How to Plan and Host a Tea Party

round wooden table with lace doilies and a runner on top. The table is set with teacups and a bouquet of tulips

Despite the fact that there is still snow here in Alberta, the calendar does say that it is now Spring! And now that Spring is finally on its way…that means it’s time for a tea party to celebrate, right? I hosted a small party last week for my mom and sister and a friend and, since I’ve hosted quite a few tea parties over the years, I thought I’d share some of my tips for how to plan one for yourself. Whether you are planning for a large or small group, here are my tips for how to plan and host a tea party!

bouquet of tulips wrapped in paper

Choose an Occasion or Theme

While you can always host a party “just because”, it is also fun to host one for an occasion. Your occasion could be something simple, like mine in honour of Spring, or something much more elaborate and involved like an Anne of Green Gables themed tea, or a Hat and Glove or Victorian tea where guests dress up in appropriate attire. The benefit of choosing a theme or occasion is that it gives you something to work around, and will make your other decisions a little bit easier.

Outdoors or Indoors?

I love hosting outdoor events- there is nothing more photogenic than a tea table set out on the lawn. However, the most beautiful of table settings can quickly turn into the most disastrous when the weather doesn’t cooperate. Any outdoor event calls for two times the amount of planning: a Plan A for if the weather cooperates, and a Plan B in case it doesn’t. If you plan for an outdoor event, you have to consider rain, sun, heat, wind, bugs….the list goes on. Make sure that you’ve thought of how to deal with those things, and whether you can move the tea party indoors if the need arises. I’ve hosted two parties before where we had to go inside last minute because of rain.

table indoors set and ready for a tea party

Small and Cosy… or Large and Social

Once you’ve chosen the occasion and location for your party, it’s time to decide how large of a group you would like to host. Both large and small gatherings have their benefits, but they also have unique considerations.

If you are thinking of hosting a larger group (and by this I mean 20+ guests) take into account the size of the room or outdoor space you are planning to host in and how much seating the space will allow. How many chairs will you need? How many teacups and plates do you have? Will you be able to borrow, rent or buy more, if your group is quite large? Also, how much advance preparation and cleanup do you want to do? Will you be able to get someone to help you?

china cabinet with stacks of teacups and plates

Large parties can be fun, because you have lots of opportunity to mingle and visit with people. When we have hosted larger parties for the ladies in my church, we’ve had between 20-30 ladies show up which is great for visiting with people I don’t know very well already. My family has a huge living room as well as outdoor space, to accommodate a lot of guests, but we did have to borrow tea cups since we didn’t have enough. There was also a lot of upheaval in the planning, baking, moving furniture around, and cleanup for this large of a group; and there were three of us sharing the workload. As well, in this day and age, people don’t always RSVP, so you have to account for surprise guests as well as guests not showing up (in which case you might have a lot of leftovers!)

If you choose to host a smaller group, many of these considerations will be negligible. A party of six can easily fit around most dining tables, or in your living room without having to bring extra chairs, and you’ll most likely have enough dishes to go around without borrowing extras. Another advantage of a small party is that you probably won’t break into smaller conversation groups, which gives you a chance to visit with all of your guests. However, you’ll want to make sure that you choose your guest list carefully so you don’t end up with a group of introverts who have no idea how to get a conversation going!

Invitations and RSVP’s

If you are having a smaller more informal gathering, you might be able to invite people on short notice, but if you are hosting a larger group, you really will need to give more time for people to schedule it in. You generally want to invite people several weeks before the event so they have time to check their schedules as well as allowing for time to RSVP. In my experience, most people won’t RSVP (so frustrating!) so you’ll probably have to follow up with them closer to the date as you begin to plan for food.

tea party invitation

A real paper invitation is always an elegant touch and is also helpful for guests, so they don’t forget the date or time. In this day and age a real invitation stands out, but it doesn’t have to be elaborate; I usually print out invitations. But, of course, if you are planning only several days in advance, then texting or phoning is fine too.  The most important thing is getting the information to the people you want to spend time with, of course!

