This was a tea party that I threw for my daughter’s 5th birthday party. As with most things I do, my mother helped immensely with the planning and decor – thanks, Mom! We heavily utilized thrift store finds with this party to keep costs down and impact high.
We really wanted the little girls to feel grown up, so we scoured thrift stores for real china cups, saucers, and teapots. Some of the cups got broken in transit from mom’s house to mine, so I super glued them back together and turned them into little vases for the centerpieces on the tea tables. Filled with colorful silk flowers, you couldn’t tell that they had ever been broken. And they were just the right size to not overwhelm the tiny tables.
Table covers were thrift store lace curtain panels over thrift store sheets. We gathered and swagged them to make it easier for the girls to get in and out of the tables. I found some lovely embroidered fabric napkins (which I have used several times since for nice dinners and other parties) that we rolled up and tied with ribbon to add some extra fancy to the tables.
In lieu of tea, each teapot was filled with pink lemonade. The girls enjoyed serving themselves and having a separate teapot on each table was a big hit and very practical - I didn't have to go around refilling 12 tiny cups! It felt a little excessive at the time to invest in china for a one-time event, but I have to say that I’ve been surprised at how much additional use they’ve gotten over the years. I’ve enjoyed them for holidays, special dinners, and a shabby chic bridal shower for a coworker. I also have plans to use them for a Girl Scout event to earn the manners and etiquette badge. Not to mention that I’ve offered them out to friends and family for THEIR little ones to have a tea party.
For food, we made finger sandwiches cut into fun shapes with sturdy metal cookie cutters, petit fours made from frozen pound cake squares glazed and topped with purchased sugar flowers, and cupcakes topped with marshmallow flowers. The marshmallow flowers were so easy and so high-impact. Just cut marshmallows in quarters, pinch and pull the ends of the pieces to reshape into petals, and arrange around a candy center (jellybeans here) to form a flower on top of a frosted cupcake. You could also dip the cut side in colored sugar if you want AND you can even make your own colored sugar for very little money and trouble. Pour some sugar into a snack-size Ziploc bag, dab in some gel food coloring (I’ve never tried anything but gel), zip the bag and squeeze the sugar to mix in the color. Adjust with more color if needed. Voila - free sanding sugar.
I tried to include my son in the festivities as well. He looked quite handsome in his top hat and vest. Vest from the thrift store, top hat from Oriental Trading company. The hats came in a pack of 12, so I offered the rest to a friend for her daughter's magic party. She cleverly used top hats as receptacles for chips and other snacks.
For games, my mother found a carriage-shaped plastic teapot at a thrift store and painted it in party colors. It was the perfect receptacle for a game of Toss the Teabag. I made the large teabags by filling organza favor bags with dried kidney beans and stapling them closed with a ribbon and tag – the tags were personalized with the guest’s names. We also played musical chairs and Pass the Teapot. To eliminate hurt feelings, when the girls were tagged “out” in games, that was their turn to pick some fancy jewelry or to select their favor bags. I highly recommend that if you want a no-crying-kids-zone at your parties. Favors were Dollar Store purses stuffed with candy necklaces and rings.
We also had a teapot pull-string pinata – one of my best Oriental Trading finds ever – and stations where the girls could make their own fancy necklaces using pony beads and boondoggle (or gimp depending on what part of the country you hail from). I wanted to have the girls decorate their own hats, but we just couldn’t come up with a safe and effective adhesive that they could use (glue gun burns / toxic fumes and 5 year olds don’t mix). My mom ended up decorating thrift and Dollar Store hats in advance and the girls were able to pick their favorite. Worked out fine and no medical emergencies - yay!
We had also spent several months stocking up on fun jewelry, fancy gloves, and thrift store dresses. The girls loved getting all dressed up. And I have to say that lilac bushes in bloom are the absolute best backdrop ever. This was at our old house and boy, do I ever miss those bushes. They always bloomed for my daughter’s birthday. It was like magic.
I wish that I had a close-up picture of the hat garland my mother made. She found a bag of doll-sized straw hats at a thrift store, decorated them with ribbons and flowers, mounted them on a long ribbon, and used that to adorn the archway into the yard. I love them so much. I save them and put them out with my Easter decorations every year.
This sort of thing is my favorite part of party planning - finding something ho-hum or unexpected and turning it into something that's just-right.