For a bride who loves “Alice in Wonderland”, nothing less than a Wonderland bridal shower would do, with all of the magic and whimsy you would expect.
See also our Pinterest Board: Wonderland Bridal Shower.
The bride’s favorite color was purple and that, along with the whimsy of Wonderland’s tea party, was our theme. While you may recognize some of the theme elements below if you have seen the “Alice in Wonderland” movies – and there are several movies – we decided to focus more on the original books due to their wealth of ideas. In fact, there were so many thematic ideas from the books, we had to discard most of them and select only those that we could reasonably use with our budget.
Ultimately we decided to implement the Wonderland tea party theme as a Victorian high tea, which helped guide some of the decorations and all of the food and drinks. It also determined the time of day for the event as mid-afternoon, another cost saver and a time when more guests were available. For those that aren’t the Victorian high tea type, you could also do this event as a more kid-friendly party (lots of bright colors, animals, and sweet treats), a modern dark fantasy, or even a gaming picnic. In fact this is one of our favorite themes because there are so many different ways that it could play out.
Stacked cups, tissue paper flowers (see our upcoming tutorial), pastel plaid tablecloths, framed pictures, and miniature chairs dotted our tables.
In the Wonderland tea party scene, there is a feeling of whimsical chaos, with numerous tea cups scattered around the tables, some balanced precariously on top of others. Actual teacups are rather expensive and don’t balance that well, leading us to use stackable coffee cups in different colors and patterns (our favorites are from World Market, and I have seen them sold other places, too). The cups were sold in solid, polka dots, and white, which I embellished with simple designs in pastel paints. (NOTE: I did not use food-safe paints as these cups were for decorative purposes only; if you plan on drinking from the cups, please use the appropriate paint type and follow the instructions for application and usage.) We decided to keep the towers of cups to no more than three so they wouldn’t topple, and we added purple flowers, bows, butterflies, feathers, etc. to the top of the tower to finish it.
The miniature chairs scattered through the decorations were actually place card holders, but you could easily use miniature doll furniture instead. Playing with scale is another way to pull in the theme from “Alice in Wonderland”, reminding us of Alice’s numerous shrinking and growing episodes throughout the book. If you don’t have miniature furniture, you could use anything else in miniature like doll tea sets, small flowers, etc. Another option if you have the space is to go in the opposite direction and do everything BIG, like oversized flowers, bowls for cups and platters for plates, larger than usual chairs and sofas… you get the idea!
It is also a nice touch to pull in reminders of the purpose of the party – in this case, a bridal shower. We found small victorian style picture frames, which we spray painted silver for an antique pewter look. We then gathered digital pictures of the bride and groom and printed them in black and white for the frames. Not only did it add to the theme, but the pictures made good conversation starters for guests who didn’t know each other.
Other Themed Items
The above decorations worked for our party, but there are so many more items you could use if you prefer. Most people assume that Alice in Wonderland themes must include clocks, tea cups, flowers, playing cards, rabbits (the White Rabbit and the March Hare), top hats, small bottles, chess boards and pieces, and cats (Dina and the Cheshire Cat). They certainly can, in addition to other popular items in the book. For instance, did you know you can also use the following:
- Mice, unicorns, birds, and – yes – lions! There are other great characters in the book that you don’t always see in the movies, including the Dormouse at the tea party, birds of different types (flamingos, dodos, and other birds), and a fight scene between a unicorn and a lion.
- Fans and gloves. The White Rabbit has Alice fetch these from his house.
- Mushrooms, caterpillars, and butterflies. The caterpillar scene is a fan favorite.
- Doors and gates. Literally, everywhere. Alice is constantly passing through gates and doors of all different sizes and shapes.
- Mirrors. Many people don’t realize that the original “Alice in Wonderland” is actually two books with the second book being “Through the Looking Glass”. Most movies combine stories from both books into one movie; however, the mirror, or looking glass, is an important part in the opening of the second book.
- Poetry. Between reciting poems and listening to poems, there are several references to poetry throughout the book.
- Games. They play croquet, chess, cards, and guessing games / riddles.
Place / Venue
We were lucky to have a local cafe that offers English high tea with the most delicious sandwiches, baked goods, and, of course, tea!
The debate between having a party at a private residence or a specialized venue is always an interesting one that can be argued either way. If you have it at your home, you obviously don’t have to pay venue costs, but you do have to have the room (and bathrooms!) to accommodate everyone comfortably. If you have it at a venue, size isn’t usually an issue, but then cost becomes one. I like to find a middle ground, which is a restaraunt where they don’t charge you to use the space if you buy their food. This could mean your food costs go up, but you can generally work with the restaurant on the food offerings to stay in budget.
Of course, using a restaurant means you want to pick that one that fits your need AND your theme! For this event, we wanted to keep it informal with a cafe / small diner / coffee house, and we had the perfect place in mind. Not only is the restaurant locally owned and willing to work with us on using the space and menu options, the decor was already chic, eclectic, and whimsical, so it literally was the perfect backdrop for the shower. They also specialized in British cuisine, making the high tea menu very easy to create.
Food & Drink
Our venue really outdid itself with the most amazing scones with clotted cream, fairy cakes, finger sandwiches, and lovely layered cakes.
We met with the restaurant owner ahead of time to go over the date and time, number of guests attending, theme, and budget. We set the time for the middle of the afternoon when business was slower, and this allowed us to go with lighter menu options (being between meals) and have plenty of room to reserve tables. Based on our size, she was able to recommend that having a couple of simple cakes for people to serve themselves was actually cheaper than purchasing individual desserts like cake slices or cupcakes. She also used our theme to suggest other “high tea” menu items, such as finger sandwiches and scones, which again were more cost effective than full entrees for each guest. The teas themselves were very affordable, certainly more so than alcoholic drinks, and having a variety allowed the guests to pick whatever flavor of tea they preferred from the restaurant’s selection.
As for the way the dishes were served, we again benefited from this particular location. The owner had plenty of tea cups and decorative plates they regularly used for serving, which meant we didn’t have to pay extra for special dishes. They also had paper doilies and multi-tiered stands they used for special events, and they let us use these for no additional charge.
TIP: If you are bringing a lot of business with you in terms of the number of guests and purchasing food, don’t be afraid to ask the venue for any perks or special accommodations. An extra dish, included use of special display items, a customized drink… the worst that can happen is they say no!
The theme was fun and the venue and food were awesome. We did go over budget because we got carried away on the food, and that was our own fault. Ultimately everyone had a great time and the bride was smiling, so we’ll grade this an A- (minus for the budget issue). We would definitely do this one again!