In today’s busy world we rarely take the time to stop and simply enjoy life’s simple pleasures. We constantly move from one task to the next, rushing about like madmen. We drink our morning coffee on the go, eat our meals on the go, and live on the go, barely stopping long enough to even notice what’s going on around us. Humans today are constantly on overdrive. The days of long lazy lunches and stopping for a relaxing afternoon tea are long gone. Not only do we live our lives at hyper speed, but we’ve also adjusted our social interactions to fit this lifestyle. Our socializing now takes place over the internet through sites like facebook and twitter. So, I am suggesting today that we stop for a second and look back to a simpler time for some much needed advice on how to enjoy life. Let’s take a minute to stop and smell the roses. And to do that I am suggesting that you hold an old fashioned Victorian tea party. Take an afternoon to dress up, invite your girlfriends over, and simply enjoy each others company over a nice pot of tea. I’ve prepared a guide that will walk you through every step so that your afternoon goes off without a hitch. Just follow my directions and prepare to step back in time to an era when people moved at a slower pace and took time to enjoy life. Let us revive this elegant pastime.
Invitations were traditionally handwritten on expensive paper in the Victorian era. You can decide to go the expensive route and purchase blank invitations from a store or print out simple paper invitations with preferably either a floral or some type of lace pattern. You can also choose to simply type up invitations, but handwritten ones add a nice personal and decorative touch to the affair.
The Victorian tea party was a not a terribly formal affair, however compared to our standard of informal dress it would seem somewhat formal. Therefore a whimsical dress in the Victorian style is most desirable for this event. You could pair a long skirt with a simple long-sleeved top, preferably one that buttons high at the neck. As lace was very popular during the Victorian era, you should look for an item featuring it. Crocheted garments and white gauzy material is also acceptable. To top off your look you can add a shawl with some pearls or a broach or cameo as an elegant adornment. And don’t forget to wear your hair in a bun or some other up-do, lastly adding an elegant wide brimmed hat to complete your look.
Flowers and lace were the primary decorations used for a Victorian tea party. You can set your tables with a white lace trimmed cloth or some other linen with a floral print. Place fresh flowers around the room in decorative glass vases or lidless teapots. You can also add candles to your décor to add a romantic flair. As with any party, music is an absolute must. Choose your favorite classical tunes to play softly in the background.
Two table settings are traditional for an authentic Victorian tea party, one for the seating area where you and your guests will enjoy your tea, and one for the serving table where the food and tea will be placed. At the seating area (this can either be a dining room table or you can set yourselves up more informally in a living room, using a coffee table and couches as your main seating arrangement) you will require silverware for each guest, tea cups and saucers, place mats and napkins (preferably white linen). For the serving table you will need a tea service (a tea pot or urn depending on the number of guests, a sugar bowl, a cream jug, and a waste bowl), a water pitcher, large serving platters for your food, plates or additional saucers for your guests to use, and serving utensils.
An endless variety of teas are appropriate for you to serve. Some variant of black tea such as Earl Grey is typical, and you may also want to provide a choice of a fruit based tea and/or green tea as well. Providing a variety will ensure that all of your guests are happy with the selection. Make sure to prepare plenty of tea, as this is the focus of the party, and to keep plenty of condiments in reserve.
For your tea party menu you can go as lavish or as simple as you like. However, a staple of Victorian tea parties is the ever-popular and perfectly bite-sized tea sandwich. These are small crust-less sandwiches usually filled with cream cheese and some kind of vegetable, cucumber being a much-used option. You can, of course, choose other toppings for your tea sandwiches, such as chicken, tuna salad, jelly, etc. Your imagination is your only limitation. Other popular menu items are cookies, scones, cakes, and other pastries. Above all, make sure to prepare enough food so that everyone has a chance to sample everything and you don’t run out.
A fun addition to any party is games to entertain your guests. Some popular Victorian era games were blind man’s bluff, croquet, and charades. Consider your guests temperament, the level of formality or informality of your party, as well as whether you will be inside or outside when choosing appropriate games.
A final important element of the Victorian tea party to consider is proper etiquette. Following proper etiquette will help your party run smoothly and make the experience enjoyable for your guests as well as yourself. First and foremost be attentive to your guests. Pour tea according to each guests preference towards strong or weak tea. If the gathering is small you may seat your guests, but a large party is more likely to stand and mingle.
In terms of how to properly drink your tea, first and foremost never hold your tea cup with your pinky extended. Add milk after pouring tea, so you can judge how much to use based on the color change. When stirring your tea, be careful not to clink the spoon against the glass, and place it on the saucer behind your cup and to the right of the handle when you are finished. Do not lift the saucer with the cup when drinking, as this is only appropriate when standing. When taking a sip of tea, do not look at the other guests, but rather at your cup, so as to avoid spilling your tea. When your cup is running low avoid swirling it around, as you certainly don’t want to embarrass yourself by sloshing tea onto the tablecloth, or even worse, your clothes!
These simple rules should cover you, but you are welcome to research a full list of etiquette rules, and practice them before your tea party. The most important thing to remember is to just be as polite and considerate of other as possible. Follow all of these guidelines and your Victorian tea party is sure to be a smashing success!
What do you think of hosting a Victorian tea party? Are you up to the challenge? Sound off below…
Interested in learning some other long lost games? Read my blog post on Regency Games to Amuse.
Interested in reviving long lost language? Check out A Lesson In Vocabulary.Pin this article to read later! And make sure to follow us on Pinterest.