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The Lost Tradition of the Teacup Bridal Shower

Diane is a lover of all things beautiful; music, art, antiques and nature. Her guides bring insight to topics she cares passionately about.

Teacup collection of my cousin, Rhita Gillette

Teacup collection of my cousin, Rhita Gillette

The Origins of Teacup Collections

Teacups and beautiful tea sets were once an essential part of any home. Tea parties were an important expression of hospitality to friends, family, and business associates. No housewife could be without her tea set and cup collection.

Have you ever wondered why your grandmother had so many different kinds of teacups? All mismatched? I have. I thought that my grandmother was just a collector, but I know better now. Most collections were the result of a quaint tradition: the teacup shower.

Meet my cousin, Rheta (Akins) Gillette

Meet my cousin, Rheta (Akins) Gillette

My Discovery of the Tradition

A few years ago, my brother sent me a box. It was filled with things that had belonged to my cousin, Rheta Akins. Born in 1904, she grew up at the end of the Victorian era and went to college during the roaring 1920s. She married Homer Gillette in 1940. She was an artist, teacher, and champion of the arts in Southern California.

Tucked away in the box was an old scrapbook entitled, "Wedding Gifts." Inside I found invitations to bridal showers, greeting cards, newspaper clippings, and lists of gifts received. Many different parties were thrown in honor of the new bride, but the one that intrigued me the most was "Ye Old Teacup Shower." There, I found a list of seventeen different kinds of teacups and saucers.

It suddenly dawned on me that this was how all these teacup collections must have started. It must be a lost tradition that faded into history along with the practice of giving tea parties. I wasn't at the party, as I hadn't been born yet—but luckily a newspaper had recorded every detail of the extravagant affair in a clipping I found in the scrapbook, which I will now share with you.

How to Throw a Teacup Shower

  • Attire: Guests should come formally attired for the elegant occasion.
  • Table decor and food: Tables should be adorned with tablecloths, candelabras with lit candles, plentiful flowers, and greenery, in garlands and centerpieces. The tables are laden with finger sandwiches and dainty treats of all sorts. Tea is served at each end of the table by the hostesses or friends.
  • Bouquet: A bouquet of white flowers and dollar bills should be presented to the bride. The dollar bills are folded and attached in such a way that they should look like the leaves of the flowers. The bride is the center of attention and sits in a central location ready to receive her gifts.
  • Teacup gifts: Each guest is to bring a wrapped teacup and saucer. Presented with them will be a word that represents the characteristics one should have to achieve a happy marriage. Words like: patience, cooperation, music, unselfishness, humor, etc. The word should be tucked into the teacup and read aloud as the gift is opened.
  • Order of events: After the presentation of the teacups, tea is served, while music plays and friends visit.

Other things from Rheta's teacup shower that you may or may not want to use:

  • Venue: The venue was decorated like a church, complete with a "faux" stained-glass window.
  • Music: Music was sung for the bride, including contemporary love songs and an operatic aria.
  • Poetry: Poetry that goes with the word, often of the humorous variety, was written for the bride and read to all the company.

Do You Have a Teacup Collection?

Tell us about your collection. Your most prized teacup. Where you got it. My favorite teacup is the art deco one in the introductory photo. It is a rare one from Shelby in England. I admired it for years in my cousin's china cabinet. When she passed away, my dad let me have it, along with many of her other beauties, but that one is my fave!


jamie noonan-silva on October 14, 2017:

yes I have about 200 teacups my grandmother gave me 4 teacups from the 1940s when I was 16. Then from there I have collected these I am now 58. My youngest daughter is getting married and I m going to give her my most prized teacup for her. She has always been in awe over my teacups. Hopefully she will carry this on with her family

Linnea on March 16, 2016:

My sister gave me a teacup shower, now almost 30 years ago! She asked all the guests to bring a bone china teacup-- all were from England. She had moved to British Columbia, and said it was a strong tradition there. They've moved with me everywhere, as beautiful as the day they were opened, most still intact; and I have a list of who gave me each one (mostly cousins and aunts). Starting with about 20, I've continued to collect favorites over the years, plus some legacies-- now more than doubled. An absolute treasure, thanks so much, sis! (my maid of honor)

annieangel1 on September 21, 2014:

I love art deco and some of these pictures made my mouth water.

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on September 18, 2014:

Oh I loved reading about the tradition of a tea cup shower. I will certainly share this with my sister who loves tea cups.

Stephanie Tietjen from Albuquerque, New Mexico on December 01, 2012:

I had a friend who had a collection like this. Every time we went shopping, we looked at tea cups. I have some Japanese tea cups that I love. I love your interesting.

bossypants on June 03, 2012:

One of my great aunts gave me a tea cup each year for my birthday. The collection remained boxed, sadly, until it was sold for lack of space. I hope the cups went to people like you who are treasuring them!

Aquablocks on May 07, 2012:

I got my silver cups from Paris and they have served me well. I like the shine though they need special care in cleaning and storage.

glowchick on April 28, 2012:

I do not have a teacup collection but I love this idea!