Event Planning: Afternoon Tea
Yes, it is in the prime-time of autumn, yet I could not start off my blog without sharing with you all one of my favorite events I've planned: a tea party. My obsession with both tea and the show Downton Abbey led me naturally to choose this theme for my 17th birthday party last summer. Although of course the afternoon tea itself was very delightful, my favorite part was definitely in the planning of the littledetails and menu items to fit with the theme. Enjoy!
Because this tea happened toward the end of summer, I tried to keep all of the decorations as summery as possible with lots of whites and florals. Although I had a couple teacups already, I got a majority of the cups from a local antique store for $1.50 a piece. I also got these small plates from this same store for about $2 each. Although it can be hard to find steals like this around town, I would definitely recommend perusing your local options before buying a bunch of cups on Amazon so that you can get a better idea of what they look like and what condition they are in. However, if none can be found, Amazon has quite a few relatively inexpensive options. Also, the teapots above are ones that I already had, but these can be purchased pretty easily and sometimes cheaply from local stores or Amazon. As shown, I set the teacups on top of cake tiers to keep the heat from them off of the table. These tiers added to the somewhat whimsical look of the table.
For the napkins and the tablecloth, I stayed with the all white theme. While this can definitely be altered depending on the season, these both look very crisp and clean for summer and spring. Although I already had the white table cloth, I did buy the cloth napkins from a home supply store in Memphis. Although they were a few dollars each, these are great linens to have around your house and can definitely be used after this event. I really loved the look of them folded into a pocket with the tea selection menu and a flower inside. I found a lot of napkin folding tutorials online and think this detail really added to the overall decor.
For the flowers, I went simple. I got a bouquet of small pink roses to put on each individual plate and then used some larger blush pink roses and baby's breath for the centerpiece. These flowers definitely transformed the overall look of the tea.
For the tea selections, we tried to have as wide of an array as possible. Because many of the people at the tea were not really tea-drinkers, I tried provide more teas that were on the fruity side and made sure to have a bowl on the table fully stocked with sugar cubes. We had several bags of tea at my house already and we supplemented these with bags that my aunt had as well. Tea bags can be expensive, especially when trying to buy a few different kinds, so I would definitely recommend asking friends and family for a couple of bags of their favorites in order to provide an assortment for your guests. After gathering my teas, I put the names of them onto a tea menu and then put the teas into a basket, clearly marking which was which. Although many did not really use the tea menu, it made a nice touch to the overall look of the table and was very simple to do. We also had a couple of other non-bagged tea drink options like some tea from Casablanca, a Mediterranean restaurant in Memphis, and a "Hummingbird Latte" made with lavender syrup and steamed milk. Although we added these to give my non-tea drinking friends more options, they mostly all wanted to give the bagged-teas a try and we ended up not really needing these other drinks.
Before the tea started, we had a small cheese plate and some fruit in my living room. This can be as simple as you want it to be and is not very necessary, yet it can be nice to have while waiting for the guests to arrive.
After going through Pinterest board after Pinterest board, I finally decided on the four finger sandwiches above as the ones I would serve once we all sat down to tea. Even if you aren't throwing a full on tea party, these sandwiches are great ones to have out as snacks at whatever event you are hosting. This is a good option for a group with many different food preferences because they can easily be made vegetarian and many have the potential to be made vegan. Out of these, my favorite was probably the turkey, muenster, and ciabatta slider (bottom sandwich in picture.) The top left sandwich is the egg and olive on a croissant, the top right is the salmon and dill bruschetta, and the middle is cream cheese, dill, and cucumber. Overall, these sandwiches were easy and inexpensive to make. I set them out on a cake tier so that the guests could take their pick of any of the sandwiches they would like.
As for the dessert, we opted for buying pastries at a local Memphis shop, La Baguette. Although these were more expensive than homemade pastries would have been, they did save us a lot of baking on the day of the event and allowed us to purchase a wide array of pastries that we would not have been able to make. Whether you decide to make these homemade or buy locally, they will be the perfect way to end your tea. Some good options are macaroons, shortbread cookies, and mini tarts.
For the invites, I opted for an emailed invite. Although this occasion is formal enough that a mailed letter would be super acceptable, I chose to go with Paperless Post primarily because my guests would be more likely to RSVP through this emailed system rather than a mailed letter. These cards are very cute and perfect for sending out invites on the fly!
For music, I just chose some light classical. Nothing fancy necessary - just a Pandora or Spotify classical station will create a nice ambience.
Overall, planning the tea may have been even more fun than actually having it. It can easily be done with a bunch of mix and match tea sets and tableware. Definitely do not feel like you have to go out and buy a bunch of tea pots and cups for this to be a success. Best of luck to all you party planners!