Simple afternoon tea wedding menu

Guest post by planningahead

Here's Tribesmaid Planningahead‘s menu that carries with it a great reminder that the ULTIMATE way to have a lower budget wedding is to have an afternoon tea reception instead of dinner catering.


We catered our own wedding (with major help from the wedding party). So I whipped up a concrete version of the simple afternoon tea wedding menu that's been running around in my head. I kept this very very simple to spare us stress and cost and time.

So, this menu is not a full-meal-type-thing, just some finger food and cake for a 3 p.m. reception…


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By: Theodore Scott

Plain and lemon-ginger, with clotted cream, lemon curd, and jam.

Tea sandwiches

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By: Sheri Wetherell

A few options:

  • Cucumber and cream cheese (maybe with lemon and mint) on white bread.
  • Apple and cheddar (maybe with honey mustard) on wheat bread.
  • Open-faced roast beef (with baby greens and horseradish cream) on sliced baguette.

Berries and sliced fruit

afternoon tea buffet

Cookie or brownie bites

afternoon tea buffet #2

Custard or jam tartlets

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By: Shanti, shanti

Pumpkin bread

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By: Rebecca Siegel

Lemonade and iced tea

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By: liz west
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By: Eliot Phillips

Hot tea

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By: Ryan MacLean

Sparkling cider for toasts

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By: Cali4beach

…And, of course, wedding cake!

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Comments on Simple afternoon tea wedding menu

  1. Love this and the pictures too. Nothing to go cold apart from tea/coffee. but i love afternoon teas anyway.

  2. It looks fantastic!! How did it work? What did people say? I have a dear friend thinking of something very similar and she’s worried that people will be hungry. Or expect something more. Tell me everything!!

    • You can probably include that kind of information in the invitation, like “Since this is an afternoon celebration, we will not be serving a full dinner, etc.”

    • Back in the day, “Cake and punch” receptions were a pretty common way to throw a low-budget wedding, and the invitation wording would just say something like “Cake and punch reception to follow.”

      If you’re not doing cake and punch, you could just say something on yor invitations like, “Tea party with light snacks to follow” … although the timing of your wedding is key here, too. A 2pm ceremony sets the expectation pretty clearly that there will not be a full meal afterward.

      • This is essentially what we’re doing. Our invitations read, “please join us after the ceremony for a nosh & schmooze.” 🙂

  3. We’re having a 2pm ceremony followed by afternoon tea 🙂 The invitations said ….”followed by cupcakes and Foxton Fizz” (local soda). We also reinforced the idea on our wedsite by getting people to RSVP to ‘wedding and afternoon tea’. Seems to have gone down well so far!

  4. Thank you so much for this! My wedding party are giving us the amazing gift of providing food for our wedding. This is so simple and elegant while still casual… So yay for being able to point and say… Like THIS please 🙂

    • Just ran across this comment, so it’s a very late answer, but in case anyone needs info in the future — All groceries (including drinks, which were all non-alcoholic) cost less than $200. We fed 30 and there were some leftovers, but not too many. We borrowed some cake stands and teapots, and bought others at thrift shops and on Craigslist (donated or resold afterward). The best part was that a handful of friends got together the day before the wedding to make all of the sandwiches, bake scones, slice cakes, etc. — and we paid someone $50 to plate food and set up the buffet on the afternoon of the wedding, and do dishes. (It’s less than she’d usually make for a few hours of work, but it was a favor from a friend-of-a-friend. We also added a tip and several of us joined in on cleanup.)

      • I was thinking of having my tea sandwiches, cheese, fruit, veggie trays catered from my neighborhood grocery. But now that I’ve seen your blog, I’m thinking of catering it myself. I’m only having an intimate wedding with 20 guests. If I do the sandwiches the day before, won’t they be soggy the day of the wedding??? That’s one thing I’m worried about. Another question, is it necessary to have chairs for guests to sit on if my reception is only 1hr.?? The church where I’m getting married is allowing me to have access to the patio for an hour following the ceremony. I want my guests to mingle and have a finger foods. Thanks for a great blog. ????

  5. Hey, I am wondering if doing this implies that there will be no traditional elements to the reception (first dance, cake cutting, garter toss, ect). Part of me is offbeat and part of me is still pretty traditional. Since I’m having my wedding in Australia, (moving there soon) afternoon tea is much more common than in the States. Any more recipes for sandwiches? Maybe something a little more filling for the dudes? I can see them just downing those little sandwiches. These are Aussie men we’re talking about.

    • I just had to reply to this comment, seeing as how I’ve lived in both the US and Australia! I personally don’t think that this necessarily implies nothing traditional. YOU set the tone, and people will follow. I want all the traditional things as well, minus the garter toss, and an afternoon tea seems a classy way to save some money. I think that’s true even in Oz where they are more common. Personally, I wish I could just say “instead of buying a toaster from the registry list, just pay for your own dang meal,” but that trend hasn’t caught on yet. Anyway, I’m also throwing in some warm finger food – some little mini-hamburgers (sliders) and little fried chicken wrap things – not a lot, just a few. That and booze, just because if there’s booze, people will be happy. The reception ends at 5:30pm, just in time for people to get drunk and head out to a dinner, on their own dime. And I’m sticking to an open beer and wine bar. If guests want something else, they can buy it themselves. My invites say “Please join us after the ceremony for a celebratory full afternoon tea.” And I put all the details on my website about exactly what to expect 🙂

    • I’m doing a dessert reception. What matters is timeline. Starting the ceremony at 2-2:30 is essential. We are taking our photos prior so we can start the reception at 3pm. We are ending at 6pm so people can head home or grab dinner afterwards. 3 hours is enough time for all the traditions and dancing. Remember you don’t have to cut out an hour for a full course meal.

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