The fascination with tea parties goes all the way from little girls and their miniature china sets (I still have most of my childhood set, less the pieces the post office broke in transit. Grr.). It reaches all the way up to European royalty and time honored traditions, and somewhere in between there are charity functions held in historic houses and slightly bohemian costumer teas.
So, what’s the deal with tea? For the uninitiated, tea in this sense is not just about a beverage. It is a sit-down social event involving all sorts of dainty finger foods like small cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off, small scones, petit fours, cream puffs, etc. The tea itself is de rigueur, but there may be other beverages such as lemonade and champagne. Basically, it’s a chance to step away from the humdrum work-a-day world to play at a different life in a more elegant time.
When a friend of mine who is an amazing caterer offered to help me put together my next book launch party, I told him the next book scheduled was a steampunk Victorian detective novel with werewolves. Before I knew it, I was committed, full steampunk ahead, to a costume-optional Victorian garden tea.
I was very, very fortunate to have several advantages to help me pull this off. First of all, I had the aforementioned catering friend that gave me an incredibly generous deal on his incredible work. Secondly, I have musician friends who always donate their services to my launches, and had experience in providing background for period events. Another set of friends offered the use of their gorgeous home and their lovely landscaped courtyard. A member of the local costumer’s guild who has a side business with tea parties to go loaned me teacups and plates to augment my teapot collection and Goodwill finds. (Thank you, Bone Shaker’s Tea Parlour). I even had a seamstress friend with costuming experience who gave me a very reasonable price on a custom steampunk dress for the occasion.
But even without these advantages, you can put together an enjoyable tea for a special occasion with your friends. Card tables, table clothes, and silk or cut flowers can transform a back yard, or often public parks will rent space. Scones, lemon curd, and finger sandwiches are all easily made. (Petit fours are another story. Having seen the process, I personally would leave those to the professionals!) While a live band definitely adds atmosphere, you can make do with a selection of CDs or even a good Pandora station. You can go for elegance, or have fun with a theme, or combine the two. (At work once, we had a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. And friends of mine put on a tea with the challenge to arrive in the most outrageously over-decorated hat possible.
And just in case you need some inspiration, here are some pictures from the tea party we had to celebrate the launch of A Hunt by Moonlight:
Otter Crossing Music with special guest Diane Lovejoy adding atmosphere with their Irish/classical fusion.
Shawna Reppert is an award-winning author of fantasy and steampunk who keeps her readers up all night and makes them miss work deadlines. Her fiction asks questions for which there are no easy answers while taking readers on a fine adventure that grips them heart and soul. You can find her work on Amazon and follow her blog on her website (www.Shawna-Reppert.com). You can friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter, where she posts an amazing array of geekery. Shawna can also sometimes be found in medieval garb on a caparisoned horse, throwing javelins into innocent hay bales that never did anything to her.