Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mad Hatter Tea Party

I hosted an afternoon tea party last weekend in the spirit of Alice in Wonderland.  This was a lot of fun to prepare for.  I actually started decorating about a week in advance (what can I say, I'm crazy!)

I dressed as Alice, with a blonde wig, blue dress, patent leather Mary Jane's and a key and locket necklace.  And Kyle dressed as the Mad Hatter!

I re-read the book in advance to remind myself of some of the finer details, and found it just as engrossing as I did as a child.  I think when I was younger, I was enchanted by the sheer magic of it, but as an adult, more able to appreciate the genius of the wordplay and imagery.  All in all, a fantastic book and great inspiration for a party!

We decorated the front door like a mirror (with aluminum foil, easy!) and made signs that said "Enter through the looking glass," and "This way to wonderland!"
I made dozens of tissue paper flowers, to give the entire place the appearance of a psychedelic garden. I had never made these before, but was told by a number of people that I should have learned to do this in elementary school...
We made a bunch of nonsensical signs pointing in all different directions, including one where Kyle wrote, in really tiny script, "thanks for reading".  Unfortunately, I don't think anyone noticed there was lettering on the sign - as you can see above, it just looked like a blank piece of cardboard when hung.  A sign in the bathroom read, "To flush, shout I'm done three times!".  So that created a bit of additional entertainment during the party.
I hung a Cheshire Cat doll from the chandelier with fishing wire.  And there is the Mad Hatter beneath it, enjoying a cup of tea!
I put the extensions in my dining room table to make it as ostentatiously long as possible, and bought dozens of different shapes, sizes and colors of tea cups and saucers from a thrift store. 

They were dirt cheap and I also managed to snag several silly tea pots that cost just a few dollars each.  Of course, I had to stuff a dormouse in one!
I laid out a couple of chess boards, scattered playing cards around the house, and turned on the movies in the background (one in each room - the Disney version and the Tim Burton version). 

The scene setter on the wall was actually a jungle setting, but it had a melty, psychedelic look to it that I thought resembled Wonderland.
I bought the majority of the other decorations (large playing cards, flamingos, cheap paper doilies, flowers and butterflies, etc) from the same site.  The giant mushroom and clock standees were from a website I just discovered, which has awesome, larger than life party accessories: Shindigz Wonderland Supplies.  Right up my alley!
I have posted the full menu in the menus section of this blog.  For beverages, I made several types of tea, spiked lemonade, and Long Island Iced tea.  Here's a link to the menu:  Tea Party Menu

One thing that I learned about having a tea party, with my friends at least, is that no one has any interest, whatsoever, in actually drinking tea.  They did drink their beer, wine and spiked lemonade out of the tea cups though, so the place settings did not go to waste!
Throughout the day I served tea sandwiches (crustless, naturally!), stuffed mushrooms, cheese balls, scones, several salads, a prime rib, and tiny toasts filled with peanut butter.  
I placed "eat me" and "drink me" signs all over the place, and created a glorious dessert bar with cupcakes, flower candy pretzels, and petit fours (which took FOREVER to decorate!). 

The candy molds were easy, you can buy those in the baking section of any craft store and they really didn't take very long at all to make.
I printed out my menu with funny names like, "The King's Carnivorous Dreamwich" and "Cunning Croquet Balls" and laid out copies of it so the guests knew what was being served next.

I also made tiny, edible tea cups (see below).  These were really easy to make... and even though mine didn't turn out nearly as pretty as the ones pictured in the recipe, I still thought they were cute.  People pretended to think so too!  Here is the "recipe" -  Edible Tea Cup Instructions.
I knew my friend Kara was bringing her two adorable sons, so I set up a "garden" for them in the living room, with coloring books, crayons, candy, playing cards, and other things to entertain them.
When the guests started arriving, I gave out hats for them to wear.  I got some plain black top hats (a dollar each!) and some other silly hats from the party store.  I also found some mini-top hats online for the ladies that were quite fun.

Of course, I had prepared in advance and was ready to outfit little Jake as my dormouse.  He was happy to oblige:
The March Hare mingled with the guests.  And then the Red Queen and White Rabbit showed up as a couple, which was awkward for everyone.
Amber is holding a tiny teacup that I got online - it's probably intended for a dollhouse, but was perfect for an inexplicable tiny place setting at my tea table!

I also made a playlist for the party, but no one seemed to notice.  As a good hostess, I guess I can't complain if people were talking too much to really hear the music. 

Some related songs are Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit", Florence and the Machine's "Rabbit Heart", Tom Petty's "Don't Come Around Here No More" (which, you may recall, features Alice in the video), and of course, The Beatles "I Am The Walrus". 
Before the party started, I printed out a bunch of old fashioned riddles, cut them into strips, wrote a question mark on the back, and then placed them all over the table upside down.

When people arrived, I let them know that if they solved a riddle, they would win a prize. Those riddles are harder than they seem, so this took a while, and created a fun, competitive atmosphere.

A few examples are:

Though not a plant,
Has leaves.
Though not a beast,
Has spine.
Though many wouldn't need this thing
'Tis more valuable than wine.

The answer is - a book.

Here is another:

I can sizzle like bacon,
I am made with an egg,
I have plenty of backbone, but lack a good leg,
I peel layers like onions, but still remain whole,
I can be long, like a flagpole, yet fit in a hole

The answer is - a snake.

I had created prize bags in advance filled with themed treasures, such as packs of mini-playing cards, candy watches and rings, heart shaped lollipops, gummy rabbit teeth (yes, such a thing exists!), and assorted candy.

There is a section on this blog about prize/goodie bags if you need more ideas.  Each time someone solved a riddle, we all clapped and I awarded them a prize bag. Hooray!
Kyle was in character for most of the party, shouting out riddles and reciting things he remembered from the book.  He forced everyone into a disorganized game of musical chairs by continually shouting out "New cup!" and demanding to move over a space, just like in the story.  I'm not sure if everyone found this funny, or merely annoying, but either way it was quite apropos.

The Mad Hatter also made up a game of his own, starting off wearing one tie and by the end of the night, he was wearing four, as he had stuffed them all into his hat and brought them out, one by one, throughout the night.  Eventually one ended up tied to his hat.
I must say, the party was a great success.  The children had a blast and the adults ate themselves into a food coma.  

I would do it again, particularly now that I have all the decorations, tea cups and madness securely packed away!  Not to mention the blonde wig, which I had gotten secretly addicted to by the end of the night.  Don't pay any attention to those black eyebrows.....

Here is a good web site for more Mad Hatter Tea Party Ideas: Alice in Wonderland Site


  1. wow! this is so awesome! what a fun party idea! and u have loads of creativity coming up with all that !!!

  2. Thanks Sarah! I love doing stuff like that, it makes you feel like a kid again!

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  6. Brilliant mad hatter tea party photos. Looking forward to have more interesting write ups! My daughter’s birthday is coming and I would like to use this theme for her outdoor bash that I have been planning to host at domestic event space Chicago.