Decorations & Centrepieces

Now for the fun part: figuring out how to decorate your table(s). For a larger group, you may want to have a buffet style serving, in which case you could add your decorations to the food and drinks tables instead of the tables you’ll sit at.

Since my tea party was to celebrate the arrival of Spring, I chose a bouquet of tulips- my favourite Spring flower! Unfortunately the pink tulips didn’t last long, and you can see how they are bending downwards. I had them in a shorter vase, but they were touching the table top, so I had to change out the vase for taller one…which meant I couldn’t actually keep them in the centre of the table during the party. You should always keep your centrepieces either low or high so as not to obstruct the guests’ view across the table. Since this vase was tall it meant that the tulips were right at eye level, so once we sat down at the table I removed the flowers so we could easily pass the food around and converse.

table set with lace and pink and white floral china teacups for a spring tea party. A bouquet of pink and white tulips is in the background.

As for setting the table, the fun part is pulling out the pretty dishes and linens! I took cues from my flowers and chose a pink and white colour scheme for the dishes. I didn’t have a tablecloth the right size for this table in white, so I used a runner and two doilies as placemats, and I quite like how it turned out!

a drawer open with linens and lace doilies spilling out

Always try out your table setting in advance of the party, so you can see if you need to change your plan. I was originally going to use a different Battenberg lace runner and two placemats, but I couldn’t find the second placemat! After looking everywhere for it (except where it was, obviously…) I had to change my plan to these doilies instead. Of course, I did later find the other placemat, but I decided to use this arrangement since it was already set up to go.

If you’re hosting a themed event, this is time to bring that theme to life with your decor. For example, at the aforementioned Anne of Green Gables tea, how about using vintage books and a slate with a quote written on it as your centrepiece?

Plan Your Menu

Of course, there will be tea, at a Tea Party… but what do you want to serve alongside it? A themed tea can definitely guide your menu- for example- at the Anne of Green Gables Tea serving ice cream, raspberry cordial and carrot cake would be a perfect fit. But if you don’t have a theme, you can also do a variety of foods of your own choosing.

plate of lemon squares

I usually do sweets at tea parties, but if you are planning a high tea (so named because you sit at a “high” table, not with occasional tables) you might want to serve a variety of sweet and savoury. This time, I chose lemon squares because they seem to capture the essence of Spring; something about citrus always tastes like Spring to me. If you’d like to try my recipe, you can get it here.

It is also a good idea to ask your guests if they have any dietary restrictions you can reasonably accommodate. And if you won’t be able to bake something for everyone, you can serve fruit on the side. Fruit makes a nice palette cleanser as well as being something almost every guest can eat. Toasted nuts are also a good choice.

plate with a lemon square on it and pouring cream into a cup of tea

As well as choosing food, what varieties of tea will you serve? I love black Orange Pekoe, and drink it every day, but for a tea party it’s nice to offer some other blends, as well as having a variety of caffeinated and non caffeinated versions. I usually make a pot of one tea blend- this time we chose Lavender Earl Grey- and sit other options on the side that guests can choose to make single cup of if they’d prefer.

a plate of lemon squares with a bouquet of pink and white tulips sitting behind it

Prepare What You Can in Advance

Finally, this is my best advice: prep everything you possibly can before the day of the party. And if you are a list person, like me, you should definitely write a list of everything that needs to be done- right down to the smallest task. That way you can make sure that everything that can be prepared in advance is done beforehand. It’s fine to do some things last moment, but you don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen trying to finish cutting up squares as guests are arriving. I like to have the table all set and ready, the desserts baked, and maybe even cut and plated, the day before. It really takes a lot of stress off to have as many things finished in advance as you possibly can. You don’t want to be running around like mad at the last moment, with curlers in your hair and flinging dirty dishes into the dishwasher as guests are coming up the driveway (yes I have done that!)

a pink and white floral teacup with tea in it

I love hosting tea parties, and while elaborate plans can be fun, remember that the most important thing is spending time with friends. With a bit of planning, hosting isn’t difficult at all, and even if something goes awry, it’s not the end of the world. I hope that these tips inspire you to start hosting your own tea parties…writing this post has definitely inspired me to start having them more often!

