Table settings, linens, and centerpieces – it all came together in such a lovely way yesterday. But no surprise, when women gather together, beautiful things happen. My home was just the backdrop for the glory-crash of 15 lovely hearts.
“People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (Samuel 16:7, NIV)
I leaned in between my guests to remove their bread plates, sticky from the swirling remnants of cream and curd, and asked them to keep their forks, “This isn’t Downtown Abbey,” I said with a smile. And with that I took the plastic dishes to the sink, their laughter trailing behind me.
I’ve seen it, over and again, how women (busy moms especially) have stopped hosting gatherings in their homes. After all, it’s a lot of work, you have a family to care for all day every day, you need space in which to gather, and it costs a pretty penny. And so, without further ado, I’m offering a quick (and hopefully inspiring) post on how to host a tea party without breaking your back, your bank, or your sanity.
1) The cost – You can spend a lot of money throwing a tea party. No lie. But, it’s also possible to achieve the same impact with small output. I guarantee, your guests will remember their conversations and the deeply fulfilling way their hearts were satisfied around your table, long after the memories of what you served fade away. Bellies get hungry again in just a few short hours, but hearts stay full for weeks on end! Spend what you can financially, but invest heavily in purposeful prayers and planning.
Find ways to not spend! I designed my own centerpieces for yesterday’s party out of three $5.99 bouquets from Trader Joe’s. I used the same inexpensive vases I’ve had on hand for years now. I also spent $20 on new glasses from the 99cent store, because I’m a sucker for all things matchy, and didn’t have enough glassware for so many ladies. I was delighted to find green glasses, as green was my accent color for the table.
2) The guests – Maybe you have a few friends who haven’t seen one another in months, if not years! Perhaps your small Bible study group has been looking for a venue to get together beyond the florescent lights of your Sunday School classroom. Or maybe you know a bunch of unrelated ladies who may not know one another yet, but all share a unique interest, such as crafting or baking or reading great fiction. Choose a specific group of gals, find a date, and extend an invitation.
3) The invitation – Card-stock is lovely, but not necessary. I simply found a graphic online and added text. This is what my friends received in an email:
E-vites are always easy (and free), but texting works too. That said, if you’ve the money, wherewithal, and desire to send hand written notecards, certainly do! Antiquated but such a special treat. Just remember that you don’t need to, so don’t dare let the unspoken pressure to purchase foil-lined envelopes for your invitations stop you from hosting a sweet gathering! Your open door is the gift, the invite doesn’t have to be!
4) Your home – It’s a mess most days, and maybe you are too. I get that. And your little people dump things out of boxes faster than you can pick them up. I get that as well. This, my friends, is why doors were created. If you are overwhelmed by the thought of having to clean your entire house in order to be hospitable, might I suggest you only focus on a couple of rooms? All you need for a gathering is a somewhat tidy kitchen, a picked up living space, and a dinning table. Yesterday all of our bedroom doors were securely closed. In hindsight, I probably could have done a better job in the boys’ bathroom. But not even then could detour the gift of the gathering.
5) The menu – Don’t set yourself up for stress. Your husband will thank me for this point. You don’t need stress, and he doesn’t need you stressed, and your children don’t need you stressed, and your guests won’t want you stressed out either. If you enjoy cooking and baking, then do it if you can make it fit within the confines of your busy life! If, however, you do not enjoy said cooking and baking, then don’t. Pick up scones and curd, pre-made chicken salad and a bag of pre-washed lettuce, a bag of grapes to garnish, and a box of chocolates for dessert. It can absolutely be this simple. Or, perhaps, you are eager to try some new recipes. If you’re feeling like an adventure, I suggest you try making an assortment of scones. Followed by a platter of finger sandwiches, an unusual salad, and finally an assortment of chocolates and desserts. But remember this:
6) The table – Again, this doesn’t have to be stressful to be lovely. My secret weapons, my must have ingredients for a lovely table are simply fresh flowers and matching place settings. I have a set of 12 antique crystal tea plates and cups from the sixties that are my favorites. I love them entirely! However, yesterday I had too many guests to use them if I wanted to match – and I did want to match – so I decided to go with my simple white plastic plates that I purchased last Christmas when we were knee deep in a kitchen remodel but hosting the holiday feast just the same. I assumed then that I would throw the plates away, but they were so lovely I washed them off and have used them multiple times since. But the key is that they all match. I had two tables with identical yellow tablecloths and green napkins and glasses at each setting. Still, cloth napkins don’t make for better conversation, so don’t get all tied up in the linens.
The other piece to this puzzle is how to set a table. Though I already confessed to not living at “The Abbey,” I do appreciate the right layout at each setting. Here’s a quick explanation:
Napkin and fork on the left,
knife and spoon on the right,
knife closest to the plate, facing inward.
If using multiple forks or knives,
set them in order of use, from the outside moving in toward the plate.
Water glass is to the left of all other glasses, tea cups, or mugs.
Bread plate is set over the fork.
This is the way my mom taught me when I was a child.
7) The conversation – This one usually takes care of itself! However, I still like to guide a short time for sharing, especially when I women together who share an interest but don’t all know what another. Yesterday’s gathering was a group of Christian authors. After lunch we moved into the living room, squeezing together on the couch and dragging chairs from around the table, to gather together by the fireplace. Once settled with fresh cups of coffee and tea, an assortment of chocolates on the coffee table before us, I asked them one single rich question: “What is God teaching you in the new year?” Then, one by one, each woman had an opportunity to share their hearts. This was the feast. This was the feast! Though I prepared food for days, this sharing was the nourishing part of our time together.
Here’s the gist of it ladies, gathering together is an art form– Throwing a tea party or ladies luncheon, or even a simple dessert party after the children are down for the night, is an art form.
Your guests are the paint, forming one vibrant palette, each a different hue! Your home, with all it’s imperfections, a simple canvas. You are the brush, and God the painter. The way He moves the pigment upon the canvas never ceases to amaze me when I invite women into my home. He always is making things of beauty when we gather together. Invite Him into your next gathering and watch the art of fellowship come to life on the canvas of your home.
To learn more about enjoying your Life Creative in the midst of motherhood, sign up for updates here at WendySpeake.com and stay tuned for the book, Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom, coming fall 2016 through Kregel Publications.