It doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day to show affection to the one you love. A tea date offers a sweet, old-fashioned setting for sharing sentimental pleasures.
Invite couples of different ages and stages in their relationships. The silver anniversary pair will inspire the twenty-somethings on their third date. The newlyweds will bring back memories to the busy parents. Let everyone know this is an occasion to dress up and wear the jewelry and ties they’ve exchanged over the years.
Set small tables for two around the edges of the room, with a large table for buffet service in the center. Loosely frame each table against the wall with crepe paper or sheer fabric streamers in the form of an arch. For the most flattering effect, arrange soft, indirect lighting that falls on the couples from above. Pink bulbs or shades will cast a rosy glow over the room.
Build a tiered centerpiece for the buffet table. Set a tall, decorative vase in the middle of a large round platter. Fill the vase with vivid flowers and greenery. Surround the base of the vase with mounded fruit in colors that echo those of the flowers. Cut some long tendrils of ivy and put the cut ends into the vase, trailing the length of the stems among the fruit and around the platter.
Drape floor-length tablecloths on the tea tables. You can use sheets in deep floral patterns or shades of lilac and pink. Lace-trimmed handkerchiefs make pretty napkins, rolled inside napkin rings you can make yourself out of artificial pearls. Chairs should be cushioned for comfort.
Each tea table will have a scented candle in a red glass holder, and a bud vase holding a fresh orchid, rose or peony. Serve the tea in small pots holding just enough for two people. Offer refreshments that can be shared: small quiches and baguettes that can be cut in half; a bowl of seedless grapes; or chocolate-covered strawberries. Avoid foods that can be messy (dips), loud (celery) or embarrassing (spinach), so that guests can focus on each other, not on feeling self-conscious.
Use soft music to build the sense of romance: try Chopin waltzes, anything by Debussy or Ravel, or elegant jazz standards like Billie Holliday and Duke Ellington. Tea dancing is another lovely tradition for a late afternoon. Play a CD collection of ballroom dances—foxtrots and waltzes are familiar to most dancers—or “slow dance” music from the 1950’s.
- Tea: vanilla-flavored white tea, darjeeling, ceylon, mixed berry
- Baguettes with tomatoes and melted swiss cheese
- Salmon quiche, sized for two and scored down the center
- Black pitted olives and camembert on toast points
- Cream cheese and raspberry preserves in heart-shaped sandwiches
- Cranberry scones with orange date spread
- Seedless grapes
- Chocolate covered strawberries
- Cherry tarts with fresh whipped cream