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Food and Cakes

English Tea Style Reception on a Budget - How Easy is This?

We are having a tiny wedding with approximately 30 people, us included. We are targeting under $10/person. Both of our tentative venues remind me of The Secret Garden. I have made tea cakes before and am a tea enthusiast. I can make decent scones. I've never done clotted creams or jams. I read it was convenient to make the sandwiches the day before and chill them. Is that true? I can get a caterer to make an assortment of tea sandwiches for $90: $3/person She will do half that for $58 or $1.93/person Utensils, glasses and settings for about $60: $2/person Cupcakes: $3.50/person Case of Pellegrino $12: $0.40/person Case of Martinelli's $25: $0.83/ person Deviled eggs? Tea Leaves & water are sunk costs. I am missing scones, cream and jelly and I am already at $9.73. I want it to be cute, relatively low maintenance and not tacky. What do you think? I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. please provide any suggestions. Is this tacky? Is this relatively low key?

Re: English Tea Style Reception on a Budget - How Easy is This?

  • As long as you're doing this at a standard tea time and not a time where a full meal is expected, I think it's fine.

    Are you locked into using this caterer for everything?  Because you should shop around on the cupcakes.  There is no way that should be $3.50/person unless you're picking complicated flavors, complicated decorations, or they are vegan or gluten-free.  I think you can definitely get that to under 3/person. 

    I would start with grocery store bakeries sections or neighborhood bakeries.  And by neighborhood bakeries, I don't mean the cutesy look at all the fancy flavor combinations and our pear and gruyere tartlets and did you see our James Beard nomination?  I mean family-owned, been around since the 50's, not mentioned in any magazine top 10, no nonsense, bakes white bread daily, has sprinkle doughnuts, M&M cookies, and apple fritters bakeries.  The kind where you aren't even sure they do cupcakes.  These types of every day bakeries seem to be a dying breed in favor of the "all cupcake bakery" or other cutesy specialty, but they know what they are doing, will take orders, and will almost always be cheaper by leaps and bounds. Also, I'll mention that our Mexican panaderias here tend to be much cheaper than other bakeries, as well.

  • Thank you so much. We are targeting tea time. I am not locked in with any caterer at all yet. That price estimate came from an all cupcake bakery in the city. The groom wants Carmel or Butterscotch or both. If we purchase a gift card from Costco we can bring that down to $2.80. I will check with the Mom & Pop bakeries. I bet then can do scones too. Is there anyone you recommend for tea sandwiches?
  • lavasca you might want to post this on your local board this is an international board so people from all over are on here but locals on the cali boards can help you 

    i am a baker in my spare time i do get orders for cupcakes but my cupcakes are not expensive  at all i get 25 for a dozen on basic vanilla chocolate red velvet with sprinkles and then i get 30 a dozen on specialty cupcakes and i only sell mine in dozens. def check out the mom and pop old school bakeries specialty the italian ones they can crank out any kinds of deserts 
  • Thank you, Hyechica81. I'll do that.
  • KahlylaKahlyla Moncton, NB member
    Knottie Warrior 500 Love Its 100 Comments Name Dropper
    Not sure about the budget aspect, but I LOVE traditional teas and would not think your menu was tacky at all, provided it was at an appropriate time of day. I would suggest adding coffee, though. A lot of people go for it over tea, and it's also the more obvious default choice - even people who appreciate tea might be expecting to have the option of coffee. And remember to account for milk, cream, sugar and sweeteners. I agree that you can definitely go cheaper on the cupcakes, so hopefully it all balances out.

    Good luck!
    image
  • IMO, where you've got a caterer willing to work with you and keep it that tight, stick with them even if they are a little higher on the cupcakes since I'm guessing they'll be a wedding level cupcake and not a Costco cupcake that had 3 seconds of total attention given to them. Even if you go $2 over budget per guest, that's $60 TOPS, that won't break the bank compared to the other expenses going in to the day... DIY is going to cost you more than the $60 when you figure the trial runs, ingredients, but most importantly, the value of your time the weeks leading up to the wedding when you would make all of these. Plus, with food codes being what they are you may not be allowed to bring any aspect in DIY so you need to check with your site first.
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  • A delightful little evening tea party, reminds me of the old country. I hope this goes to plan and you have a great wedding day.
  • This is all wonderful advice and lovely well-wishes. Thank you all. I am now starting to rethink having attendants. I have thrown potluck tea parties before and know who could make what. However with our timeline I doubt that would be a good idea. My original cost estimate for our entire wedding has an 18% pad. I could definitely go up on food to $15/person. That is still a steal.
  • lavasca said:
    This is all wonderful advice and lovely well-wishes. Thank you all. I am now starting to rethink having attendants. I have thrown potluck tea parties before and know who could make what. However with our timeline I doubt that would be a good idea. My original cost estimate for our entire wedding has an 18% pad. I could definitely go up on food to $15/person. That is still a steal.
    Whatever you do, do not do a potluck. Weddings are hosted events. I think what you have planned - a non-meal time wedding and tea-style reception - is great. You should be able to stay in your budget. 

