Alternative Wedding Receptions - High Tea Wedding Reception – Texas Weddings
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Alternative Wedding Receptions – High Tea Wedding Reception

Saturday night wedding? Perhaps not. With so many weddings rescheduled, Saturday evenings are becoming crowded. Whether your preferred venue is not available, or you’re just ready to do something original, we’re bringing you a new series on alternative wedding receptions. You get all the fabulousness of a great event, without the well-worn ceremony/dinner/dancing/cake reception scenario.

Ready to rethink your wedding reception? This week we’re starting with a High Tea Wedding.

High Tea became fashionable after the Duchess of Bedford invited her friends over for tea and snacks to curb that afternoon hunger. As high society homes lit up with kerosine lamps, dinnertime became later and the 5pm tea time came into fashion. Romantic and elegant, this type of event stirs up all the vintage feels…like walking into an episode of Downton Abbey. 

We love that this style of reception works well for intimate weddings, which remain popular despite restrictions lifting. With intimate weddings, you’re focused on the people in your life that truly mean the most to you. 

If you rescheduled your wedding further in the future, a small ceremony followed by a High Tea wedding reception may be just the thing to celebrate today, and still have your larger wedding reception in a future year.

So how exactly does a High Tea wedding reception work? Let’s start with the food.

Food Service

When you imagine a High Tea you likely imagine the traditional 3-tiered serving stands. Traditionally, the bites on each stand are displayed in this order:

  • Top Tier: Scones, cheese sticks, seasonal breads
  • Middle Tier: Sandwiches and savories
  • Bottom Tier: Sweets

The trick is the items are not consumed in the order the tiers are presented, say top to bottom. The typical order of service for the food items are:

  • First Course: Sandwiches and savories
  • Second Course: Scones, cheese sticks, seasonal breads
  • Third Course: Sweets

Small sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, small desserts are all a part of the standard fare. Keeping some of the traditional elements for your High Tea wedding can be fun, but no need to stand on tradition here. Savory food items can be expanded to include anything from deviled eggs to mini pizzas. You may replace the dessert course with wedding cake, or have a separate dessert served at the meal and cake cutting after.

You’ll want to have some savory and some sweet, but put whatever spin on the food that appeals to you. Work with your San Antonio caterer to come up with the perfect menu selections.

How you’ll serve your catering selections to your guests will vary on your final menu and seating arrangement. You may have all your items preset on a long table or on varied stations. Or have wait staff to bring out the items by course. If you’re pre-setting your table with the traditional 3-tiered stand, consider having instructions on what order the food should be consumed.

Seating Options

Depending on your wedding venue and number of guests, your High Tea wedding can either be a seated affair or a reception-style event.

The advantages of a seated event is your event has an air of light formality and you can also dictate a proper seating chart. Long, elegant tables can look refined and beautiful. You may opt for the first course preset family-style and the remaining items brought out in courses. Or, simply let the table overflow with flowers and have the wait staff bring each course out in the traditional tiered platters. 

For a more reception-style event, set your food on displays around the room. You’ll get the same pretty tiered displays, with a looser vibe to the event. Guests will be able to serve themselves a few items at a time.

To avoid lines, don’t put all your food on one long buffet table. With this set up, hungry guests  tend to line up buffet-style, which ruins the high tea mood. Instead, set the food in stations around the room. Group savory dishes and sweet dishes together for cohesion. This will keep guests mingling and munching at the same time.

Another option for a reception-style tea is to have the guests served hors d’oeuvre style with passed selections. Your only challenge in this scenario is that the food served will need to be bite-sized, as the guests won’t have plates.

Serving the Tea

Traditionally, tea service will include black, green and herbal tea selections. This gives your guests a variety of options to choose from. But consider mixing it up with more exotic options such as Darjeeling or Chai. Whichever your selections, always serve the tea with a teacup and saucer. Never a mug.

You can opt for individual teapots at each setting if you are having a seated event or use waitstaff for each guest to be served their tea throughout the meal. If you’re thinking of a reception-style event, using wait staff to refill tea cups is more elegant than a tea station.

And who says you can’t make the tea a bit boozy? Take a twist on the traditional and include tea-based cocktails for your event. Click here for a list of tea cocktails.


A High Tea style wedding can be a wedding planner and decorators dream event. The style is elegant and romantic. 

Spring colors may be the first images that come to mind for High Tea decorations. The girly connotations with this type of party might conjure up pastel pinks, lavender place settings, and pale blue linens. Paired with beautiful pastries, the look is all Bridgerton.

Your High Tea wedding decoration ideas need not stop at the pastel and lace look. Consider a sophisticated spin in your decor colors with deep emerald green china, saturated grey linens or deep red velvet napkins. The look is drawing room decor chic, worldly and polished. Finding a wedding venue such as a manor or mansion could mean finding the perfect dark-wood paneled room with sumptuous leather chairs to complete the space.

Beyond these high-born decor styles, a High Tea decoration look can go rustic as well. Think quaint country home with long wooden tables, bright white tiered pedestals and a bit of lace linen. Any tree-lined wedding venue will do, or perhaps a country home or barn. The paired down look doesn’t have to mean paired down event. Keep the food decadent and the champagne flowing.

Sample High Tea Wedding Schedule

3:30PM Ceremony

4:00PM Cocktails

4:30PM First Dance/Parent Dances

5;00PM High Tea Service

6:30PM Wedding Toasts/Optional Cake Cutting

7:00PM Reception Concludes