Of course, it all depends on how well you prepare. To start, you need the perfect invitation. I prefer smaller tea parties, no more than 6 people, including myself. These invitations by Gina B. are perfect for a refined afternoon tea. A delicate but modern floral against a bright background sets the tone for the event and the card leaves enough room to hand-write the invite.
Flowers are essential for a tea party. And any party for that matter. Make things easy for yourself with a simple arrangement with only one type of flower. If you have a longer table, divide the flowers up into 3-5 smaller arrangements running the length of the table. Stick to flowers in season to avoid spending too much money:
Spring-- Lilacs, Peonies, Sweet Peas
Summer-- Hydrangea, Delphinium, Dahlias
Fall--Chrysanthemum, Zinnias, Asters, Marigolds
Winter--Camellias, Amaryllis, Forget-me-nots
When in doubt, always go with roses- they are always in season and easy to find at your corner deli.
On to other table necessities. Tea! Good tea is v. important. I'm a huge Teavana fan, thanks to Hanna, but obviously tea can come from anywhere. I love the loose tea tins at Pearl River Mart here in NYC. They're cheap, they're pretty and they come in a variety of flavors. Even if they aren't featured at your party, they would make a great addition to the table decor. Also necessary are beautiful cake stands and platters. I found this vintage hobnailed cake stand on ebay, and these wonderful platters at Essentials, a fabulous store in Northampton, MA.
Check out Epicurious for yummy recipes like these Whole Grain Cranberry-Apple Scones or these Radish-Chive Tea Sandwiches with Sesame and Ginger and don't forget the classic Cucumber Watercress Sandwiches!