If you're looking for a birthday party theme that is incredibly girly, but a bit mischievous too, take a peek through the Looking Glass.
Alice found herself at the table of the Mad Hatter and his tea party guests thanks to the brilliant imagination of Lewis Carroll. Take some inspiration from his wacky world of Wonderland with a party that your own little princess will not soon forget. Of course, boys are welcome too, especially those who arrive in top hats and with a riddle to be shared.
At our party, styled and photographed by Mandi Lynn of A La Mode Photographic Boutique, the girls came dressed in finery from Return to Eden and then, after passing through the looking glass, ended up at a slightly wonky tea party fit for a mischievous little Alice.
Set the scene
Invite your guests along to a very important date with a party invitation befitting the event. You can be as simple or extravagant as you like. Choose from a picture of a white rabbit to a playing card, a teapot or an image of a top hat with the party details around the brim. Ask your guests to "meet you in Wonderland" or perhaps tell them "not to be late for a very important date".
For decorations try hanging vintage teapots around the area where the party is set up and mix and match sizes. We strung ours up to a trellis with pretty ribbon. Raid the local opportunity shops for mismatched teacups and pots of various sizes. Add flowers to the teapots to make them into beautiful centrepieces. And if you have one, pop a stuffed toy mouse into a teapot to be "Dormouse". Use bright table dressings, the one we used was found at a second-hand Asian market and spread over a dust ruffle we sourced at a local op shop.
If you have a beautiful old armchair put that at the head of the table for Alice, aka the Birthday Girl, to sit on. An assortment of mixed-up chairs simply adds to the zaniness of the Mad Hatter theme.
Put some clocks around and stop them all at "tea time". Invite the Cheshire cat along, by using a stuffed animal, a pumpkin carved into a smiling cat face, or simply cut out and paste "grins" onto cardboard and hang them up.
We went to second-hand stores and collected old oil and vinegar containers and had the girls make their own "Drink Me" potions to take home. (See below)
Another neat craft idea is to make playing card fans. We got a set of jumbo-sized playing cards from a two dollar shop, and stuck them onto wooden sticks.
Fun and games
There are lots of party games you can try out at a Mad Hatter Tea Party. From "pin the grin on the Cheshire Cat" to a slightly more complicated hat-making competition. Either buy some cheap hats or make folded-up newspaper ones and let your guests decorate them with flowers or random things collected from a second-hand shop or on a bush walk. You can also give the guests magic markers or paint and set them off on a race to paint plain silk roses red. Or if that sounds a little too complicated, source some Alice In Wonderland colouring pages and let the kids colour them in.
A tea cup race is a fun idea. Divide your guests into teams of two and they must carry the tea (or water) in a cup behind their back and then pour it into the tea cup of their team mate. The team with the most left in their cup wins. Depending on the age of your guests, plastic cups rather than crockery may be a better option.
You could also have an "I'm late" sack race or your classic three-legged race. You might consider hiring a face painter to entertain the kids and get them in the mood.
Eat me! Drink me!
A Madhatter Tea Party is a fabulous excuse to indulge in gorgeous, sumptuous treats. Raid your favourite bakery for lots of little sweets to put on cake plates. Or if you're a really keen mum, bake away in teapot or mushroom shapes or even use cookie cutters in the shape of diamonds and hearts and clubs and spades to cut up sandwiches or cookies.
Attach labels saying "eat me" or "drink me" to the food and serving pieces. Jelly served inside tea cups might be a nice idea for a sweet treat.
How to make "Drink Me" potions
When Alice drank the bottle marked "Drink Me" she found it tasted of "cherry-tart, custard, pineapple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast". Ours might not taste that good, but at least it'll keep the kids entertained.
1. Scour second-hand stores for old oil and vinegar containers and bottles - the quirkier the better.
2. Buy some cardboard tags and ribbon. Write "Drink Me" on the tags.
3. Pour different-coloured jelly sugar crystals into small bowls on the table and let the party guests pick their favourite shade.
4. Pour a couple of tablespoons of the jelly crystals into the bottle (a funnel is a good idea - even one made of paper might help).
5. If you can be sure your guests won't drink their potions, add some glitter to give it a touch of magic!
6. Pour in water.
7. Pop a cork in the top (you might need to pre-cut some down to size) and give the bottle a good shake to mix up the colour.
8. Tie on a label.
Styling and Photography: Mandi Lynn of A La Mode Photographic Boutique www.lamode.co.nz