Earlier in the month we hosted our annual mother-daughter Christmas tea party. I absolutely LOVE having this party every year. Lots of little girls wearing pretty dresses and drinking out of fancy teacups (many of which are family heirlooms from my great-grandfather who emigrated from England). Really, how could you not love a tea party? Even if you don’t like tea, you can serve hot cider as a second option. That’s what we do for kids (and grown-ups like me) who don’t do tea. In the end, a tea party isn’t about the tea so much as it is about the event, and ours has never failed to disappoint.
Originally this event came about because my daughter announced one day that we would be having a tea party that afternoon. Trying to humor her we grabbed some baked goodies we had stashed in the freezer and heated some cider to drink out of tea cups. That satisfied her for the moment, but it sparked an idea that we could have some moms and daughters that we knew come over for a tea party that Christmas, and so it began. We thought through what we’d serve and printed up some cute invitations and we were off and running. Each year we learn some new lessons on how to make our tea party work best, and now you get to have the benefit of those lessons.
So, here is how to plan a tea party of your own.
First, pick a date. The two big times of the year for tea parties seem to be Christmas and spring. Since both of those tend to be packed with various holiday events, picking a date early is very helpful. If there is someone that is very important for you to have there, check with them about what their availability is during that time so you can plan around it. I always consult my best friend first so we can have it the weekend her daughter is home.
Second, start planning a menu. Typically tea parties are filled with various finger foods. Think bite-sized treats like mini-cupcakes, tiny tarts, and cut up sandwiches. Think seasonally for this. Strawberries aren’t going to be great in December, but pumpkin would be weird in May. Another good thing to think about is if there are any people attending with food allergies. Ask your guests to give you a heads up so you can make sure there is something safe for them to eat. Work with them to make sure you know ALL of the steps to take to ensure their food is fully safe from their allergies/intolerances. If you aren’t 100% sure you can avoid cross-contamination while cooking, ask them what some good pre-packaged items are that they can eat so that they aren’t left out. Write out your menu and mark off the things you can make ahead and freeze (like quick breads, cookies, cupcakes, etc.). Our menu for our Christmas tea party included:
*Mini gingerbread cupcakes with pumpkin frosting
*Mini vanilla cupcakes with a cranberry curd dollop and eggnog frosting
*Buckeye Balls (you know, those little chocolate peanut butter candy balls)
*Pumpkin cranberry bread
*Pumpkin chocolate chip bread
*Mini tarts with lemon curd filling
*Mini tarts with chocolate cream filling
*Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
*Egg salad sandwiches
*Mini pumpkin scones
Third, figure out how to do invitations. Do you want to go digital or paper invitations? Our first year we did mostly printed invitations. This year we created a Facebook event and saved the printed ones for people we aren’t Facebook friends with. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. Paper invitations are more traditional and can be made to look wonderfully elegant. The key disadvantage is cost. You will need to pay for paper and the ink to print them, or for some store to print them for you. Facebook invitations are free (their biggest advantage) and are easy for people to RSVP to. You can ‘pretty them up’ by having a nice cover image, but I don’t think you can quite get to the ‘elegance’ level of a printed invitation. The key disadvantage with Facebook events and invitations, though, is that some people feel they are a bit impersonal. In reality, both are equally good choices and it’s just a matter of what works best for you.
Fourth, figure out an activity. This is a tip we learned after our first year. It helps to keep the little ones from getting restless. After they have finished eating the grown-ups usually want to talk for a little longer. Having some sort of craft or activity for them to do makes this possible. This year we did something that was both simple and meaningful. We had the girls make Christmas cards for the little girl who was injured and lost her family in a fire. This way they had a fun activity to do and got a chance to practice serving others.
Fifth (and last), check your supplies. Once you know how many people will be attending, see how many teacups, tables, and chairs you have. Do you have enough for everyone plus a few spares (you always want a few spares)? If you don’t, now is the time t figure out how to fill in the difference. You can find teacups inexpensively at Goodwill and TJ Maxx, and if it’s the right time of year, garage sales. Another option is seeing if you have any friends you can borrow from. The only risk with this is that there is always a chance someone will break a cup. As for tables and chairs, the two main options are borrowing and renting. We have the tables but always need chairs, so we rent them from a local place that offers basic folding chairs for $1 each. For us it’s worth the $15-20 a year to avoid buying and storing a bunch of chairs that will only be used once a year.
As a side note, this was my favorite part of our party. My friend brought her 9 week old baby to join us. He had the honor of being our only male guest, and we got the honor of holding this adorable little guy. My oldest was quite excited to hold a new baby and dream about holding her new brother or sister!
So, now that you have all the info on planning your own tea party, get to it! It’s so much fun and you won’t regret it. When will your tea party be?
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