Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Casual Picnic Tea

One of tea's many attributes is its versatility.   A tea party can be as formal or as informal as you choose to make it, without altering or compromising tea's soothing and civilized virtues.

In 2007, the Eastern Michigan District Superintendent's wife [of my church denomination] contacted me about coordinating a tea for the ladies attending July family camp.   There were all kinds of activities scheduled for the men, teens, and children, but nothing for the ladies.  I consented, and began planning a tea geared to a campground setting, held in a building not usually associated with teas - a gymnasium!  My responsibilities were determining a theme, tablescape, and menu, as well as purchasing and food prep. 

Below is the gym when I arrived for set-up prior to the 2:30 p.m. event.

I decided on a picnic theme knowing ladies would be attending in casual attire, in addition to the informal, non-traditional type of building we'd be occupying.   Cheerful, casual, silk sunflowers in wicker baskets were the centerpieces, with yellow disposable tablecloths and plastic silverware, and green place mats with sunflower napkins completing the tablescape.  Teacups gave way to Libbey drinking jars with a sunflower blossom placed inside of each.  The drinking jars later became a favor for the ladies to take home.  [No dish washing! ;-)]   I set one table as an example and a group of volunteers did the remaining tables.

With a little creativity and some aesthetics, isn't it amazing how a gym can be transformed?

Then it was into the kitchen to line 72 large, clear plastic carry-out containers with white paper doilies, and begin assembling each lady's tea meal.  The meal consisted of a freshly baked raspberry scone [purchased from a bakery] a jar of jam, a chicken salad croissant, and a fresh fruit cup.   Individual lemon tarts and cellophane wrapped, decorated, teapot sugar cookies were at each place setting.   The food containers were placed on the tables just prior to tea time, and since they were pre-assembled, serving was a breeze.

In keeping with the picnic theme, a large  5-gallon igloo cooler was used for iced Lady Londonderry Tea and another for lemonade.  An electric urn was used for hot Lady Londonderry Tea [made from tea concentrate].

As you can see in the photo below, the ladies are enjoying their tea-time picnic!

The Women's Ministry Director and Council were responsible for the program and decorating the speaker's stage.  They also had oversight of reservations and collection of money - $12.00 per lady.  The program was Tea for Two - Jesus and You!  Like a teapot filled with God's love, we are to pour out His blessings and love on those around us.

Program Cover

There were tea gift drawings, and a sing-a-long with fun songs from the past.

Abigail, the sweet little girl pictured below, sang "When You Wish Upon a Star" and "Oh, You Beautiful Doll."

Since everything was disposable, clean-up was minimal and quick - a real plus when you're weary from executing such an event.   I did three more teas at the campgrounds in 2008, 2009 and 2010 [which you will read about in future blog posts this week].   Then I passed the baton to someone else.  


  1. Lovely ideas, I sometimes get hung up on not wanting to use disposable in any situation since so few women actually experience a "real tea" but you've shown me how to do it elegantly yet simple. Thanks a bunch.

  2. A beautiful, fun tea! I love the colors you choose and the table looks so summery and perfect for a picnic. Great idea letting the ladies take home the drinking glass. Thanks for sharing and looking forward to seeing your two other teas.

  3. Phyllis, This does bring a smile to my face this morning. So cheerful and perfect for a retreat setting. That is exactly what I love about tea is that it can be share in so many different ways. Just lovely!

  4. Looks like a wonderful time! Love the cheerful tables and your theme. How true...and what could be better!

  5. How pretty, and how perfect for that setting! Your decorations were beautiful and the menu sounded delicious. You were smart to plan minimal clean-up, too, especially after a big event like that in a casual atmosphere!

  6. Phyllis, you do inspire me! I love reading about the different large tea gatherings you've planned and hosted and how you've customized to the event and setting. This is great with the casual but cheery place setting and service. Love it!

  7. Yes, you continue to prove that teatime is quite a versatile event! I'll bet these ladies were *thrilled* to see what awaited them!


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