Has Spring finally arrived in Britain? With temperatures slowly rising - we need to think of creative ways to get that much needed spring back in our step. Enter Jackie Davison, Owner of Rose Pink Vintage, Burley-in-Wharfedale in Yorkshire who suggests that planning a vintage tea party is a great way to lift our dampened spirits.
Much as we’d like to say “garden party”, we daren’t jinx the occasion by encouraging you to plan an outdoor do! So why not bring the “outside in” and hold your garden party sheltered from the elements? A Spring vintage tea party can be equally as fun indoors, especially if you get the atmosphere right and your guests in the mood.
Here Jackie, Vintage Expert who plans celebrations of all kinds for a living explains everything you need to know about planning a picture perfect vintage tea party!
Once you’ve set a date, venue and crucially who to invite - the fun can begin. The organisation process as well as the actual event can be fun, so put your creative hat on and let your imagination go wild! There’s so much to think about, I advise all party hosts to make a list. Everytime you have an idea - write it down before you forget. You can even create an ideas board, which you can fill with your ideas as well as pictures, cuttings, websites that inspire you. So you know you want to have a party - where do you start? The essential list starts here.
Everyone loves receiving something special in the post, especially an invitation! If you’re creative and have the time, you could make your own. If this isn’t possible, try to select an invitation that you can personalise. Provide enough detail so your guests are clear about the arrangements but also try to create a little excitement or intrigue by asking them to bring something with them or wear a particular item of clothing i.e bring along their favourite classic novel, a pair of sunglasses or silk scarf, which can be used in an activity during the party or for a fun photo opp!!
2. Fix Your Budget
Tea parties can be elaborate affairs but they don’t need to cost the earth! Set a budget in advance based on the number of guests. This can also influence the menu and whether you ask your guests to each bring an edible offering with them.
3. Pick A theme
You may be celebrating a special occasion such as a birthday, christening or hen party in which case the theme is obvious. However, if you’re planning a tea party then it might not be so easy. Themes can be as wild and whacky as you like, ranging from Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatters tea party to a Victorian High Tea inspired by novelists such as the Bronte sisters.
Your props and table decor can all tie in with the theme you pick and will create a real buzz on the day!
Equally, you could opt for a colour scheme around which you base your choice of china, flowers and food. Spring colours such as yellow and greens are really vibrant and uplifting when combined. Blue and white is also a popular choice and can be adapted to incorporate a holiday, seaside or travel theme.
Think about the interests of your guests - could you pick up on any of these as your theme? If it’s just the girls, in my opinion, there’s nothing better than a really feminine celebration of pink! (Hence, one of the reasons my business is called Rose Pink Vintage!)
4. Furniture Or Not?
If you’re having a traditional tea party, then you’ll want to lay the tables with crisp linen, napkins and pretty china but if it’s a more informal ‘picnic’ style you’re after then consider whether you need furniture at all. Why not lay out picnic rugs or patchwork quilts and encourage your guests to eat ‘al fresco’ inside? It would be a great talking point and ensure the occasion was a memorable one.
5. Food & Drink
There are so many options - it’s difficult to narrow it down! If your budget is tight and you fancy involving your guests - ask them to bring either a sweet or savoury dish. For a more traditional afternoon tea menu, opt for dainty sandwiches (crusts off, of course!) e.g brown bread filled with locally produced ham and mustard, smoked salmon and lemon wedges, white bread with free range eggs and cress filling and no vintage tea party would be complete without cucumber sandwiches.
Those with a sweet tooth will be delighted by a selection of bite sized treats including scones with clotted cream and jam, colourful macaroons, cupcakes, shortbread, fruit cake (in Yorkshire we like cheese with ours) and perhaps cutting cakes such as Victoria Sponge and Carrot cake.
Cake Pops are also becoming popular if you’d like a modern twist! Welcome guests with a ‘cuptail’ a glass of pink fizz or a cocktail served in a tea cup. Hibiscus flowers (bottled in syrup) look stunning in the bottom of the cup and can be eaten at the end. Tea is an absolute essential to accompany the food. Offer a selection including Earl Grey, Lapsang Souchong or Assam.
6. China & Cake Stands
When you’ve gone to the trouble of hosting an afternoon tea party, vintage china is a must. It creates the desired atmosphere, is a pleasure to use plus gives guests something interesting to talk about. You can either go down the mismatched route, where cup, saucer and side plate don’t match but they complement one another or match your trios and coordinate with either your colour scheme or chosen theme. Teapots are a must and can be either china (which goes with everything) or silver plated, reminiscent of more Downton Abbey style celebrations. (Think about how many you will need, based on the number of guests and the capacity of the teapots).
Once you have planned your menu - cake stands will display your food beautifully. To make a really lovely display, try to use both three and two tier stands as well as single tier (usually glass) for the cakes that need slicing. (Don’t forget your silver cake slice!)
If you’ve opted for the more traditional afternoon tea party menu then you may not need much cutlery. Tea spoons and cake forks are useful, dainty tea knives may be needed if you are serving scones but whatever you serve your guests with - make sure they’re spotlessly clean and shiny, especially if silver plated. Top tip - get the silver cleaner out beforehand and ensure there’s not a spot of tarnish in sight!
Props create atmosphere and will bring your chosen theme together. Think out of the box and use everyday items to create unusual displays. Old curiosities such as antique keys, cameras, clocks, telephones, bird cages and leather suitcases can be used for a variety of purposes.
For example, if you’ve selected a literary theme, then borrow, buy or hire old books, spectacles and typewriters. These can be put together with flowers and placed at strategic points in your venue. Again, these are great talking points for your guests and can also be used as part of a quiz or photo backdrop. By hanging colourful handmade bunting around the entrance to your venue as well as inside you create a vintage party atmosphere and it never fails to make people smile!
If you’re hosting a large party, then it may be appropriate to book a band to entertain your guests, however for smaller gatherings an iPod with a selection of carefully chosen tunes playing in the background will be equally as effective. Some form of quiz (perhaps related to tea drinking or your own theme) always goes down well at the beginning of your tea party to get your guests talking. Writing captions for old photographs displayed on a board or a “guess the article” game can also be fun. If you’ve asked your guests to bring an article of clothing (e.g hats, scarves or sunglasses) reward this effort by taking lots of photos. These can also be used later on a montage card to thank your guests for coming or given as mementoes.
It’s customary to give wedding guests a favour from the bride, but why not give your afternoon tea party guests something special to take home with them? The possibilities are endless here, but I think the more personal you make this the better. For example, make some biscuits (or have them made) in different shapes and personalise them with your guests names or wrap up miniature soaps or sweets in voile and tie with pretty ribbon. A single cupcake in a box makes a lovely gift as does a scented candle in a tea cup. There are lots of small businesses out there who can help with the china hire, food and props and charity shops and vintage fairs are a great source of inspiration too. Most of all, enjoy the whole process, planning to party and delight your guests with a simply fabulous vintage afternoon tea!
Article written by Jackie Davison, Owner of Rose Pink Vintage. For more information visit website: www.rosepinkvintage.co.uk or e-mail Jackie: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07962233779. You can also follow us on Facebook or Twitter @rosepinkvintage. All photographs courtesy of Suzy Mitchell