A preteen's Mad Hatter Tea Party-themed birthday party

January 26 2012 | Guest post by Melissa Fawcett

I love a good Empire cross-over: Melissa's Woodland Gypsy European Wedding was on Offbeat Bride in 2008! — Stephanie

All photos by Melissa Fawcett.

A few years ago, I came to the realization that my daughter was growing quicker than I could keep up. She was entering sixth grade — whilst we grow a culture of the "young at heart," we knew that this was not going to fly with her peers for much longer. I am not a brand-loyal person and my children have grown up in a world that focused more on handcrafted goods and interest-based learning. They had never owned anything Disney-related (except for the odd book), until we found ourselves gearing up for our first Disney vacation.

We quickly learned that Disney does everything BIG. It is quite easy to get caught up in the magic of it all, which in turn, created a new interest: Alice in Wonderland. My children are little Anglophiles to begin with, so this only reinforced the obsession. We decided to turn this obsession into a fête, and began planning a Mad Hatter Tea Party for our daughter's twelfth birthday.

We had so many cool things in the works that it started to feel foolish not to consider hiring a photographer for the party. The only way I could justify the cost was to remember that whilst I am all about keeping things low cost, these were moments we would want to capture on camera. To keep our costs down we crafted whenever possible.

I priced cupcakes with fondant toppers at $8 a pop, so instead we bought the supplies to give it a go. A plus is that these supplies can also be reused over and over again for bento boxes! I came back from a week-long mother/daughter vacation to a bunch of things my husband decided to make (Papier-mâché) as a surprise. We made the invites, the tags, the menus, the games, etc.

Family time was spent doing the things that we loved the most — crafting! Holiday gift giving became themed which made it much easier for us to swallow the costs of gathering up all of the extra items that we could not make and we wanted to use for the event. We were gifted items on Freecycle, we purchased second hand items online and at thrift shops.

We gathered items for the paint the roses red game (bingo dabbers/white roses), made a Mad Hatter's version of the game "Would You Rather?" and had all the kids make their own mini top hats. The work involved is unenviable if you are not into this kinda stuff, but man — we LOVED it.

We have since used our costumes and hats for a family trip to Mardi Gras in NOLA (perhaps that can be another guest post!) and at a Halloween-themed birthday party at a cooking school. So we have done well with recycling! It has been a while since the party — my daughter is auditioning for an art high school next week and hopes to get into a theatre/film program this fall. She came home this week (over the moon with excitement) to tell me that her final drama production this year will be (yep — you guessed it!) ALICE IN WONDERLAND, so we are back at it all over again!

You can see more photos from the party in Melissa's Facebook album.

  1. i LOVE it! I think you bring up a good point that even if you strive for simplicity from time to time it's great to just throw an extravagant (looking) party. I'm sure your family will remember it for years to come!

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  2. I had an Alice themed wedding… We had a photo booth with hats and things from wonderland … Wonderland is great party theme there is so much you can do with it!!!

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  3. So, so, so much to work with when diving into all of this, it was difficult to draw a line. I am sure there are tons of little details left out of this post, but I procrastinated long enough(ariel prompted for a post 18 mos ago!) and thought I better get something into OBM while I had some down time! 😀

    Freecycle is awesome. We are always gifting, receiving, trading…I especially love it for upcycling. I am currently organizing spices in the 50+ baby jars gifted to us.

    We never ever buy into school organized photo's because we would much rather have family/both kids together-so that was definitely a plus side to biting the bullet and hiring a photographer.

    I loved making the hats. The template took some time to work out (used old cereal box for that), but they turned out cooler than the store bought mini's-I think:)

    Hubby works at a massive party store doing IT management, but we were able to steer clear of it for the most part with all of our crafting:)

    I think the biggest pain of all of my planning was preparing the yard! See that patch of grass the kids are dancing on? Took me months of TLC to grow it!

    I have a star wars obsessed 5 year old girl that I need to think about next…wish me luck:)

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