Jul 09 2012
Anatasia, party-planner extraordinaire, shares…
Well, sixteen actually. My daughter listed off fourteen girls and two boys that just had to be at her party to celebrate her fifth birthday. She wanted a garden tea party which immediately brought a local party venue to mind, but upon pricing such a party for this many guests, I soon realized that I was going to have to come up with my own ideas to keep it affordable. Initially, I was concerned the large number attending would make it impossible to be quaint, but with a few ideas of my own, a web search or two, and more than one look at Pinterest, the ideas started rolling and my daughterâ€™s dream party came together quite easily.
I got invitation inspiration when sifting through my Cricut cartridge books and found a teapot shape. For each invitation, I cut out two teapots (a cinch with a cutting machine). Before gluing them together, I cut a lid from the front pot and attached the details on a piece of cardstock.Â The two pots were then fastened together like an envelope leaving a slot for the lid to fit back on the pot. Guests would then lift their teapot lids for a little poem sharing the party details and a request to wear their â€śfavourite fancy dress.â€ť
I knew that my three teacups were a long shot from the sixteen cups and saucers we needed, so my first task was to borrow as many as I could and thrift shop for the rest. This was definitely the most time consuming aspect of preparing for this party, but it was also the most fun. My daughter and I visited nearly every second hand shop in Kamloops, but discovered all of the best finds in church thrift storesâ€¦what treasures church basements hold! It really didnâ€™t take more than one or two locations to gather what we needed, but, owing to my recent fascination with repurposing, I spent far more time and came home with a lot more than necessary. The total cost of the items in this photo? (excluding the metal teapot) $12. Yes, $12 total.
I opted to create more of a â€śtea roomâ€ť rather than set one table for the entire group. The tables were wire spools that my husband borrowed from a local electrical company (most companies have to pay a deposit on these spools but are usually happy to lend them out for a short period of time), and the chairs were simply logs from our firewood pile that I wrapped in fabric.
All of the tablecloths and seat coverings were cut from large curtains, sheets, and larger tablecloths that I purchased at a second hand shop for less than ten dollars. The feeling of a room was not only easy to achieve with our pop up party tent, but was also necessary given the constant rain we had in the week leading up to the party. The homemade tissue paper flowers added to the garden theme and were easy and fun to make. (tutorial: www.marthastewart.com/how-to/tissue-paper-pom-poms-how-to)
Upon each table was a teapot, a sugar and cream bowl, a fancy bowl of small candies, and a setting of a saucer, teacup, and spoon for each seat. In our thrifty finds, we also collected enough figurines (mostly glass birds) to set one unique piece on each table ~ it helped to give the tables a fanciful feel. I made each guest a place card which made it exciting for each of them to find their special spot and also avoided any potential disagreements or disappointment about who might sit where. For the tea, we served a raspberry/cranberry juice-based punch and had an older cousin present to help the younger children pour and refill their teapots. All of the girls (and even the two boys) thoroughly enjoyed sitting, chatting, nibbling, and sipping. This setting completely tapped into their social beings as they were all very well-mannered and demonstrated very impressive teatime etiquette.
We kept the food simple and served vegetables, fruit, cheese, fancy cookies, and cake, of course. I raided my storage cupboards and dusted and polished some of my momâ€™s and even my grandmotherâ€™s old silver and glass dishes which gave the food table a classy feel. Thereâ€™s fun to be had getting creative with the food, but I only altered the watermelon to suit the theme. The cake was two tiers and I incorporated flower cupcakes for the kids because they make serving easy when hosting a large group. The top was a real bone china teacup with an individual cupcake that would serve to be my daughterâ€™s special â€śpieceâ€ť â€“ our smash cake days are officially done. Typically, I would only make enough cupcakes for the kids, but the table idea worked well to feature the teacup and itâ€™s always nice for the adults to enjoy a piece of cake too!
We had several games for the party: Butler Relay, Pass the Present (remember that game when you were a kid and you passed the present around until the music stopped and then had to unwrap a layer, hoping it was the last so you could win? â€“ my favourite party game as a kid! Note as an adult: no more than 10 layers and definitely use upbeat musicâ€¦the pace certainly changes with the tempo!), but the potted plant craft and the dress up station were the kidsâ€™ favourite activities. As a take home craft, each child decorated a terra cotta pot in which (s)he planted an annual of choice. Being late in June, the plant selection was limited, but I was able to get a few colourful blooms at clearance price. We were fortunate to have Nana and an Aunt come help the girls with the hot gluing and my husband helped with the potting to save the girlsâ€™ fancy dresses from getting too dirty. Off to the side of the yard, we set up a small table with dishes of jewellery, dress up tea gloves, several fancy hats, and a mirror hung on the fenceâ€¦the girls LOVED it! Throughout the party, the kids would randomly dress up, exchange jewels, admire themselves in the mirror and then carry on playing until returning to the mirror to change and approve of their fanciful attire again. This was such a hit that we didnâ€™t even get a chance to play tea bag toss!
Potted Plant Craft
Lastly, the goodie bags. I planned that the potted plants would be the take home treat, but when I found this teabag goodie bag idea on Pinterest, I couldnâ€™t resist! This is simply a white lunch bag (available at most dollar stores) folded on the corners and down once before being stapled shut with a tea string and nametag attached. So cute and simple! Within each bag, guests were given they typical bottle of bubbles and candy necklace along with homemade rose chocolates, and either a flower pen or a piece of sidewalk chalk (depending on the age). To thank our guests, my daughter and I wrote another short poem, which I typed into an editable teabag pouch pattern online; we printed, folded, and tucked a strawberry teabag into each goodie bag.
This tea party is among my favourite parties that weâ€™ve hosted for several reasons. Although there was a lot of collecting, it was a relatively simple party to plan and, excluding the price of the food, cost less than $100. We recycled, borrowed, and made good use of several items that weâ€™ve had sitting in the garage for too long (i.e., all those plant pots!). Moreover, my daughter learned about what it means to buy something used (she may have learned the word â€śscore!â€ť in a non-athletic context), I was reminded how well items were made only a decade ago, and weâ€™ve learned much about tea time rituals and traditions in our family. Nearly two weeks later, my daughter is still talking about how much she loved her party and we now share and appreciate a daily spot of tea. Iâ€™m thankful the party went so well too. Not only did the sun come out after all, but I also didnâ€™t have to resort to my last minute Mary Poppins plan and scramble to borrow umbrellas.