    As far as your menu, it may be cheaper to get sheet cake from costco versus doing cupcakes. I would pay for a caterer to do the tea sandwiches. Outside of that, I think the following is sufficient:

    - tea (obviously)
    - water and, possibly, lemonade
    - tea cakes
    - a fruit tray
    - veggie tray

    I added a fruit and veggie tray to add some variety. These shouldn't be very expensive to assemble. Honestly,  I'd skip the scones. You're already carb-heavy with sandwiches and tea cakes. Keep in mind, if it's at a non-meal time, it's just light refreshments - not a full meal. 
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    snippet17lc07
  • Check with caterer, too. Some may not let you mix brought in food with what they bring for liability and food handling requirements, so you might not able to have her do everything but the scones. I love lemon curd, but I'm so/so about scones since they tend to be dry. Or, leave off the sparkling water and cider. I do like that you're doing things that aren't on trays, presumably foods brought on tiered tea/dessert stands to tables like a normal tea. I really do hate eating off of picked over veggie trays.
  • lavasca said:
    This is all wonderful advice and lovely well-wishes. Thank you all. I am now starting to rethink having attendants. I have thrown potluck tea parties before and know who could make what. However with our timeline I doubt that would be a good idea. My original cost estimate for our entire wedding has an 18% pad. I could definitely go up on food to $15/person. That is still a steal.
    This is a wedding, not a shower or afternoon tea get together, PLEASE do not do this to ANY guest whether that's your Great Gravel Gurty, or yourself for that matter.  Hire the caterer to do the work for you in your budget.  Also, 99.9% chance your caterer will not allow a mix and match of you doing some of the food and them doing some others because of liability.  Cake is usually the only time when caterers make an exception on these types of issues because they rarely have a pastry chef on staff.  This is not the proper time for a potluck - for ANY reason!
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  • MesmrEwe, Thank you. I will stick with a caterer.
    MesmrEwe
  • Thank you, all. I won't have anyone do or make anything. I'll verify that the caterers only allow for their own food. I am so appreciative.
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    10000 Comments Seventh Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    edited August 2014
    One thing:  Traditional English teas take place around 6pm, which is dinner time in the US.  I think that if you're in the US, you probably want to schedule this type of reception for earlier in the day.

    Edited to add: I love the idea though.
  • Jen4948, Yes, I am in the US. We're shooting for around 3pm. Thank you for pointing this out to me as I do have some British guests attending. Our venue has this random indoor garden at the ground floor of the church. It gave me an off-beat Secret Garden/Mad Hatter's Tea Party vibe. That is how I got the notion.
    ohannabelle
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    10000 Comments Seventh Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    lavasca said:
    Jen4948, Yes, I am in the US. We're shooting for around 3pm. Thank you for pointing this out to me as I do have some British guests attending. Our venue has this random indoor garden at the ground floor of the church. It gave me an off-beat Secret Garden/Mad Hatter's Tea Party vibe. That is how I got the notion.
    That sounds really cool!  Best wishes!
  • LondonLisaLondonLisa London, UK member
    Seventh Anniversary 2500 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    edited August 2014
    Jen4948 said:
    One thing:  Traditional English teas take place around 6pm, which is dinner time in the US.  I think that if you're in the US, you probably want to schedule this type of reception for earlier in the day.

    Edited to add: I love the idea though.
    Not sure where you got this, but tea is very much an afternoon event (usually around 4pm). Cream tea at 6 seems very strange!  Some people in the north of England call their evening meal "tea", but it isn't finger sandwiches and scones- maybe that is what you are thinking of?

