If you know me personally, it is not a secret that I enjoy hosting tea parties. I have hosted 3 large parties, as well as attended afternoon tea many times before. I think the most fun part about hosting a tea party is picking out a theme and running with it. This brings us to our first step.
1. Choose a theme for your tea party. Do you want to throw a Mad Tea Party based off of Alice in Wonderland, go more traditional with a floral theme, throw a princess tea party or maybe go shabby chic? Once you pick your theme you can get the ball rolling from there. If you need help with theme ideas, Pinterest is full of them. Maybe you don’t pick a traditional theme and just go crazy. I think a Halloween tea or a goth tea would be fun! It also helps when picking a theme to think about who will be attending your party and what type of theme they would enjoy.
Here are some ideas: Mad Tea Party, Floral, Princess, Shabby Chic, Black and White, Christmas, Halloween, Easter, Mardi Gras, Era themed, Ocean, Harry Potter, Rainbow, Candy, French, English, etc.
2. Once you have the theme locked in, you have to set your date and your time. Most afternoon teas take place between 1:00 pm-4:00 pm, but they certainly can be at whatever time works best for you and your guests. After figuring out the when, where, and who, its time to send out invites. Most people use Facebook for sending out event invites which is a pretty efficient and easy way to get the word out there. If you are looking for a more traditional and fun way, I would suggest making up super cute invitations and sending them out to your guests. Who doesn’t like getting a fun piece of mail that isn’t a bill?! You should also decide and include the dress code for the party in the invites. Is this a fancy tea party, a costume party, hat/scarf party, a black and white party or maybe just wear a flower crown? Let your guests know so they can plan their outfits.
3. Now that your party is a go, it’s time to start collecting decor. I have found that part of the success of a tea party is the ambiance created by the decor. You are welcome to go over the top crazy or just do a very simple elegant design.
For my Mad Tea Party, I had my husband draw up a bunch of Alice in Wonderland characters on poster boards and I colored them. We hung them up all around the room. I also hand made a bunch of paper lanterns in all shapes and sizes and hung them from the ceiling. I tried to really make the space feel like you were transported to Wonderland. I went to Savers and picked up all different colors of table cloths, I bought a bunch of different colored glass vases/flowers from the 99cent store as center pieces and I tried to find other little knick knacks that represented things from Wonderland. I sewed napkins out of all sorts of colorful fabric remnants. I had a bunch of flowers and put them up in one corner to represent the singing flowers from the movie. I also bought some colorful shower curtains and made a fabric strip backdrop which I hung up for people to use in their pictures.
For the tea party I hosted for my Grandmothers birthday I went much lighter on decor and just had pretty table cloths and small vases with fresh flowers. Fresh flowers always add a pop of color and a fresh scent. I also bought fun colorful scarfs from the Dollar store and tied them to the back of the chairs.
Some great places to find cheap decor pieces are Savers, Goodwill, Dollar Tree and the 99 Cent Store. I also love Hobby Lobby, Michael’s and Joann’s, but they can be a bit pricer. Making your own decor is also a lot of fun and a lot more budget friendly. Pinterest is great for decor ideas also. Some basic decor ideas would be tablecloths, vases with flowers or candles, and table numbers. When it comes to centerpieces, keep in mind that your guests will want to be able to see each other and talk, so make sure they are low profile pieces. They also shouldn’t take up too much space on the table because you will need a lot of space for other items on the table.
4. Next you can decide if you want to give your guest some sort of take away from the party. You could provide little bags or to-go boxes for extra food from the party. You could bake some sugar cookies or make little chocolates to take away. I am hosting a tea in June and I made up some little decorative soaps for all the ladies who will be attending. For my Mad Tea Party I made sugar cookies that said “Eat Me” on them and filled little bottles with red/blue Kool-Aid that had a tag saying “Drink Me” on them. For my Grandma’s birthday party I bought a bunch of cute scarfs from Dollar Tree and had them tied to the back of the chairs as part of the decor, but they could take them home after the party. If you don’t want to do a take away, don’t do one! You are already throwing them a nice party, so you don’t have to go that step further if you don’t want to.
