How to Throw an 1800s- or Victorian-Themed Tea or Garden Party
Why Have a Victorian Themed Party?
There are quite a few women out there who are inevitably drawn to the femininity and daintiness of the late 1800s' Victorian style. The corsets, the big fluffy skirts, the hats, the pearls and the curls, oh my! Maybe you are one of those women. Today even young girls are attracted to the Victorian style and may think about incorporating it into a party of some kind. Perhaps the attraction to Victorian culture comes from a withdraw of feminine character and style in these modern times. Whether you are eight or eighty, the Victorian Themed Party might be the right one for you!
Though it seems a Victorian-themed party might be hard to pull off, it might be a lot easier than you imagined. You can make it as simple or as elaborate as you would like. Here I will give you ideas and tips on how to prepare for that perfect party, including decorations, costumes, food, and games. So get ready to have a lovely time, ladies!
Whether you are on a strict budget or have a good amount of money to spend on decorations, here are some ideas to get you started.
First of all, with a Victorian party, you'll want to think dainty and demure. What do I think of when I think "Victorian tea party"? The colors pink and white, lace, and roses. As you can see in the pictures below, these seem to be the motif of most Victorian-inspired parties. You'll want to make sure you have tea sets, or at least a tea set for the main table or centerpiece of some kind. A cute idea is to find small and inexpensive glass or plastic tea cups and hang them from the chandeliers. You could also make garland out of these and bunches of white lace.
Here are some quick and easy ideas for your décor:
- Tea Sets/Tea Cups
- Dainty Dinnerware (either china or plastic, whatever you can afford!)
- Real and/or Fake Roses in Pitchers on Each Table
- Fake Rose Petals Sprinkled About (you can get these from the dollar store!)
- Linen or Plastic/Faux White Lace Tablecloths on Tables
- Plastic Pearl Necklaces at Each Setting (you can get these cheap online or in dollar stores)
- China/Porcelain Dolls as décor around the party area (if throwing a tea party for a little girl particularly!)
- Victorian-Style Lamps (you can find lampshades to replace your modern ones, borrow from a friend, scour thrift stores, etc.)
- Butterflies paper or plastic butterflies can be adhered to almost anything at a Victorian Tea / Garden Party!
- Linen or Lace Doilies borrow your grandma's set of doilies or fancy handkerchiefs and place at each table setting.
- Fake Vines/Vinery you can get fake ivy from the nearest craft store or order online for cheap and drape around tables and bannisters, etc. for a Victorian Garden look!
- Photographs or Printouts of Victorian People you can borrow old photos from your family members or simply print out random photos from online, frame them, and set them up around the party area
Food & Drinks
For your party, you're going to want to put a large amount of focus on the food and drinks. The menu is super important because in actual Victorian times, the women would gather around a table specifically for tea and snacks. This was the way Victorian ladies would entertain their company - by providing delicious cakes, sandwiches, etc. as well as the perfectly made cup of hot tea.
Here's some ideas for your menu:
- Hot Tea: orange pekoe, English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Gunpowder Green, and any type of herbal tea for those who don't like green or black teas
- small cakes / cupcakes: decorated with flowers, butterflies, teapots, etc.
- bread and butter sandwiches: ribbon sandwiches, round sandwiches, checkerboard sandwiches (all vintage recipes can be found online very easily), cucumber sandwich
- scones: blueberry, cranberry, etc.
- muffins: of any kind!
- cookies: lavender cookies, lace cookies, chocolate chip, etc.
- fruit and cheese plates
You can find so many actual Victorian recipes online to mimic or copy completely and use for your party menu. You can be as authentic or as creative as you would like to be. If you are serving heavy foods at your party such as meat and cheese sandwiches, salads, etc. you'll want to call your Menu a "High Tea" menu, while lighter foods such as just desserts can be referred to as "Low Tea" according to Victorian custom.
Now we come to the really fun part...the costumes! Depending on the crowd you are inviting to your party, you can make it a costume party or allow the guests to decide if they would like to dress up or not. Be sure to specify on your invitations whether it's full costume only or whether you would ask them to wear their "finest hats, gloves, pearls", etc.
Another option for your party is to provide some Victorian costume accessories for your guests as a party favor. For example, you can give everyone a strand of fake pearls (for the girls) or bow-ties (for the guys). If it's a smaller party, provide a fancy hat for all the ladies.
Here are some suggestions as to what pieces to wear:
- fancy hats
- lace or white gloves
- lace-up Victorian-style boots
- corsets and fluffy skirts
- full Victorian gown (order online or make yourself!)
- powder your face
- put your hair in ringlet curls or wear a wig
- guys can wear suits of any kind
- guys: tophats and pocketwatches
- little girls: wear their fanciest dress with boas, hats, pearls, gloves, etc.
The Final Touches
After you've sent the invitations and decided on décor, costumes, and food, it's time to make up your mind on the finishing touches. You'll need to think about the setting, obviously but also about the furniture needed (tables, chairs, etc.) Borrow from a friend, rent, or use your own... There are many options.
You'll also want to think about playing some light music. If you are spending a lot of money on this venue, you can hire a small orchestra or violin player. If not, play some classical music or Victorian-style music on a surround sound system (lightly not loudly).
If you plan on entertaining your guests, think about whether or not to incorporate games or raffles of some kind. You can look up various Victorian Garden Party games online or simply make them up as you go along!
Make it classy and make it fun for everyone. Make it a party they'll never forget!
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© 2015 Nicole Canfield