It’s finally starting to feel like Spring! And for me, spring means picnics! I’ve been daydreaming about this Regency tea party picnic all winter, and I am so excited to finally put it together and share it with you.
Picnicking became popular during the turn of the century, and picnics are a staple activity in any Austen girl’s life. The most famous picnic takes place in Emma, when Emma and company take a trip to Box Hill. Picnics in Jane’s day were a lavish affair, one that was not easy to plan. A lot of care was taken to arrange the perfect picnic (and they also had a lot of help. Normally many servants were taken to set up and clean up the picnic). The group had planned for a beautiful and fun day at Box Hill; however, as is the norm with Jane’s brillant plot twists, the picnic turns into the setting for the fallout between Emma and Mr. Knightley after she insults Ms. Bates.
There are so many ways to incorporate Jane Austen and the Regency period in a picnic to make you feel as if you’ve stepped inside one of her books. You can incorporate Jane in decor, food, activities and even your wardrobe. Most of the work in planning a picnic is collecting and putting together all the things you need, but I have included a few DIYs, too. The asterisks indicate a DIY project that you can find at the end of the post. Happy spring and happy picnicking!
Supplies: These are picnic staples with a feminine, Regency twist.
1. Dishware: plates, napkins, cutlery, cups
It is a little too much to bring your best china out on you picnic (remember, you don’t have the help to clean up afer you!). A great alternative is disposable plastic dishware and plastic silverware; they look great and make you feel very fancy. The best part is the easy clean up. Cute party napkins add a dainty and period touch to your picnic; pick napkins with floral and pastel designs.
2. Tea Service: Tea pot, tea cups and saucers, teaspoons, sweetener, milk
What tea party is complete without tea! This is a good place to go all out! Break out those cute tea cups and saucers that you’ve been collecting and pick your favorite teapot. This will completely make your picnic experience; there is nothing like pouring tea and sipping from your cup (with your pinkie up), while surrounded by nature. You’ll feel just like Emma! Remember to also pack your favorite tea-time additions: honey, sugar, lemon or milk.
3. Picnic baskets, blanket, outdoor pillows
I love picnic baskets! Wicker baskets give you the most authentic experience, but at this time of year, there are a ton of beautiful Easter baskets wherever you go. Take advantage of that and find a pretty white or pastel colored one to hold your tea supplies. For a romantic touch, I added baby’s breath to my picnic basket; the little flowers are so dainty and pretty. They instantly added a feminine touch. Any type of picnic blanket would work, but I had an old pastel pink comforter around the house, and it was perfect. The softness of the blanket keeps you extra comfortable.
Ah, my favorite part! Of course to complete your experience, you need to look the part. If you’ve been following my column, you’re ready to go. A full regency gown is a little impractical to wear to the park, but you can start with your favorite feminine (yet modern) outfit. Pastel colors, lace, summer dresses are all great options for your picnic. Add white lace gloves, a bonnet, and a headband (like the three-strand bandeau or scroll down for a really quick way to turn any piece of ribbon into a hairband) to complete your look.
Menu: Picnic food is pretty simple, so it’s all in the presentation!
Collect all your packaging supplies for this picnic. Here are some of the things that I used: ribbon (of course!), twine, pretty scrapbook paper, tulle circles, treat bags, wax paper, faux silver serving dishes (I actually bought these from the dollar store!). Let your imagination go wild!
1. Drinks: Regent’s Punch*, cute water bottles, and your favorite tea in an insulated tumbler to keep hot
I found the recipe for Regent’s Punch in this great book. It is a refreshing, light drink that is perfect for a picnic. This was a very common drink in the Regency period, as it was one of Prince George the Fourth (The Regent)’s favorite drinks. You can keep it non-alcoholic like I did, but its easy to add a boozy touch and it’s still delicious. Also, you can add a quick strip of scrapbook paper a piece of lace to your water bottles to step up your game.
2. Savory: Cheese and crackers
A lot of the traditional afternoon tea menu is very sweet. You can add a plate of cheese and crackers to your meal for a savory touch. Transport your cheese in wax paper to keep it fresh and then transfer to your serving platter once you’ve found your picnic spot.
