‘Ello Lovelies and happy un-birthday to you all!
Recently I threw an un-birthday bash that was top to toe Alice in Wonderland, however, it was nothing like previous Alice parties I have thrown. Oh no! It was out with the cheesy, life size cartoon cut outs and in with the shabby chic and tastefully traditional Alice in Wonderland inspired touches.
It’s difficult to throw a tea party based on a children’s book for a bunch of adults and hit the nail on the head, but if you turn ‘tea party’ into ‘afternoon tea’ and ‘children’s book’ into ‘classic literature’… well, we’re already onto a winner! It’s the way you approach it, not the subject itself.
I was determined to throw a garden party with my favourite theme and do it in such a way that people would feel they are living the story themselves, without dismissing anything as “tacky”, “childish” or “garish”. In the end, I feel like the aesthetic success of the theme was pulled off by a few simple tricks and flourishes, that anyone can do! So if you’re interested, or looking for a few ideas, here’s a few things I focused on when attempting to get the ‘grown up Alice’ theme just right from noon ’til night! (Like my rhyme?)
I decided to have a buffet style, afternoon tea inspired spread, which meant lots of sweet treats! The idea of being dainty is something that comes across in all afternoon teas’ as well as in Alice in Wonderland. In the story and many of it’s tellings, everything is either tiny because Alice is so huge or looks incredibly delicate and intricate. Therefore going with petite finger food was definitely a good option; no need for cutlery either!
The most famous literary tea party of all is that of the Mad Hatter, and he has a plethora of different tea pots and cups (“Clean cup! Move down!”). I found a few different types of tea to offer to guests who wanted it (including peppermint, green and fruit tea) however, the main beverages on offer were fruit based cocktails such as peach and strawberry bellinis and traditional, cloudy lemonade with sliced strawberries and citrus fruits in it.
Glass Jars & Pic ‘N’ Mix.
This was something I had planned from the start. I collected different sized glass jars, most with air tight glass lids, a few smaller ones with cork stoppers and a couple of jam jars. I filled each of these with different types of confectionary that gave a nod to the story (such as gummy mushrooms) or things that were not what they seemed (such as Cola Cube coated popcorn). This is a throw back to the historical era of Alice in Wonderland too, where glass jars were used for everything, from preserving and pickling to storage and displays, like in old time sweet shops.
To add a bit of sparkle and a touch of class, I tried not to use any plain plates or aluminium platters. I begged, borrowed and scavenged the charity shops for fancy looking tea pots, cut glass bowls, detailed glass and china sandwich platters, glass decanters, jar mugs… anything that gave an air of magic. Just adding these took the food presentation from basic garden party to shabby chic afternoon tea!
I also found some teeny, tiny cake domes that came with their own “Eat Me” labels, some individual cardboard cake stands that were in the shape of teapots, covered with traditional Alice illustrations, and a two tier porcelain cake stand that also bares a print of the traditional Mad Hatter’s Tea Party illustration.
Toying with Height and Size.
Height and size play a huge part in Alice in Wonderland but also in any sort of design work. Varying the heights and sizes of the items on the table is also pleasing to the eye, as well as saving some valuable space.
Four things I did or found to help create eye catching table settings that would also function as places to put food are:
- Stacking small, floral suitcases of varying sizes and using the different platforms to present food. I got 2 sets for £10 in The Works and have since used them all as boxes for wires, nail polishes, make up, hair products… just about anything. Attractive and handy!
- I found a giant cake stand that looked like a floral, spiral staircase, which held nearly all of the miniature cupcakes and acted as a centre piece.
- I baked some large cupcakes in silicone moulds which looked like tea cups, each with it’s own individual saucer. I got a pack of six cups and saucer moulds for £3.50 in Aldi. I also found some tea pot and pin wheel cake toppers that were £1 a pack from The Factory Shop.
- I bought a giant glass drinks dispenser which looked like a hexagonal jar, complete with the air tight lid and iron stand, raising it up off of the table. So not only did I have a mixture of different sized confectionary jars, I also had a giant one that stood above the others, full of fruity lemonade!
Finishing Touches and Creating Atmosphere.
Think about the finishing touches. I found some table skirts at The Factory Shop for £1 each, which really tidied up the space and made it look finished. I also found some packs of red, heart shaped, lace-esque doilies, bunting and giant cards with Alice in Wonderland illustrations and prints on them.I found some hanging signs on Ebay that said things such as “this way”, “wrong way” and “follow the White Rabbit” to place around the garden and I made ‘Eat Me’ and ‘Drink Me’ labels for all of the teapots and jars. My favourite pieces were my giant White Rabbit statue, who sat in the centre of my table and a few bunches of balloons placed between the two tables and at the entrance, which really added to the party vibe.
I had the maddest time planning my party and then enjoying every second with a whole bunch of friends! I hope you have just as much planning your own events and if you’re going for an Alice themed adventure, this gave you a few ideas!