How To Organise A Vintage Style Tea Party

Written By Arman Zulhajar on Saturday, June 2, 2012 | 4:37 PM

Picture the scene. There's a table set for tea with white linen, flowers, fine bone china, silver cutlery and, of course, a mouth-watering array of dainty sandwiches and cakes. Elegant and timeless, a tea party is as perfect a way to entertain today as is was in centuries past. However, contemporary vintage style tea parties are much less formal and considerably more fun than their period counterparts.

It's vintage style, not set in aspic

While the current interest in all things vintage has no doubt been fuelled by costume dramas such as Downton Abbey and Great Expectations, you won't get complaints if your vintage tea party mixes Edwardian cutlery with Victorian china, or introduces non-authentic vintage-style accessories. A vintage tea event should evoke the style of a bygone age, rather than slavishly trying to recreate its every detail. Bloater paste sandwiches and seed cake have made way for canap├ęs and cup cakes in the brave new world of the vintage tea party.

Tea for two, or two hundred

Whether you're organising a celebration a deux for a wedding anniversary, a christening party for a dozen or so family and friends, or a charity event for hundreds, a vintage tea party is just the ticket. The tea party against which all others are often judged is the Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, when 8,000 guests consume 27,000 cups of tea, 20,000 sandwiches and 20,000 slices of cake. But your event should be organised to reflect the formality of the occasion, your style and the age and interests of your guests. If you're inviting families with children, then outdoor games such as croquet or skittles will keep everyone amused throughout the party, whereas a corporate event might call for a formal tea with a classical string quartet playing in the background. To add a bit of sparkle to the occasion, why not dispense with tea and serve cocktails instead. What could be more decadent than drinking champagne cocktails from fine bone china cups?

DIY vintage events

If you've a creative streak and oodles of time, styling your own vintage tea party can be great fun. Beg, borrow or steal vintage china and cutlery from your friends, or buy them from antique shops or auctions. Augment your trophies with vintage style accessories, including bunting, tea light holders and flower containers. For best effect, try to theme your event by colour, pattern or period. This will ensure the styling of your event is coherent and delivers the required 'wow' factor for your guests. But, if you're worried that your own styling efforts might look like the remnants of a white elephant stall, it's time to call on the services of a specialist vintage stylist.

Vintage styling specialists

An increasing number of companies are offering not just vintage china hire, but complete styling and catering services for vintage tea events. The best companies own large stocks of vintage china and accessories, enabling them to match any theme you choose for any number of guests. It could be a pink theme for a charity event, botanical for a product launch or Edwardian for a Suffragette centenary tea party. Find the right vintage specialist and they'll organise every aspect of your tea event, from the styling and the catering to the flowers and table settings. The only thing you'll need to do is choose a venue, invite your guests and your vintage tea party will appear as if by magic before your eyes.

Viv Eden works for Vintage English, a company which transforms events into special occasions with its vintage china hire and styling service. Vintage English also provides event catering in London for a wide range of clients requiring anything from an intimate afternoon tea party to a grand corporate cocktail party.

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