Ah, the perfect afternoon tea party! It doesn’t have to be an overwhelming affair. There are some basic ingredients that every tea party should include, but from there you can dress up or dress down to whatever your preferences might be.
First, the guest list. Tea for Two or Tea for Twenty or more? Think of your loved ones with whom you’d like to catch up or pamper. These may be relatives, friends, co-workers or neighbors. Decide if you want to include children or if you prefer a grown-ups-only affair. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it.
Next, the invitations themselves.The nice thing about our modern society is that there are no etiquette police to tell you the correct way to issue invitations. You know your preferences, so do what feels most comfortable to you. If you’re completely unsure, here are some ideas:
An online invitation and event planning website, like Evite.com or PaperlessPost.com. You can choose the invitation design and features you want, the invitation is emailed to your guest list, and your guest replies are tracked automatically so you always have an accurate headcount.
Handwritten invitations – Choose the stationary and design you want, and mail or hand-deliver the invitations to your guests.
It will probably come as no surprise that nearly all of Kat’s invitations are online, while Char wouldn’t have dreamed of anything but a handwritten missive. But, do you know, their circles of friends simply loved the fact of being invited! Mode never factored in.
No matter how you invite your guests, provide all the event details, such as the event name, time, date, location, dress code (if you care) and instructions on how and when to RSVP.
This is your afternoon tea, so let your personality shine through! There are so many ways you could go:
Traditional British, with lace tablecloths, matching china, and tiered serving trays.
Mix and match tea cups and place settings, vintage tablecloths, and casual wildflower bouquets.
Hand-thrown pottery cups, tea pots and platters. Fiestaware fans, have at it!
Basic necessities: tea pot, tea cups, plates, silverware, napkins, creamer & sugar bowl, serving platters for the food and sugar cubes (yes, I said it!). Tablecloths, floral arrangements, sugar tongs, tea infusers are completely optional.
Be free with your own style. It will be beautiful. It will be fun. It will be you.
Savories and sandwiches and scones are all at your discretion and should be as simple or as elaborate as you like. My personal preferences include cucumber sandwiches and egg salad sandwiches. There are multitudes of recipes now at your fingertips on the internet. Assemble sandwiches, trim the crusts off, and cut each sandwiches diagonally into four triangles. If you’d like to add additional types of sandwiches, think of your own favorite combinations: turkey and cranberry cream cheese, or ham and Swiss. If you’d like to add a savory item, think of a simple cheese platter or a basic quiche. Scones are a fun staple, and they don’t have to be difficult. Many scone mixes are readily available at your local grocery store. Add a small bowl of raspberry jam and a bowl of heavy whipped cream and your scones will certainly be on the best dressed list. To add color and to fill the table, add in a fruit platter. Even a combination of red and green grapes can add to the offering but still keep costs in check.
The tea party itself! As you greet your guests, show them where to go or what to do. If you’re having a more formal sit-down tea, lead them to the appetizers or aperitifs. If it’s a more casual buffet-type affair, encourage them to help themselves!
There’s no need to stick to any formal agenda. Enjoy your family and friends, catch up a little,immerse yourself in the moment. Do let people get to the actual tea service sooner rather than later. Your guests will wait for your direction, so don’t leave them hanging for too long. Tell them about what you’re serving. Point out any dietary concessions, such as gluten-free, nut-free or caffeine-free options.
Fill their cup. Literally and figuratively. Introduce the selections you’ve chosen, leave room for milk and sugar, and for this hour or two,enjoy it all! That’s what sharing afternoon tea is all about – enjoying time together.