My oldest daughter Ainsley decided that she didn't want a full-fledged birthday party for her 11th birthday. She was "too old" for that. (No! Not yet!!) But she did like the idea of a special little celebration, an English tea party, full of horses and tea cakes and girly touches. English riding is kind of the original Rustic Chic--elegant, refined, but full of barnyard fun.
I have to admit, doing small, intimate parties with just two or three friends kind of rocks. The logistics are easier to plan. You can do more elaborate, involved (and yes, sometimes more expensive) things, because you don't have to do them for 30 people.
No elaborate dessert table, for example. Our English tea was incredibly easy to assemble.
Tiny crustless tea sandwiches were a huge hit with all of the girls. We served three different varieties, and the girls loved sampling all of the flavors. The biggest hit was definitely the brie and apple variety. The gorgeous pewter Equestrian Shoe and Bit tray from Vagabond House was absolutely perfect for serving up our sandwiches.
Some people might think I'm nuts for using fine china and servingware at a little girl's birthday party. At larger parties, I admit, I'm all about the paper plates, too. But when it's small, when I know the girls who are coming, it's really not a big deal. And the kids feel extra special and grown up being trusted with high quality items.
I used the classic English tea guidelines for choosing my menu items. Traditionally, they'd be served on a three tier tray, with one tray bearing sandwiches, one with tea cakes and scones, and one with sweets. Each category had its own display at our little celebration, but the foods came straight from the tradition. For our tea cakes layer, I baked Earl Grey Tea Cakes and blueberry scones.
Served with lemon curd and my homemade strawberry jam, of course. Isn't this little pewter stirrup spoon pretty much the cutest thing you've ever seen?
We had fancy molded butter pats, too, that utterly charmed the girls.
My daughter likes cake as much as any other kid, but she goes absolutely NUTS for pavlova. It's easy to make, it's naturally gluten free (if that's an issue for any guests), and it's beautiful, in an unstructured kind of way. Which makes it totally easy to decorate. Who can't plop whipped cream on meringue, and toss berries on top?
Add a few edible flowers and you've got a spectacular dessert worthy of any special occasion.
Clearly, not much baking or elaborate cake decorating involved at this party! A couple hours of work, and all easily done DIY.
To drink, of course we had tea. (English Breakfast is Ainsley's favorite.) But I wanted something cold to serve, in case one of the girls didn't want hot tea. Lavender infused lemonade seemed like the perfectly girly and elegant beverage for our affair. The lavender lemonade was delicious, but the gorgeous equestrian carafe made it a stunning addition to our table.
Floral garland chair swags and award ribbon seating cards added an elegant, custom touch.
I'd thought of the nametag ribbons as throw-away items, but the girls asked if they could keep them. Of course!
First we ate. FYI, if you put out sugar cubes at an equestrian tea party, bring a lot of backups. I'm sure one or two cubes made their way into cups of tea, but between the girls eating them and giving them to the horse, we were out well before the end of the party!
After we were nourished, we spent time with the horse! We learned about horse safety, horse care, and more. And chased chickens and met a couple alpacas, too. It was fabulous farmyard fun!
King even got in the spirit of the party with his floral wreath. He initially thought it was a very kind snack we had brought. ;-)
Got any sugar cubes in that pocket?
After our time with King, the girls made charm bracelets. An activity, and a take-home gift, all in one!
I also had a fun little take-home gift all wrapped up for each girl.
Inside each box was an equestrian inspired leather wrap bracelet. Just enough little girl, just enough grown up. Just like this party.
Huge thanks to Vagabond House for sending along the stunning pewter items from their Equestrian collection. They truly made this party, and will become cherished heirlooms in our family. The quality and design are absolutely exceptional, and you can bet that every wedding gift I buy from here on out is going to be from Vagabond House!