Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Party Planning: Tea Party

I spend a lot of time planning parties. Sometimes it's for other people but mostly it's for myself and my friends. I've been known to throw fancy brunches, dressy cocktail parties, cookie-decorating, gift-swapping, and dessert oriented soirees, but my favorite by far is the old fashioned tea party. There's something so delightful about sitting down to a proper tea, complete with tea sandwiches, scones and little cakes or petit fours.

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.
Once your invites are out, you can turn your attention to the table. Tablecloths are traditional but I like to go a bit more modern with just a table runner. This works especially well if you have a nice wood table. When it comes to napkins, stay elegant and traditional with cloth napkins if possible. I like this table runner from Pier 1 and these cloth napkins from Pottery Barn. 

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. 
Of course, the most important thing to consider is the teapot and teacups themselves. I like this one from Teavana. On a recent jaunt through Anthropologie, I spotted these tea cups. I love the idea of using them as both a place card and a party favor for guests.

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!

Now all you have to do is figure out who to invite!

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