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Afternoon tea etiquette

Fine china for afternoon tea
Fine china for afternoon tea
Photo by Melissa Bishop

In today's relaxed, American culture, people seems to think 'anything' goes. Well, it does not work that way. Yes, often, but not exclusively, people who attend afternoon tea events are tourists visiting from another place, if this applies to you, being from, 'out-of-town' does not give you an excuse to show up to afternoon tea looking like you have just 'rolled out of the nest'. With just a bit of planning ahead, you can arrive to afternoon tea in style and with good manners; honoring both yourself and those around you. Since afternoon tea is no longer limited in its attendance by ladies who lunch or tourists but is rather becoming a business trend quickly taking over the typical business lunch. Here are a few tips to help you sail smoothly through your next afternoon tea.

Men, a jacket and tie with slacks and dress shoes is preferred. If attending a more casual afternoon tea on a veranda, perhaps after a round of golf or tennis, you might be able to attend in a polo shirt (but it would look better with a jacket and slacks). Do your best not to show up in shorts, sandals, collarless shirts and ball caps. You could end up being turned away at the door. Afternoon tea is an, 'event' be respectful and show up ready to impress.

Ladies, skirts and dresses whenever possible. Flip flops are never considered proper attire in any setting without sand no matter what. There are 'dressy' flip flop type sandals but only wear them if your feet are groomed to perfection with no dry, cracked skin. Please no jeans. This applies to both sexes and all ages. Jackets are made in boy sizes as well as cute, lady like skirts and dresses for little girls. Start teaching children when they are young on how to act and dress in different settings. I know people who start teaching their children manners; how to use a napkin, proper behavior in public, etc. beginning when the child is three years of age. What a blessing these people are to the rest of us! Afternoon tea is really only for older children who are exceptionally well behaved and adults. If you never grew up learning proper etiquette & manners, head over to this website for information on receiving consulting in that area. It is never too late for you to learn how to navigate society. In case you need more information on afternoon tea etiquette, I have included a video by Syndi Seid. Enjoy!


  • Elizabeth Urbach 4 years ago

    Great article, and thanks for the link to the etiquette video. I had seen it before but forgot about it!

    Elizabeth Urbach
    San Jose Tea Examiner

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