Have you ever hosted or attended a tea party? What theme would you choose if you were hosting? And is it feeling like Spring where you live?

round dining table set for a tea party with tulips and pink and white teapot and teacups

a small plate with a lemon square on it and a cup of tea in the background

Social Saturday | March 26

pink tulips in a tiny vase sitting on a windowsill

Happy Saturday, Dear Reader. How was your week? Mine was a busy one full of inside projects. Inside because, even though I would love to be outside enjoying the sunshine, my allergies have been acting up because of the melting snow and resulting snow mould…so indoors I am staying until it, hopefully, dries up out there. At least I was able to bring some Spring indoors with a bouquet of tulips! Some of the pink ones wilted very quickly so I made them into a mini bouquet for my windowsill.

stack of vintage pillowcases and sheets to make into a quilt

I’ve started keeping a master “To Do” list in a note on my computer and it has been an absolute game changer in terms of getting projects done. I’ve got different categories and have been adding everything from simple tasks like “wash a load of white laundry” to more complex, future projects like “refinish antique dresser”. Some projects I won’t get to right away, but it’s been nice to be able to keep track of all the plans I come up with. I used to write out a list in my schedule, but I wouldn’t get to everything through the week and didn’t always carry things through to the next week. Keeping an electronic list that I can delete items and add items to without running out of paper has been great so far. This week I was busy working on my quilt…again. I didn’t like how it turned out last time, so I added another layer to it, and am now stitching a proper quilt binding around the edge.

an open decorating book and a cup of tea in front of it

I also got some decorating books from the library and had a fun time paging through them for inspiration. As nice as the internet can be, there is still something even nicer about looking at a decorating book. I really enjoyed “Feels Like Home” by Marian Parsons of Miss Mustard Seed blog, and have actually decided to buy this one for my own bookshelf. It feels like the sort of book I will want to refer to again in the future, especially because it’s more of a “how to” and not just inspiration.

a vintage evening bag hanging on the wall with other pictures

After I finished looking at those decor books I was inspired to add this little purse to my gallery wall in my bedroom. It was my Gramma’s and I never use it, because I never really have an occasion to wear it, so this is the perfect place for it to live. And if I ever do have an occasion, I can easily take it down!

And finally, because it is officially Spring now, it was time for me to switch out my winter encaustic artwork by Donna Hanson for my Spring/Summer one!

Well, it’s back to stitching (my quilt) for me. What are your plans for this weekend?

encaustic artwork of a yellow field and blue sky

Vintage Fur of Yesteryear

wearing a tan wool jacket and a fox fur stole

There is danger when you scroll through the Poshmark “vintage” tag with the intent to not purchase anything, because you very well might just find something to purchase. And when you’re looking at vintage items (especially when you find one for a good price) you know you might never find anything like it ever again. I’m not usually an impulse buyer, but when I saw this little vintage fur fellow in excellent condition, I decided he had to come and live with me.

wearing a tan wool jacket a fox fur stole a pearl necklace and a cream ring

I know that feelings run high when it comes to fur, and some people might find wearing a fox fur stole macabre, but I quite like this little guy. Fur collars and stoles with the head and tails were very popular through the first half of the 20th century, and in my vintage Sears catalogue books they have quite a few available in the 1920’s and 30’s. In a world of PVC and polyester, where fur, and even leather, has started to become taboo, it is strange to see advertisements for furs that can’t be mistaken as anything but dead animals.

wearing a tan blazer embroidered shell and pearl necklace

I haven’t had an occasion to wear him out, so I had to create my own occasion for his debut. I actually don’t know whether I will ever wear him; I think he would need a very particular occasion, and he is kind of hard to wear because of where the clasp goes. I’m also a little concerned that despite the fact he is in great vintage condition, furs do become fragile with age and I don’t want damage him through pulling and strain.

