When planning an upcoming, intimate, period themed event – say for a bridal shower, birthday party, or just because, consider having your party be a Victorian inspired high tea. Give me a chance to explain, they are fun, especially if you’re a history loving nerd like I am that likes to spend weekends watching dorky BBC documentaries. The history part of it is what makes it fun, it wouldn’t be as exciting to pull out some nice china, brew fancy loose leaf tea and wear a trendy romper or worse yet, leave the china in your grandma’s cabinet and drink tea out of styrofoam or Ikea, no that’s not what I’m talking about. The fun part is dressing the part and putting on the Downton Abby theme song while sipping tea out of antique tea cups.
For the wild and crazy kick off to my bachelorette party, my girlfriend treated me to a high tea at a cafe in a nearby town. The tea came complete with a lace table cloth and heated, raised tea pot with a lit candle underneath to keep it warm. We chose our selection of sandwiches that came out as triangles on tiered serving trays. There were little sweet treats on beautiful china. The other events of my bachelorette party were not nearly as reserved as my Victorian collared shirt of the high tea, but for two whole hours we were as proper as ladies of the house.
Somebody paid attention to my affinity for tea and history and planned a gorgeous tea bridal party. The bridal party was put on by my aunts and sister. The location could not have been more perfect – it was held on the wraparound porch of my aunt’s fantastically restored Victorian brick house. There were five tables on the porch for guests with each one having it’s own individual set of vintage china. My aunt had collected them at estate sales and second hand shops and she put them to good use for the tea party. She even made homemade cookies that so precisely resembled a real teabag that I had to double take at the teacups when I first walked on the porch to realized that they were edible. There’s a recipe here for similar cookies.
Tea parties are a nice changes of pace to parties with alcohol because they’re generally quite and well mannered so conversation can be easily had. They cost less since alcohol doesn’t add to the cost of hosting, but they do require time to plan ahead. Things need to be collected, borrowed, or pulled out of cupboards. Hunting for the bargains and the sets with the most beautiful or unique patters is fun though, so the work ahead of time doesn’t feel like work at all. Our local thrift store often does 50% off of items if they’ve been in the store prior to a specific date, so it wouldn’t be uncommon to walk out of there with a four piece china set for around $5.
Of course the major benefit of using vintage items is that they’re real. No plastic forks, cups, or straws. Less waste and an appreciation for what was once very special items of the home. At my bridal tea party, my aunts took the zero waste even further than the teacups and saucers, they also put vintage table cloths on each table along with linen napkins. Some napkins had vintage lace napkin holders that added to the period theme. Another way to decrease waste would be to use teabags that do not have strings or labels, my favorite brand in the U.S. for that very reason of not messing with strings is Celestial Seasonings. A step beyond would be to get loose leaf tea in bulk in a reusable container brought in from home or even beyond that, to dry your own herbal teas from the garden, mint being my favorite and easiest.
Other ideas for your future tea party are to dress up for the occasion. Theme your tea party as Victorian like mine was or more modern such as the 1950’s. If you have it in the summer have some iced teas as well or instead of hot teas. If hosting a tea party seems like too much work then find a local cafe or bed and breakfast that hosts one. The tea that I went to was in Warren, PA at a cafe called The Arbor Coffee House (reservations are required for high teas in advance.) Make your tea party unique to you, try to create as little waste as possible, and remind yourself that tea parties are for grown ups (and men,) too.