We covered some of our guidelines and tips for throwing a bridal shower here, but we wanted to spend a little extra time on one of our favorite themes: the afternoon tea party! In addition to bridal showers, afternoon tea parties are great for baby showers, birthdays, mother’s day… but do you really need an excuse anyway? We also love this theme because it’s so customizable - it can be scaled up or down and alternative versions can be tucked in (or be substituted in altogether) with everything else to accommodate dietary needs.
So, yay for lots of tiny foods! But we have to warn you, it’s a decent amount of work. Like other big meals, we plan out what things can be made ahead and what order everything should be done the day of (no one wants a soggy sandwich). As a general rule, desserts, sandwich fillings and fruit can be prepared 1-2 days before (maybe longer depending on what it is). Finishing dessert touches and sandwiches can be done in the hours before and at the last minute we get our warmed things ready.
We like a mix of traditional and a few things we’ve created along the way. First up, sandwiches. Probably the most commonly thought of one is the cucumber sandwich. We like to do ours with watercress butter and English cucumbers (tip: slice and dry out a bit with paper towels). Chicken salad is another popular one and there are lots of flavors to choose from. Our preference is to make sure to stop processing it before all the ingredients turn into a puree. It could be regional, but a favorite of ours is lox and cream cheese - alternatively you could use a whipped salmon cream cheese. Lastly, we came upon the idea of an open-faced sandwich with Boursin and thinly sliced apple on pumpernickel bread. It’s a fun and surprising addition that also adds a pretty visual element. Most importantly, all the crusts get cut off (it’s a special occasion! plus they might make for a good snack while you’re in the midst of a long prep day…) and we mix up cutting the sandwiches straight or on the diagonal into four tea sandwiches.
Although we don’t include them as often, quiches (mini ones especially) are a great addition. Other British lunch options like sausage rolls or savory pies could be added.
All the desserts
Here you can pretty much include as many (or as few) options as you like. We like to have at least three small desserts to round out the meal. Instead of specific types, we think about the flavors (lemon, chocolate, berry, almond) and textures (cake/sponge, biscuit/cookie, tart/pie, mousse/custard). It’s also good to balance heavy and fresh options. We almost need a flow chart for this! Other additions that can be fun (and easily purchased if you want to save some time): macarons, chocolate truffles or special candies.
We love crumpets. Technically it’s not necessary, but we always like to have them. The trick to preparing them is pretty simple: BUTTER. We prefer to warm them in a skillet and continually add butter on top until it seems like they couldn’t possibly hold any more. Then we cut them into 4 and pile them up, serving them warm.
The other two things we also usually include are scones (fluffy, British style ones, sometimes with currants) and fresh fruit. This meal is not for the carb-faint at heart. And then of course we like to offer a selection of jams and lemon curd. Clotted cream is a bonus addition that can be tricky to find, but really adds to the experience (as an alternative, we’ve had fresh stiffly whipped cream).
The obvious drink option at a tea party is tea - we’re a bit boring in that we both love a good black tea with milk and sugar, however we like to have a few teapots on hand to make a variety of options if people prefer something different. For a spring/summer tea party infused water, fresh juices and mimosas are the perfect addition. In the winter maybe a hot cider or hot buttered rum might be called for :)
Styling & customizing
The typical tea party is full of flowers, pastels and lots of (hand-wash only) mismatched china. We actually love this aesthetic for a tea party, it feels so British and comfy, almost like you’ve been transported back in time. But if that’s not your thing, it can easily be switched up for something modern, a picnic theme or have some fun with a Mad Hatter tea party. Recently we helped host one at Christmas and changed the menu to have more seasonal flavors, although we still made sure to have some of the classic favorites. Add a menu at each place setting and it feels like the real deal!
Does anyone else love tea parties as much as we do?! While we love hosting and planning, we also love trying various tea houses in the area, maybe we’ll have to share our thoughts on those at some point…