Friday, April 4, 2014

How to Host: A Tea Party!

Briana and I dearly love a good tea party, so much so, that we went to high tea at the Ritz Carlton in Buckhead as a part of Briana's bachelorette weekend.  I also went to a Christmas tea this past year and we had a great time (well, I did...I don't think menfolk appreciate teeny sandwiches like I do).  So, I decided to host my own tea party for some of my favorite girls in DC.  I didn't want it to be a super stuffy party, but I wanted it to look pretty and have lots of yummy food.  I had the tea party last weekend and we had

The Decor

I didn't want to do a typically pretty pretty pink princess party, so I decided to use my blue table throw and peach napkins from Habitat accented with metallics mixed in.  I only invited a small number of ladies so it was really easy to use china rather than paper plates at this party.  I used my everyday china (Kate Spade Larabee Road...yes, I know it's actually a fine china, but I say who cares?  I mix it in with Williams-Sonoma's Pillyvut Eclectique which is everyday china.)  I used the salad plates and the cup and saucers for each place setting. To serve lemonade, I also busted out my blue crystal glasses from Villeroy and Boch which were a wedding present I hadn't gotten to use yet!  I added a cute gold chevron paper straw to each glass which I found at Home Goods a couple of months ago.  For place settings, I used leftover paper doilies from my wedding which I bought at Michael's.  I used my everyday silverware that my mama bought for me when I moved into my first apartment by myself.

Tea for 5!

Don't you love a paper straw?
For decorations, I made two flower arrangements using grocery store flowers from Safeway (tutorial will be coming to Posh Purpose soon!) and two crystal bowls that I had gotten from Tiffany and Kate Spade (also as wedding gifts).

Ignore the wrinkles in the table throw...I took an iron to them later.

Finally, for favors I made personalized tea bag rests for each girl and laid them on their plates as the name cards (another tutorial to follow soon!).  I also bought paper boxes (purchased using a 40% off coupon) and put a pre-made stick on bow (3 for $1) from Michael's so that the girls could take home leftovers.  I also bought a split of prosecco for each girl (I picked the brand out based on the $2.99 price tag and the blue colored bottle) and made it festive by adding some silver curling ribbon I already owned.

Although I spent a bit of money on the flowers and favors, everything else I already owned.

Love this look!

To go boxes and prosecco favors

The Food
If you follow me on instagram (and you should!), you know that I made mini-pineapple upside down cakes with pink (that's!) maraschino cherries. I also made earl grey tea cookies and chocolate mousse which I spooned into pre-made chocolate tuxedo shells and topped with a raspberries.  No tea party could be complete without a macaroon, so I found some frozen ones at World Market that I got basically for free after using a $5 off of $15 coupon since I was already buying other non-party items.  Since I value my sanity and didn't want to drive myself nutso making tons of tea cookies, I asked each girl to bring a cookie to share.  I made all the baked goods on Friday and just filled the tuxedo cups on Saturday.  The macaroons just had to be dethawed.

I also served four kinds of tea sandwiches on Saturday morning - goat cheese and fig jam, pimento cheese, chicken salad, and what I am calling Elvis fluffernutters.  I bought the pimento cheese and chicken salad from Whole Foods.  The goat cheese and fig jam might seem fancy pants, but it's the equivalent of putting a PB&J together.  The Elvis fluffernutters were a variation on a recipe I had seen on How Sweet It Is (by far my fav food blog!) and consisted of peanut butter, bacon, and fluff (I chopped up the cooked bacon and mixed it in with the peanut butter).  The fluffernutters were by far the favorite sandwich!

For drinks, I served Simply Lemonade and Gloria Ferrer champagne (by far my favorite California "champagne").  For the tea, I used a strawberry lemonade herbal tea and a pineapple blooming tea, both from Teavana, that Mr. 3 had given to me as a present.  I bought brown sugar cubes for both champagne cocktails and for the tea.

