine time to splurge for the good stuff. Try an assortment from royal tea supplier Fortnum & Mason or a loose-leaf blend that seems especially fitting. Don’t forget, for loose-leaf tea you’ll need a tea infuser.

Other popular tea brands include Kusmi, Harney & Sons, Palais des Thés, and Vahdam.

Cream, milk, oat milk and more: Get what makes sense for your tastes. Don’t forget honey or demerara sugar cubes (and tea tongs!).

For kids or non-tea drinkers, floral ice cubes—just freeze edible flowers in water in ice cube trays—lend a gorgeously festive flair to lemonade or sparkling water.

Plan your menu in advance

A table full of tea and desserts.
Credit: Getty Images / Eva-Katalin

It's not a party without tea cakes and snacks.

Finger sandwiches, scones, and tea cakes are common fare at an afternoon tea service and none are terribly hard to make. If you’ve got kids with cookie cutters, you can even cut the sandwiches into fun shapes.

If you want to bring in some more “authentic” foodstuffs, lemon curd, strawberry jam, and Devonshire cream are essential for London tea traditionalists.

Try a variety of tea cakes or black currant scones. Upscale British retailer Fortnum & Mason has a hamper filled with tea, marmalade and preserves, honey, cookies, and more.

Organize activities for your afternoon tea party

Portrait of mature woman serving on cake stall at busy summer garden fete.
Credit: Getty Images / monkeybusinessimages

Remember to have a good time at your Mother's Day afternoon tea party.

The idea of a tea party is to enjoy a leisurely afternoon outside. Moms can do this best when the kids are occupied. Lawn games and scavenger hunts keep little minds busy for hours.

You could also stage your own photo booth in your garden or backyard with fun props, or, set up a mini manicure station and hope for the best from little fingers.

For gatherings with varying generations, set the ambiance by bringing out the suitcase Victrola and listening to records from Grandma’s or Mom’s era, or just hook up a music streaming service on your phone, because this player has Bluetooth capabilities.

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