Anyway, the moral of this story is: don’t browse through vintage clothing unless you are fully prepared to bring some pieces into your collection!

closeup of fox fur stole

Social Saturday | March 12

glass cloches with dried flowers butterflies and moss

We’ve made it through another week, dear Reader! How was yours? My week was good; nothing out of the ordinary happened. I did some redecorating in my room in anticipation of spring…dried flowers, a butterfly and some moss in my cloches.

painting with milk paint and writing letters on pretty stationery

This picture above of painting with the milk paint was from ages ago, but I never posted it, so here it is now. We did finish that storage cabinet this week; sealing it with the linseed oil and assembling it. It’s finished, but we have to wait for it to fully cure before we move it into the sewing room. I hate waiting- I want to move it in now and start organizing the space!

afternoon teatime with carrot cake

I made a carrot cake this week. This is probably my favourite recipe; it substitutes some of the oil for applesauce. One of the problems with carrot cake can be that it’s too oily, and the applesauce fixes that problem wonderfully!

wobblert the american buff gander

The last image I will leave you with this week is this one of our gander Wobblert. It’s a long story of why he has that name, but mainly because he has a problem with his legs and he wobbles. It’s a fitting name. He was mad that I dared to come and take a photo of him, so he climbed up on this snow drift and hissed at me. He’s not actually very mean, but I am always a bit wary since he bit my foot last year when the geese were trying to hatch eggs and he was overly protective of them!

Anyways, that was my week! How was yours? Any plans for the weekend and for next week? 

Social Saturday | March 5 (Winter Again!)

galvanized metal quanset surrounded by trees covered in white frost

And here I am again with more winter photos even though I just posted some on Tuesday…however I woke up this morning and was greeting with this beautiful sight, so of course I had to take my camera out to capture it! I never tire of seeing a beautiful frost. Do you get frost where you live?

a line of spruce trees covered in frost

I haven’t done a “lately” post for a while, so here are some things I’ve been up to.

What I’ve been reading– The “Daughters of Fortune” series by Judith Pella. I received this set for Christmas, though it took forever to arrive (bought from Thrift Books) so I just started reading it now. It’s one of my favourite book series, set in WWII.

branches covered in large white snowflakes and frost silhouetted against a blue sky

What I’ve been watching– I just found out about this movie “Sabina, Tortured For Christ: The Nazi Years”. I wasn’t familiar with Sabina Wurmbrand at all, so it was really fascinating to watch this part of her life. It is available to watch for free this weekend (March 4-6) here. All you have to do is register.

row of graineries in different colours of grey, blue and red covered in snow

What I’m thankful for– The fact that I am feeling much better after being sick for several weeks. It’s so nice to get back into the swing of things- work, sewing and other projects. Even just giving your bedroom a good sweep and dusting feels good when you haven’t been able to do it for a while. It’s crazy how much things pile up when you’re stuck in bed!

seed cone and a pine tree covered in snow and silhouetted against the blue sky

What I’ve been making– My mom and I started painting a storage cabinet in January, but then put it on hold once I got sick. It is our first time using milk paint, and I’ve been quite enjoying it. Now we just have to oil it and then we’re done. I am hoping to finally finish it today! Have you ever tried milk paint?

snow covered road lined with frosty trees

What I’ve been eating– This recipe went viral last year, so probably everyone has tried the Tomato Feta Pasta, but if you haven’t yet, you really should. I used this recipe from The Daily Connoisseur”. Since we didn’t have enough fresh tomatoes, I used some diced canned tomatoes, and it turned out just as good!

branches covered in sparkling white frost against a blue sky

What I’ve been working on: Adding a bunch of my artwork to my shops! I have started re-listing pieces on my Poshmark Shop, and some will make their way to my Art Shop too. I decided not to renew my contract with the art gallery in town, so all of the pieces that I was showing there will be making their way to the shops in the coming weeks.

Well, that’s what I have going on right now. What plans do you have for this weekend? Whatever you do, I hope it is a good one!

a view of a valley with trees and an old gas tank in the foreground covered with snow