The Set Up
Because I had a limited number of guests, I was able to have everyone seated around the dining table.  I repurposed my tea cart, which I've been using as a makeup vanity to set up the most of the food.  By using tiered stands, I was able to put out all my desserts while still having room for the sandwiches platter and a pitcher of lemonade.  I made a separate station using a nesting table with the tea, sugar, and lemon (seen above).  I also placed a tea strainer (purchased from World Market) on the nesting tables to make sure the loose tea leaves didn't fall in with the teacup.  I had the girls put their treats on the kitchen counter and I made everything self service.  While some people might not agree with making the food and drink self service, it freed up my time to chit chat and kept me from feeling awkward...I didn't want to feel like I was playing "lady of the manor" with my friends, plus I'm not the best tea pourer, so I didn't want all eyes on me.

I stored the to go boxes and prosecco favors on the bottom level of the tea cart so that I wouldn't forget to hand them out.

This set up probably wouldn't have been comfortable with more than 5 people, but it worked really well for our small group.

Tips & Tricks to Take Away

1. Ask your friends to bring a tea cookie or sandwich to share.  Most girls like an excuse to bake, so unless you're hosting this tea party as a shower or birthday celebration, it's ok to ask them to bring something.

2. Making that many sandwiches took me about two and a half hours to make, but I made waaaaay too many.  I could have made about 40% less and still been fine.  I would only make one sandwich of each variety per person (I think I made 6-10 of each kind....thinking that people would like more of some than others).  Also, if you have a good resource like Whole Foods or Harris Teeter for pre-made fillings like the chicken salad and pimento cheese...just buy them.  I don't know how you could make them for less money or in the small quantities that you actually need.

3. Serve two types of tea and also have the other cold beverages.  It will keep you from having to constantly go to the stove to heat water in your tea kettle.  Plus, if the room gets too warm for some people, they will have something cooler to drink.
4. Use what you have for decor and servingware.  If you find gaps, hit up Home Goods, TJ Maxx, Marshall's, Target, Target or World Market.  They have the best prices and the most diversified selections.  I actually had to pick up another tea pot and I found the polka dot one at Home Goods for $12.99 (the elephant tea pot was a Christmas present from One Kings Lane).  Make sure to check your closets for unused wedding gifts...I'm a firm believer that tea parties are a great reason to break out the crystal and fine china!  With that same idea, make sure you use cloth napkins and tablecloths.  Tea parties just aren't the same with a folded up Bounty paper towel....even if it does have the spring designs on it!  I would also try to keep your party looking a bit more modern.  Although I used doilies as placemats, there was nothing else overly flowery or grandma-like about the party.  Use unconventional colors or designs like I did with the peach and blue combo, polka dot china, and chevron straws.  If you want a pretty pretty princess pink party (which I would have been more open to if I didn't have red dining room chairs), use hot pink and mix in green and black with stripes or herringbone.  This will keep your party from looking like a 5 year old's.

5. Post-party I recommend running the dishwasher with just your champagne glasses, crystal, and other china (if dishwasher safe of course) on a light wash setting and well spaced out so you don't have to worry about them cracking against a heavy, but also so you don't have to sit there and scrub out glassware post-party.  The blue glasses, champagne glasses, and Kate Spade china is all dishwasher safe, but I didn't run it with any of my other daily dishes or the heavier serving pieces.

6. Invite husbands and boyfriends over to play food clean-up so you aren't sitting around with piles of sandwiches and cookies.  Although they may be teeny tiny, there are a lot of calories in each bite!  Mr. 3 and two other husbands came over after the tea party and put a dent in the leftover food.

7. For anything the husbands don't scarf up, provide boxes for everyone to pack up leftovers.  You don't have to decorate them like I did, just buy the cheap ziplock plastic ones from Target or Walmart.  My motto: no calories left behind!

8. Put fresh flowers out.  This is a must.  It takes your tea party to a much more special level!  If you can't afford to make an arrangement, buy a few small potted plants like an African violet or buy a bunch of baby's breath and make a super fluffy arrangement.

Anyone else a big fan of tea parties?  We hope the Posh Purpose How to Host series helps you throw your own tea party in the future!