I was recently asked to host a talk at The Alternative & Vintage Wedding Fair at the Cambridge union Society. Free reign was given, it was suggested perhaps touching on wedding etiquette, however I felt that with the feel of this unusual wedding fair as well as the fact that afternoon tea weddings are increasingly popular, a talk on afternoon tea would be more apt - especially when it comes to the things people don't realise when planning it! I'm sometimes shy and retiring, believe it or not, so the thought of talking to lots of brides and grooms was a little daunting. I got chatting to Lina of Linaandtom.com (a local photographic duo that have helped me with my own events photography over the past few years) and she suggested a co-host with her experience and knowledge in photographing weddings with afternoon tea catering. So, fast forward to a stunning and central Cambridge venue in the rain and wind, wooden panelled walls, comfy leather chairs, and an echoey bar to host our hour long talk. Lina discussed her experiences of afternoon tea catering that has worked well such as canapés and champagne to keep your guests happ on arrival through to "Great British Bake Off" inspired judging of a "bring and share" cake table for guests to take part in. I can picture the bride and groom as their own versions of Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry now - such a great idea for something a little different! It's also very important to let your photographer know what you want in your photos, which elements you want focus on and the timings of your event. A photographer will naturally believe the "cutting of the cake" to happen at the end of the day, but if you are changing the more "traditional" elements of your wedding day, let them know so they factor it into their schedule for your event. Your wedding is YOUR wedding and I'm a firm believer in having & doing what YOU BOTH WANT and not what your guests EXPECT you have. It should also be a day of delicious food to help you celebrate your first meal together and whats better than afternoon tea?! If this is the feast that you choose for your guests, here are my top ten tips on what to consider whilst plotting: Firstly, have a good old think as to why you are going for afternoon tea. Is it to "save money"? by not having a bigger meal? - Be wary of hidden costs and addictive buying and adding to the table, props and the like can become pricey, so beg and borrow (I wouldn't condone stealing!) where possible. Tabletop games and giant games keep guests quiet and make for fun photos, or why not create little scrolls as place settings with a list of "afternoon tea etiquette" tips on how to enjoy your treats?! Afternoon tea is FILLING when done right. But it NEVER looks enough... To get it right, think of yourself sitting in a tearoom and having a tier in front of you. At what point do you fill up? For me, it's usually at the scones. Transfer this to YOUR wedding table and mentally go through the running order of your menu, you will soon see how filling it is going to be. Are you hosting your wedding at a venue? If at a venue, check that you are happy with the catering and service options on offer and if you need flexibility, will they allow you to have exactly what you want? Check before you book! If going DIY, especially in a village hall or similar venue, consider not only clean toilets and parking, but chairs & tables, crockery & cutlery and most importantly a good working kitchen. You will need a fridge, sink, oven, counter space and if serving tea, an urn! Some village halls can be stunning, but have terrible facilities, so do your research. Who will be your washing up fairy? There are some unglamorous elements to afternoon tea and the dirty dishes are just one of them. If going for DIY, keep this in mind and pay "non attending" guests or a "profesional tea lady/team" to help - don't ask invited guests or family as this will ruin THEIR experience of your big day. This will be money well spent and shouldn't be a worry for you on the day - You can always speak to Miss Sue Flay about this service, ahem, shameless plug. If going for a picnic style wedding, consider the parkland around you. For example, if you decide that a quiet picnic on a "Cambridge Common" is a great idea, do be wary that you aren't allowed to pitch a tent or gazebo without permission, of which is very difficult to gain. You should also be aware of cattle sharing your field, they can sniff out a picnic from a mile off and won't be as polite as most passers by, trust me, they can be persistent! Jam jars are perfect to serve traditional lemonade or iced tea with a pretty lid screwed on. Or you could use them for pre-prepare food and carry to your table with ease and they look fantastic on a table filled with a cupcake or colourful cheesecake. You could also fill them with crumbles, trifle, ice cream sundaes, prawn cocktails or pasta salads, you might even go for a roast dinner in jar for something different. Don't overlook the scones, these can be the most pleasing element of an afternoon tea table when served in the right way. You could go for a "DIY Scone Station" complete with jams, creams and curds, even fresh fruit for a colourful focal point. Or you might be penny pinching and want an idea for a favour that doubles up as an edible element of the meal, wrap a scone with a mini pot of jam on cellophane and ribbon for a simple gift for your guests to eat there or take away with them for later - this also makes for easy transportation and serving. Tea doesn't have to be boring for your guests! Set up a tea hatch filled with teacups and teapots and get them to sample lots of new and exciting teas, educating & entertaining them with one easy idea. There are companies out there such as Kandula Tea who sell a fantastic pink tea and Teabox Online who serve tea blends such as whiskey & ginger or rhubarb & custard. Don't cut back on your photographer or an events organiser. Should you be going for the DIY approach, hire a "professional afternoon tea lady" such as myself to ensure the smooth running of your afternoon tea catering. For more information on my offerings, visit www.misssueflay.com or drop me an email and I will happily help you with an adhoc consultation or a full on events service for your own afternoon tea or event at Hello@MissSueFlay.com Not forgetting my afternoon tea etiquette workshops, of which may make for a fun and sophisticated hen party celebration or wedding advice if this is of interest to you both. For more information on Lina and Tom, click here.