Updated: Feb 26, 2021
SECRETS TO SUCCESS
There are three secrets to an amazing large-scale party: 1. PLANNING. I'm talking like far ahead, crazy-detailed, scads of Rifle Paper Co. notepad check-lists and sketches-on-napkins-kind of planning. 2. Invite the right mix of guests. A lovely blend of introverts and extroverts, new friends and old besties, young ladies and more wizened beauties, full of humor and advice. Make sure there is at least one other person they know really well besides yourself because, of course, the host knows everyone! 3. Intentionality. I want to create a memory that will lavish my friends with beauty and rest, simple gifts, connection, and refreshment with the Lord in nature. And of course fancy hats. Always fancy hats.
Tea parties have become a beloved tradition for me, even though the tepid swirl of soggy leaves in a cup is my least favorite part of the day. I know- it's absolute blasphemy to you tea drinkers, but I just can't get into the idea of sipping on watered-down grass. It's not uncommon for me to totally forget to make it come the day. Instead, I thrive off of the design elements, the creativity, the floral arranging, the plates and napkins, the beautiful dresses and of course, the intimate conversation with friends. It's lovely to gather real china for a vintage and eclectic vibe, but there are some amazing paper plate options out there, too!
Since I first envisioned this intentional time of beauty and connection, I've hosted seven glorious garden parties, each with a unique color palette ranging from pale peonies with white hydrangea, to bright ranunculus with sunset roses and lemons, to purple blooms mixed with bright green apples. I let market prices guide my purchasing decisions, incorporating fruit whenever possible to add interest and keep costs down.
When I threw the first annual April 16th Rose Garden Party (also known as my birthday), I dreamt about it for months. Great ideas always start with vision. I could see it all set up in my mind. Next I began to formulate my ideas on paper. Since I'm a list-maker, I started jotting down all the tasks that lay ahead and what details I wanted to include. Since I have my own art print business and an obsession with vintage flowers, I decided to make customized seed packets with each guests' name. You could also use simple postcards like these.
It served multiple purposes-- place card, favor and envelope. Because I'm a wordsmith, I thought what better gift can I give these ladies than a letter of encouragement and proclamation over their lives. Long after the flowers die and even the memory fades, words can stand forever like Proverbs 16:24 declares. "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." And it's always fun to get secret mail! They didn't know a beautiful card was in there until later. I also tucked in a matching packet of seeds to beautify their gardens or windowsill.
Next I had to convince my gracious mother to give me access to all her sets of heirloom china. No biggie. We're just going to carry 18 unique teacups, crystal goblets and three inherited sets of dishes outside over rocks and cement and unforgiving patio stones. And then we're going to pray that no one's feeling clumsy that day. And hallelujah!! Not even a stumble.
I might mention that my invitation specified no little ones due to the priceless nature of the settings and the plan of the afternoon. I think it's important to always write out a loose agenda to your event, otherwise time can get away from you and you won't hit the highlights that you intended. And prayer. Pray over the day, the flow, the order and the hearts involved. I always love reading the Prayer for Intentional Gathering of Friends from Every Moment Holy.
Some years I've gone around and prayed extemporaneously for each guest. It's probably my favorite part of the event. Everything goes better when you invite the Father's input. And you never know how these moments might change someone's life or fill their sails with wind again. (Unless they tell you later! Then you'll know and it will make all the hard work and exhaustion and money well worth it!!)
So a month before or so I started writing the personal letters to each guest and planting flowers to create a beautiful setting. A couple weeks before the day I started printing and packaging each favor, the week of I shopped for food, and the night before I tried my hand at floral arrangements. Lucky for me, I'd hung onto my wedding centerpiece urns and tablecloths (but you can easily find similar ones on Amazon) so I whipped those puppies back out. I snagged elegant napkins and a delicious chocolate torte at Whole Foods and borrowed chairs from all of our indoor tables. You can't have an elegant tea party with ugly folding chairs. Ambiance ruined.
For me an epic party is all in the details. In addition to a pretty table-scape, I set up a seating area with a rustic white trunk decorated with old wedding photos of my parents and grandparents. I used vintage books to give height and interest to the display and the gem of the afternoon was the packet of treasured love letters my mom had saved from my grandparents' courtship all through World War II.
These served both as a beautiful touch of decor with their weathered envelopes and sweet ribbon, as well as a conversation prompt for our time of connection. First I regaled the ladies with touching and hilarious sentiments from the two young lovers who met while working at a famous mansion in Canada, one handsome Scottish plumber and his darling Swedish maid. Next I shared a bit about my own love story and then invited each woman present to share about her own romantic journey, either with the Lord or her husband.
Making space for intentional conversation is what sets an ordinary event apart from a purposeful party. This hour of sharing can be carried with you long after the soiree ends. We laughed, we relaxed, we listened, we revealed and we cried. And we all learned so much. From the love stories that each of us have known, in their good times and their trying times. We even had an impromptu time of worship, singing as a quartet with my sister and two old friends. With the scent of roses hanging in the air, the afternoon sun warming our skin, delicious treats and words filling our souls, you could feel the presence of the Lord as we lifted our voices to Him in harmony and adoration.
Of course I've learned my limits and I must enlist the help of friends and family. I always say you should lean into your strengths. I'm not very speedy nor do I enjoy the work of all the food prep-- so much standing still and chopping and stirring-- so I outsource that to willing helpers. I love to decorate and design so I put most of my time into that. My muscles are kind of puny though, so I definitely have to procure the help of my ever-sacrificial and very sexy husband. He does all the grunt labor and child-care for my grand visions. Without him, my purposeful parties would involve rickety card tables and t.v. dinners. Love you, Babe. I owe you a fully decorated man-cave for sure. You are an integral part of all the purposeful and anointed moments that have graced our rose garden over the years. 'I love you' feels shabby and insufficient, but it will have to do 'cause I just blew our wad on these parties. wink, wink. No, but seriously. #broke