5. Another thing to think about is whether you want to have games or activities at the party. For my Mad Tea Party we played toss the sugar cube in the tea cup. Silly little game, but we had fun. Tea parties certainly don’t need games or activities, but they add a bit of fun. They are great for children’s tea parties.
6. Now you need to start collecting all the items you need to be able to serve your guests. Napkins, small plates, utensils, tea cups, tea pots, tea warmer, tea candles, tongs, tiered serving plates, something that will make a lot of hot water quickly, a cream holder, sugar bowl, and bowls for lemon curd/clotted cream/jams,. You don’t necessarily need all of these items, but they do make the table feel more complete. Once again Dollar Tree and the 99cent store have colorful napkins, utensils, plates and tablecloths. If you are looking for tea cups, tea pots and tiered serving plate holders, Savers and Goodwill always have a good selection of them. Don’t worry if you can’t find matching tea sets. Some of the cutest tea sets I’ve seen are mismatched and beautiful. I have also seen where you can make tiered serving trays. If you actually want to purchase a full matching set, I am sure you can go on Ebay, Amazon or Etsy to find some.
7. Now you need to decide on a menu for your tea party. Normally there are tea sandwiches, scones and desserts served at an afternoon tea. You are welcome to break the mold by having other small appetizers like salads, soups or fruit. It is your party so go wild if you want. I normally have 2-4 small sandwich options, 1-2 scone flavors, and 3-4 dessert options. You obviously also want a nice assortment of teas for your guests to choose from, sugar/milk for them to put in their tea, and clotted cream/lemon curd/jams for them to spread on the scones. Having a pitcher of ice water, fruit infused water or iced tea for your guests to drink so they have more than one option is always a thoughtful idea. You should also consider your guests and their food allergies. Maybe make scones that are gluten free, have fresh fruit and veggies, or make a gluten free dessert.
Here is a basic menu I have used in the past:
Cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches, turkey/apple/gouda sandwiches, ham and swiss sandwiches
Plain and blueberry scones
Brownie bites, lemon bites, and sugar cookies.
Keep in mind that if you buy pre-made desserts or food items, it cuts out a lot of work and baking time. I normally make the scones a night or two before the party, I buy pre-made desserts and then I make the sandwiches an hour before everyone arrives. Sandwiches need to be made an hour prior to the party so they stay fresh. The bread on the sandwiches need to be coated with mayonnaise, sauce or butter to keep the bread moist. I also like to cut the crusts off the bread and cut them into triangles. If you want your food to have a fancier look, use cookie cutters to make fun shaped sandwiches, fruits or veggies.
8. The day has finally arrived and its time to set up. I personally like to set up the tables and decor the night before if possible to cut out a lot of work the day of so I can focus on making the food. I usually set up the tables with 4-6 people seated at a table. I place a table cloth, napkins, utensils, small plates, a creamer, a sugar bowl, the bowls for the spreads, tongs, a tea pot, tea pot heater, a small vase with fresh flowers and a three tiered plate on each table. I either match the tea set to the table decor or I just put random sets together to make the tables fun. On each three tiered plate, the bottom plate holds the sandwiches, the middle plate holds the scones and the top plate holds the desserts. You can also put on some nice light background music that matches your theme to add another layer of ambiance but this is also not necessary.
9. As the party progresses, make sure all the tables are restocked with everything occasionally and that your guests aren’t in need of anything. If you want to enjoy the party yourself, maybe ask some friends ahead of time that aren’t into tea parties if they would be willing to be servers at your event. All in all, make sure you have fun and enjoy your party. So many people run around like chickens with their heads cut off and don’t enjoy themselves when they host a party. Don’t worry about it being perfect, just enjoy the moment.
I am going to post an album of photos to my photo page of past parties I set up as well as the one I will be hosting soon.