It’s been two years since I hosted my first in-home tea party. I look back on the experience with a wry smile, remembering some of the mistakes I made and what I’ve learned since then. Maybe you’ll be able to relate to some of these, whether planning for a tea party or other kind of event.

  1. I need to communicate exactly what I want when I delegate. I asked my friend to do the baking. I assumed since we’d been to a tearoom, she understood how a three-tier looked. She assumed there’s never enough food and made a TON of baked goods. I think we had 3-4 different kinds of scones, 2 kinds of muffins, 2 kinds of quick breads, and a large assortment of cookies. I wish I had a picture. We laugh about it now. But I bit my tongue as I watched her stack all her baked goods two-three deep on top of the entire plate. And the women we sat them down in front of were a little taken aback. Not that they knew MUCH different, as tea party novices themselves, but those who watch their diet were a little shocked. I needed to explain exactly what I expected and not assume anything. Note: This can be hard between friends, especially with some female personalities, but so important for us to work together.
  2. Volunteer NOTHING to get a guest to come. One of the women I invited hesitated because she would be coming straight from somewhere else during the lunch hour. “Come any way! There will be plenty of food!” I said. “I’ll sneak you a sandwich as soon as you get here.” Well, of course I forgot. And we all know how preoccupied we are when we’re doing something for the first time. So when she walked in (early) and asked for a sandwich, it threw me. And the ironic thing is this guest also couldn’t sit where I’d placed her. AND she needed some hand lotion. The lesson I learned is that if I commit to accommodating a needy guest I will end up accommodating a needy guest. Surprise!
  3. Use fresh ingredients. I used canned chicken with dried parsley to garnish it with. What was I thinking? I was thinking of many traditional stereotypes of the tea parties of my grandmother and looking for shortcuts. Now I realize food shortcuts don’t have to mean compromise. Be sure to check out my article, “The Lazy Baker’s Guide Way to Plan a Tea Party Menu” for more ideas.
  4. Plan for the goop. I served a full afternoon tea, which meant soup, salad, and quiche for the first-course. But I didn’t have a second plate for the three-tier filled with sandwiches, scones, and desserts. And my pinwheel sandwiches were a little drippy. A fresh plate would have helped alleviate some of the guests’ mess.
  5. It’s difficult to rent the right linens for the job. Another shortcut I attempted. But most basic linen rentals rent the easy-to-clean polyester tablecloths and LARGE polyester napkins. They can make your tea party feel more like a hotel banquet.

So how about you? What did you learn from your first hosting experience?