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Mother’s Day

A garden tea party makes the perfect gift for Mother’s Day—here’s how to do it

There’s so much more to it than tea

A grandmother, granddaughter, and mother sip tea in a garden. Credit: Getty Images / fotostorm

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Tulips and hydrangeas, warm sunshine: It’s spring again. Hallelujah. We’ve all had a heck of a year.

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 hangout with Mom, from shopping and lunch to a relaxing spa day, but it’s still hard this year, as we sit in a semi-vaccinated purgatory of can we/can’t we celebrate with others. With this in mind, 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 and tea cups

A Turkish and English tea set.
Credit: LavoHome / Harrods

Nod to your heritage with whatever tea set you choose.

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, gilded and au courant, 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. For these, you may have a few options.

There’s nothing sweeter and more nostalgic than using antique or vintage tea cups inherited from a grandmother or an aunt.

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

Fabric napkins and tea trays with treats.
Credit: Food52 / Monique Lhuillier

Make it a stylish and memorable affair with detailed trinkets and decorations.

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—appropriately, tea-dyed ones—or hand-crocheted, make your presentation feel all the more special.

Décor makes all the difference

Two colorful picnic blankets on display.
Credit: Natural Life / Pink Water

Add colorful comfort with a picnic blanket.

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 it’s essential to 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, from vintage to contemporary to whimsical. 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!

Assorted tea from Fortnum & Mason and Kusmi Tea.
Credit: Fortnum & Mason / Kusmi Tea

Which tea blend is your favorite?

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, which includes Earl Grey, Queen Anne, and a breakfast blend. Fortnum & Mason also offers a loose-leaf Celebration Blend that seems especially fitting. Don’t forget, for loose-leaf tea you’ll need a tea infuser.

Other popular tea brands include Kusmi with this great Kusmi sampler, Harney & Sons that offers a special Mother’s Day caffeine-free herbal blend, Palais des Thés, and Vahdam India that has a signature private reserve Blooming Rose tea with Nordstrom.

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

Strawberry Tiptree jelly and Meri Meri cookie cutters.
Credit: Tiptree / Meri Meri

Make delicious tea sandwiches in spring-themed shapes.

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.


A turquoise suitcase record player with a rack of vinyl LPs.
Credit: Victrola

Dust off your LPs.

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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