3. Tea sandwiches: Cheese and chutney*, Cucumber and cream cheese
I LOVE tea sandwiches! These are two of my favorite. The cucumber and cream cheese is any afternoon tea lover’s favorite and can be customized to your taste. This cheese and chutney sand which is so simple to make, but the mix of sweet and savory (with a little kick of mustard powder) gives it a very gourmet taste. There are two main ways to cut a tea sandwich: into triangles or into long “fingers” (finger sandwiches); for both, start by cutting off the crust with a serrated knife. You can cut your sandwich with two diagonal cuts to make four triangles. Or you can cut it into 2 or 3 vertical pieces, like I did. To package, I wrapped each sandwich in wax paper and seal with a piece of tape, and then I added a strip of paper and wrapped a piece of twine around. Don’t they look cute?
4. Sweets: Strawberries and grapes, scones, jam, clotted cream
Last but not least, the sweets! I packed some fresh fruit: grapes and strawberries. I am not a big baker, so I bought vanilla bean scones (but these are pretty simple to make and you can experiment with some great flavors). I packed raspberry jam and my favorite English clotted cream. It is so luxurious and rich; it will take your scone experience to the next level. I packed the scones in individual treat bags and then in tulle; tie it with ribbon and you have a beautiful individual scone packages.
Activities: Fun games to play with your friends.
1. Game of Graces*
Young ladies in the Regency played this simple game for hours! It’s a great game, that’s so easy to make, and actually requires quite a bit of hand-eye coordination. This game was invented for young ladies and was supposed to teach them how to be graceful. Here is how you play: Each player gets two sticks. You can either play with one hoop or two (two is much more difficult!). With the two sticks, one player holds the hoop and “throws” it through the air. The second player has to catch it. The first one to catch the hoop 10 times wins!
2. Become an Austen lady
This is cute game if you’re going to your picnic with a big group of friends. Write down the names of your favorite Austen characters and have your guests pick one. Continue on with your picnic while in character! Everyone has to guess who the others are. Remember, no names or places—make it hard. This game is a blast! (I was Mrs. Elton and she was hilarious to play!).
3. Bring along your favorite Jane Austen book
End your picnic with some leisurely reading time.
Simple Ribbon Hairband
2. Two hair ties
3. E600 glue
4. Measuring tape
1. Measure the circumference of your head
2. Loop the hair ties through each other and pull so they are knotted
3. Stretch out the hair ties and measure how long they are. Subtract this length from the measurement of your head.
4. Measure a piece of ribbon to the length you found in the step before and cut it to that length.
5. Glue each side of the ribbon to the ends of the hair ties. Let dry.
1. Water (2 cups)
2. Sugar (to taste)
3. Lemons (2)
4. Lemon-lime soda or champagne (1 liter -I used Fresca)
5.. Green Tea (2 tbsp I used this delicious green tea with strawberry! It added a fruity flavor and a pretty pink color, plus I LOVE the name!)
Steps (adapted from “Tea with Jane Austen”)
1. Make the lemonade the way you normally would (mix lemon juice, water, and sugar to taste).
2. Place tea in a strainer and place strainer over a second pitcher.
3. Pour lemonade over tea 2-3 times.
4. Add Fresca.
5. Pour into glass bottles and chill in fridge.
Cheese and Chutney Sandwich
1. Your favorite bread (I used whole wheat potato).
2. Sharp cheddar cheese (1/2 cup)
3. Mayonnaise (3 Tbsp)
4. Mustard Powder (1/8 Tsp)
5. Major Grey’s Mango Chutney (found in the British section of grocery stores)
1. Grate 1/2 cup of cheese with a fine grater.
2. Add in mayonnaise and mustard powder. Mix.
3. Cut off the crust of the bread.
4. Spread cheese mixture on one slice. Spread chutney on the other side.
5. Put pieces together and cut into triangles or “fingers.”
Game of Graces
1. Two 5/16 inch dowels
2. Embroidery hoop
4. Knife and cutting board
1. Cut the dowels in half (mine were 36 inches total, so I cut them into 18 inch pieces).
2. Detach the two rings that come with the hoop. On the ring without the metal closure, tie two pieces of ribbon onto opposite sides.
3. And that’s it! 🙂
A little inspiration: Gather up all your picnic supplies and invite your best friends. You can have it right in your backyard or head to your favorite local park. I would suggest finding a spot that has both shade and sun and a lot of open space (to play your Game of Graces). For a final touch, bring some portable speakers and your favorite Jane Austen movie soundtrack for extra ambiance. I hope you have a fabulous time on your picnic! I’d love to know how you planned your Tea party picnic!