    @lavasca Clotted cream and jam with scones is amazing and definitely a must for afternoon tea. Also look into petit fours, victoria sponge sandwiches and various options of teas for people to try (maybe Breakfast, darjeeling, earl grey, sencha etc). Also, tiered tea servers would be great for this, and also cut down on your centrepieces. Traditionally, you start from the bottom up, so the most savory is on the bottom (sandwiches) then scones in the middle, and cakes on the top.

    I would skip cupcakes as it is over a third of your budget on 1 thing and tea is all about variety, and see what small cakes, chocolates and cookies could be purchased from a local store bakery like costco. For 3.50 per person, I bet you could have Scottish all-butter shortbread biscuits, something chocolat-y, and maybe a mini cupcake.
    ETF:typo
  • JennyColadaJennyColada Awesometown, CA member
    2500 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary First Answer
    edited August 2014
    The thing that is confusing for me is that you are figuring things out per "case" for some of the items: you want to cost those in portions. Like, does a "case" of Martinellis have three bottles? That's not enough for 30 people (I'm not really sure how many is in a "case"). You don't just want to make sure that you're hitting your budget, but it's important to make sure that you are providing ENOUGH as well. And costing things out as "$X per serving, and I need X servings" may be more useful than just figuring it out as a blanket cost. The cupcakes do seem rather expensive based on your budget, so if you're not tied to them in any way then I'd consider replacing them with like fruit tarts, small candies, or a larger (cheaper) sheet cake. Since cupcakes have to be individually baked and decorated (in contrast to a sheet cake that can be done all at once and then just portioned out) it's usually more expensive in general. So stick to things that are large and can easily be portioned, you'll get better bang for your buck that way. I echo fresh fruit and veggie trays also.
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  • Thank you all so much! There are 12 full sized bottles of Martinelli's per case. I think I ought to eliminate it totally. I love Martinelli's & FI is not really familiar with it and only rarely will consume champagne - basically if I order a glass and fail to tolerate more than a couple sips. I am definitely concerned about there being enough. We're revising a lot of our planning today. We finally got the contract for our venue but still haven't heard back from our officiant for that date. I have talked to a couple caterers since FI expanded our budget. He thought his idea would be $500 (for our whole wedding) but it is more like $6,000 when I looked into it.[ There is a restaurant beside a beautiful, urban lake that offers gondola rides. He wanted to have everything there.] If he allows for $20/person I found a caterer who can prepare and serve at the tea party and include cupcakes. I think this would be a steal because I don't have to take any more days off work let alone spend them cooking. We could do that with an Alice in Wonderland (not Disney) theme since our venue looks all dark and gothic and you walk in after descending and BAM there is this surprise, indoor garden. We can do an open air photobooth with Alice in Wonderland props within our original photography budget [I had to remind FI about photography] but I digress. Until we review our spreadsheet I am going to stick with the lower budget - eliminate the Martinelli's and reconsider the cupcakes from that vendor. A neighborhood baker will do them for $1.80 but only vanilla and no mini's. I found AIW decorations for cupcakes and petit fours. I am looking at tea sandwich recipes. Wish us luck, please. :) Thank you for listening.
    LondonLisa
  • JennyColadaJennyColada Awesometown, CA member
    2500 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary First Answer
    I LOVE apple juice, and I'm really not a fan of sparkling apple juice at all.

    Something you could do (which maybe doesn't fit in with your theme) is do sparkling water with different flavored syrups (like an Itallian soda bar). You could even do Coke and Sprite with it (raspberry Sprite anyone?!).
    MesmrEwe
  • Jenny Colada, I like that idea. It does fit per Pinterest! Then, the punchbowls can be funky with different fruit in them.
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    10000 Comments Seventh Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    Not sure where you got this, but tea is very much an afternoon event (usually around 4pm). Cream tea at 6 seems very strange!  Some people in the north of England call their evening meal "tea", but it isn't finger sandwiches and scones- maybe that is what you are thinking of?

    Maybe.  But my point is that the type of hospitality the OP wants to serve is, in the US, best served before 6pm or perhaps after 8pm. 

    Either way, the menu sounds delicious.  I'd love it myself.
  • Our reception began at 3:30. We were able to borrow 5 tea sets. Ultimately, we had more than enough food and tea. It was gorgeous!
    MesmrEweJennyColadaNdelible
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