Looking for an alternative to a sit down dinner or a buffet? So why not turn your attention to a vintage English afternoon tea concept for your wedding reception. Many venues and caterers can provide beautiful cakes and sandwiches at a fraction of the cost of other alternatives and if on a strict budget, the cost effective option is to ask friends and family to pitch in to help prepare the afternoon tea for you with a few people preparing the pots of tea on the day.
Creating the vintage style of traditional English afternoon tea can be achieved by using floral decorated cups and saucers, side plates, tea pots and decorative cake stands. Many venues will be able to supply a selection or you can hire them from a specialist supplier.
Afternoon tea is very much an emerging trend both in the UK and the USA and here are several reasons for its increasing popularity:
- Scones and cakes are delicious!
- Home baking style is popular and cost effective
- It looks beautiful
- It is very sociable and relaxed
- It is cheaper than a formal dinner
Afternoon tea became popular in the mid-19th century as a means of sustaining people between lunch and a rather late dinner. Later Queen Victoria often held formal tea receptions which slowly became common place amongst the wealthier households. Tea shops soon began to emerge and many grand hotels also started to offer a stunning range of teas, cakes and sandwich options for those who didn’t want to entertain at home. Some venues would even provide live music and the whole concept of afternoon tea became a very popular event. This trend still continues today and English tea houses are still just as popular today as they were then. From this point on ‘afternoon tea’ became a great social occasion with a massive resurgence in recent years; some large hotels even requiring 2 or 3 months advanced booking.
Here are some ideas for your afternoon wedding tea:
Make sandwiches from a selection of traditional fillings such as smoked salmon and cream cheese, cucumber, egg and cress, rustic style ham and cheese and tomato. Cut the sandwiches into small finger size rectangles.
Have a mix of savoury scones made with cheese, sweet wholemeal and white scones. Have a desert option ready with pots of cream, clotted if you get it. Alternatively use double cream and fruit jam/jelly. If fresh strawberries are in season then these can be served instead of jam. Offer low fat spread for those who prefer a lighter option.
Cakes are essential for afternoon tea. Offer a variety of victoria sponges, chocolate cake, lemon drizzle and a fruit or date loaf.
Have both English Breakfast and Earl Grey tea available with sugar, milk and lemon. Don’t forget to have coffee for the non-tea drinkers and juices for the children. Place a jug of water on each table. If you want to take it up a notch, have a selection of exotic teas from around the world for your guests to try. You could even accompany each tea with a cake that is traditional from that area. This works particularly well where the wedding is as much a marriage of different cultures as it is a marriage of two people.
So how do you lay the table for afternoon tea?
The crockery you need at each place setting is a side or tea plate, a small knife, a cake fork, a tea spoon, a cup and saucer and a glass for the water. In the centre of the table you will need a jug of milk, a jug of lemon or slices of lemon and sugar.
The cakes should really be presented on cake stands to create a great focal point and allow for easy serving.
The tea itself is presented in tea pots but served in china cups. The easiest way to manage this is to hire urns if you are having friends serving the drinks. The water can be heated in advance and the tea placed in each pot. When everyone is seated the water is just poured into each tea pot from the urns and placed on each table. Other hot drinks such as coffee can be served using the hot water, either directly into the cups or into a cafeteria if you have these available.
How do you decorate your afternoon tea table?
The pretty crockery and cake stands create wonderful decorations in themselves but you can always add a vase of seasonal flowers, candles or some pretty table crystals and don’t forget the place cards so people know where they should sit; finding an available space at a table can be embarrassing and awkward so place cards will make the afternoon run smoothly The tables themselves need to have a base such as a crisp white tablecloth, possibly a vintage lace cloth or runner or maybe coordinating printed tablecloths in various pastel shades. Napkins are an absolute essential and there are many pretty designs available.
All images courtesy of http://www.soraiseyourglasses.com/cat/wedding
I hope this has given you some ideas for your vintage style afternoon tea. It will undoubtedly be a huge success and a definite talking point amongst your guests.
Gill Marshall is a director of http://www.soraiseyourglasses.com/cat/wedding and is passionate about the celebration and party business. Gill blogs regularly on the company’s award winning blog.