So you’ve decided to throw a tea party for a crowd. Great! Let’s start by first, defining the term” crowd.”
One of my tea mentors taught me that intimate is never more than eight. If you plan a sit-down tea party for more than eight (don’t forget yourself!) you will need more than one table. So some would say nine is a crowd. And some of you are here wondering if you can pull of a tea party event for a hundred or more.
I want you to know it’s easier than it seems and much harder than it seems.
It’s harder than it seems because the successful tea party pays attention to the details, down to the napkin folds and sandwich garnishes. And all these details take time. A tea party should transport the guests and make room for them to relish in beauty, taste, and connection with others. As a host or hostess, this is your goal.
It’s easier than it seems because like anything else, once you prepare yourself with some knowledge you will know where to put your energy for the most reward. That’s where I come in. So let’s get started:
First, if you are preparing a tea party for a crowd, you must have help.
Who will be your team (volunteers or professionals)?
What will you delegate?
Your first area of focus involves the guest list and the invitations. It’s important for you to have an accurate number and RSVPs can be difficult to collect.
Will you sell tickets?
How will you collect the money? If you want to host a tea party as a fund-raiser or club/church event I recommend making a budget, selling tickets, and choosing a reasonable cut-off date for making reservations, say one week before.
What will your policy be for cancellations?
Will you sell any tickets at the door the day of the event?
How will you plan seating and food quantity if you do this?
When it comes to managing a large group of people, I recommend giving your guests as much ownership as possible to make the reservation, pay, and have an incentive to show up (i.e. no refunds after a certain deadline). If you are not charging for your event, I recommend you consider not hosting a sit-down event where each person needs a specific seat. Instead provide places for people to sit and gather informally, low tables for setting their cups and serving finger food buffet-style. The tea buffet also works well with the large paid event, especially if you cannot provide a server per table or two (especially if they’re volunteers).
Take the time to read my thorough article, The Steps to Creating a Tea Party Menu, and make your food decisions. A great amount of food prep can be taken care of beforehand. I received a number of these tips from my local tearoom, Afternoon to Remember.
- Sandwich fillings, like chicken salad, taste better when made up a day or two ahead. Sandwiches can be prepared the night before if you spread a thin layer of butter on your bread and fill the bread with a filling (all the way to the crusts). Lay the sandwiches on trays lined with parchment paper. Lay well-wrung damp paper towels over the sandwiches and then cover the tray with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight. All that needs to be done the day of the tea is cutting and garnishing the sandwiches.
- Scones are best made ahead of time, frozen, and baked straight from the freezer right before your event. They will be served warm and your guests will be greeted with the fragrance of fresh baked goods.
- Soup and quiche can be made ahead of time and reheated the day of the party.
- While Afternoon to Remember does make everything from scratch, they do acquiesce that not everything needs to be. If it is in your budget, consider working with a local bakery. They will often make certain specialty items, like small iced tea cakes if you order a certain quantity.
Many large events ask for volunteers to serve as hostesses and decorate a table with their own china, teacups, and silver from home. If you choose to go this route, I recommend writing down what your hostess needs to bring to help them prepare. (See How to Set the Table for Tea).
And be sure to spend some time orienting your servers, especially if they’re volunteers. Teach them how to address those they’re serving (No “You guys all done?”), pour tea (don’t pick up the cup without the saucer or reach across someone’s face…), and what to wear (cover those bellies, girls!).
If using a buffet table, use boxes under the tablecloth or three-tiered trays for visual height. Determine how you can incorporate your theme into the buffet’s decorations and provide plenty of serving utensils so people don’t have to use their fingers. And remember, no scented candles to interfere with the fragrance of the food and tea!
Speaking of tea, preparing and providing enough hot tea for a large group can be the trickiest part of your event. Over and over, excellently planned large events I’ve attended completely fall apart when it comes to serving the actual tea. I think people treat the tea as an afterthought, tacking it on at the end and believing it’s the easiest part of the event. This is not the case! Be sure to read my article, “The Tea Party’s Most Important Ingredient” for all the information you need to know to serve tea at your event. Some key reminders when serving large groups:
- You cannot store tea or make the hot water in used coffee urns or the tea will taste like bad coffee. Urns used only for tea are the best choice. If they are unavailable, run the coffee urns through an entire cycle of clear water with baking soda and make sure they are as clean as possible with no coffee smell or residue.
- Coffee percolators do not get water hot enough for tea. If you must use percolators, find ones that can get the water as close to boiling as possible. Also! Do not use if they have been used for coffee as they will maintain the coffee bean oils and spoil the tea.
- Make tea ahead of time (an hour or two) and store it in glass-lined air pots. This will help you at the last minute crunch of getting everyone hot tea. Be sure to temper the pots with hot water before pouring in the tea so there’s no risk the glass will break.
- Use a resource for water besides the tap, especially if there’s any hint of a chlorine taste.
Planning a tea party for a crowd can be a lot of work. But it’s the details and the planning that make it work.
Don’t try to do too much, but take the time to plan your event well. Set a realistic budget, ask for help, borrow what you don’t have when possible, and take the time to really think through all the elements.
A tea party for a crowd is doable!
What makes you hesitate when you think about planning a fund-raiser or church event, for example? Be sure to ask your questions in the comments below. Or let us know about the holiday tea you’re helping to plan.
Planning your tea party for sixty or more? Need a simple favor? Be sure to see my recommendation in this article, “Three Tea Party Favors for the Creatively Challenged“.
Tea Party Girl Asks: Have you hosted tea for a crowd? If so, do you have a secret tip to add?