Tuesday, April 1, 2008
HAVE A THEMED TEA PARTY!! HOW FUN!!
The tea-cha is really excited about this week's tea post. We're going to talk about how to have a themed tea party!!
There are sooo many kinds of themes for tea parties--Readings, Garden, Meet-n-Greet, Scripture, Scrapbooking or other Hobby Shares, Prayer, etc. I'd like to focus on just one today, and I think the explanation will be fairly simple. I'll TRY to keep it short, but if you've read through my blog, you know how hard that is, but I DO try!! The one I'd like to share is Readings. This one can be for just women or couples.
Pick an excerpt from your favorite short story, historical literature, or an insprirational poem, and get planning!!
First, you'll need to plan way ahead of time. Send out invitations at least 2 weeks in advance so that you can be put on other's calendar or they can call you ahead of time if they can't make it. Knowing who is coming (or not) is crucial to party planning. Think of all of your friends who love reading, writing, hearing poetry read, etc. I would say even invite ones that may not have shared with you whether they like this kind of stuff or not. They might be pleasantly surprised at least. Make a list. Remember if you have limited space, you need limited amounts of friends.
Include instructions in the invitation envelope (If some of your friends have never been to your house, include short directions too, or send them via email). Let them know what kind of party you'll be having. This is your chance to tell them what to bring (the reading choices) and what to wear as well. Print these instructions on beautiful paper if possible, something that will go along with your theme or something classic, that will look good with any theme. For this party, let your guests know that they need to find their favorite quote, reading, poem, piece of literature, etc. Probably your friends know you and so know what kind of readings are welcome at your party. If you're not sure about that, maybe you need to be more specific on the instruction sheet. Make sure you set a time limit on the time each person will be allowed to read. Decide whether you want this to be elegant and semi-formal or cool and casual. People need and want to know what they should wear at tea parties.
Once your invitations are sent and your atmosphere (casual, dressy, whatever) is chosen, time to think details. How much time will you be giving each person to read, when will they get to read, what area in your house or other gathering spot will you have set up for them to read or will they do it from where they sit? You will want to decide whether you want a sit-down tea party at a table or tables or let people sit where they want in a room. I like the latter approach for this theme better because it will be more relaxing and easier for people to see and hear the speaker. This means that you can set up your party "dining hall" or "buffet" style by putting your tea, cups, accessories, savories, and sweets on a beautifully decorated table and people can help themselves. You can also have a server who goes around and refills tea cups.
Make a list of all of the items you will need: Loose leaf or bagged tea (what flavors? or will this be seasonal? You can choose your tea flavors according to that. How many teas will you offer. If you're doing this party alone, the fewer the better. Two would be a great offer in this case), nice porcelain, china, or stoneware serving plates, serving utensils, tiered serving dishes, cream and sugar bowls (offer different kinds of sweeteners-include sugar substitutes-you'll need a container for those packets too), tea cups (get creative-these don't have to come from a full set. If you just want an individual set to match, but no set is the same as someone else's, go for it. I love this! It's still beautiful and offers diversity and style.), ingredients for the savory and sweets you've chosen (go online. there are lots and lots of tea menu ideas and recipe), centerpieces, flowers (decide whether you want to invest in fresh or faux-both can be pretty), table cloths, napkins (for a buffet style or dining hall type tea party, you can use beautifully decorated or white quality, paper napkins), plates and eating utensils (again, since this is buffet style, you may, depending on the atmosphere, etc., want to use pretty, clear plastic utensils and quality, designer, printed plastic plates or clear ones, but you can surely use your own silver or stainless and china, tea pots, and water pitchers. I may be leaving something out, but you'll notice by the time you go along. The set-up is really quite simple, but simplicity doesn't negate elegance and charm. Use as much of your own items as you can, if you need to save. I do (need to save, that is:))
Look around your gathering spot and see how things can be set up. If you have a library in your home, this would be the perfect room. If not, maybe a room where you have lots of small tables of differing heights and books strategically placed (just an "inviting" and comfy living room would work too). Play around with it beforehand. Set up a "practice" tea party setting. See what you like about it and what you don't. See if you're going to need to add something to the room or take something out. Solicit help and ideas from neighbors and friends (and websites).
When your day arrives, start preparing and baking early. Some things may be prepared the night before, especially decorations. Some things may need to be pulled out of the oven for freshness and warmth, right before you guests are set to arrive. Be prepared for this and time things just right. You or someone else should be prepared to greet guests as they come through the door. Explain briefly the seating arrangements. Make an announcement or welcome to everyone. Decide if you want to first allow a casual and brief meet-n-greet before delving into the theme. Go according to your planned schedule on the speaking. Let eveyone know to relax, sip, listen, and enjoy as the speaker starts reading. It would really be great if the speaker has memorized what they're going to say. Let your speakers know that probably no one in the room is a professional speaker, but does have something interesting to say, so don't worry. People will be impressed with the words and effort. If someone is too shy to speak, as a host/hostess, offer to read it for them or ask for any volunteers in the room. No one needs to feel embarrassed, although they would have known what was expected of the early on.
Be prepared to excuse yourself in between readings or have someone at your home (maybe the teen neighbor who wants to help or an older child) to continue to keep the party trays, serving dishes, plates, tea pots, etc. refilled. You will have the refills already prepared in the kitchen or preparation area. If you have to do this alone, this will be a good time for your guests to discuss what they just heard, compliment the reader, contemplate, or refill their plates or cups.
Have party favors if you'd like. I like the idea personally. If you choose to do this, place them on a special table that's nicely decorated or sprinkle them around the buffet table, in between trays, etc. for added decoration. That's going to depend on how big or small the favors are. Let your guests know to pick up one before they leave. Attach a little thank you note card by ribbon or cord to it. For this type of party, you can find favors in the shape of a book or scroll. Get creative and make something. You can always resort to my favorite favor, an old teacup with matching saucer to take home, or be prepared to give away the one they're drinking from if you've found sets that don't match. Have empty gift boxes near the door so that they can pack their tea cup in it when finished, and take it home. If you choose the tea cup idea, place a rolled scroll tied with ribbon around it, with your "thank you" written in calligraphy on it. Tie the scroll to the handle or wrap the tea cup in tulle and attach the scroll to the ribbon you use to gather the tulle at the top.
This type of tea party will be unforgettable. You may just start something. Someone may host one just like it at their house the next time and then someone else the next. You'll be getting together for poetry readings, etc. on a regular basis. How stimulating and fun!! Play around with my ideas a bit, until you come up with the a wonderful Readings tea party of your own.
Please give me comments on tea party themes you've had that were successful, and if you have a Readings tea party, let me know how it went!!
Have a TERRIFIC TUESDAY!!