Hello Eat In Stylers and welcome to my first Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea!
So recently I had the rewarding experience of hosting my very first Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea. The event itself was a great experience despite not being in the best of health recently.
For those of you who don’t know what Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea is, it is an event held annually during May and June by The Cancer Council of Australia where people sign up to host a morning tea to gain donations that go towards the prevention (which is think is vitally important) and treatment of cancer.
This cause is personal for me because my own grandmother died of cancer and sadly I have known some lovely people who have been affected it by it too. I pray that there soon comes a day when no one has to suffer from chronic illnesses but until then it is good to know that one can help in their own small way.
Since this was the first time I have ever done something like this, there was a bit of learning curve. I started to plan almost 2 months in advance which sounds like a lot of time but it think that you really do need that much time
So I learned a few things along the way that I’d like to share.
1. GETTING ORGANIZED
By far THE MOST crucial step is being organized. Items that you many need to consider include:
4. Contacting Potential Sponsors
5. Menu Planning
6. Special Equipment & Set-Up
7. Photography & Video
I'll be going into each of the above in a little detail and sharing my experiences with you. You'd be suprpised how much there is to think about when hosting something like this.
Having a theme is fun, sets the mood and brings the event together - mine was a Pretty In Pink/Floral Theme. Having a theme makes it easier for you because it can help you work out your color and decoration scheme. Guests appreciate a theme because it makes it easier for them to decide what to wear and makes it a bit more fun for everyone!
This sounds like a no-brainer but it is actually really important for an event like this. Obviously the more people you can invite, the more money you can raise for your charity!
As I mentioned this was my first time doing something like this and and really had NO IDEA what to expect in terms of what kind of donation or bids people would generally make. I was fortunate because a lot of lovely people who did not attend also made generous donations through my online page for the event - thank you to all those lovely people!
On the day I had 14 people come and 5 cancelled due to sickness all at the last minute so it might not be a bad idea to have a back-up plan or people you can call last minute if you need to - as I mentioned it is all about raising those valuable funds.
If I was to do this all over again I think it would have been easier to host this in a hall or a larger, more general space. 14 people was a good number for my place though - cosy but still able to move and that was with the 5 last minute cancellations so I was due to have 19. June/July weather isn't really great for the outdoors too so space can get limited. Also you are limited by how much you can move, change and re-arrange things at home so a bigger space gives you more options in general.
If you have a lot of space in your home then you'd probably be okay but I think a reasonably priced hall would have allowed me to call more people to the event and not be limited by space.
Something to think about next time!
These days e-vites and private groups on Facebook make it so easy to get your invitations out in a jiffy! Use an engaging picture and make your invited guests feel as those they are coming to a really fun and special event!
I invited almost all my guests (a couple don't have Facebook) through Facebook Events by creating my own private group so that I could invite and inform them of the event but also update my guests on things as they were happening on the group feed and create some buzz! Not only is this option fast and effective but it allows real time interaction too (by posting images or messages) so your guests can see what you've been up to and what they have to look forward to! I posted images of the menu, auction items etc. Whoever wasn't on Facebook I just messaged through What'sApp.
Also for my event, as I had a lot of lovely ladies who deal with young kids all week, so I requested that the event be Ladies Only so you might want to mention these sorts of details in your invitation.
5. CONTACTING POTENTIAL SPONSORS FOR DONATIONS TOWARDS YOUR EVENT
Start contacting your sponsors as early as possible because delays happen, whether it be a postal issue, or someone just plain forgets to follow up. So in order to avoid all that and get your items delivered well in time, try to organize yourself so that you receive your items at least a week in advance to your scheduled event. This also gives you time to plan how best to present and package the items for your auction or raffle on the day which mean less stress too.
Create a professional email template you can use to email/Facebook message the companies/people you are interested in contacting to contribute to your event and be sure to include their business or personal name before sending and include your contact details so it is as easy as possible for them to get in touch. Share WHY this event is important to you and how much you appreciate them taking the tim to consider donating to your event.
Go local and visit/call local businesses you regularly visit them in person and ask them if they will contribute, it helps to have a personal relationship history with people and in person your enthusiasm shows which makess it easier to get potential sponsors excited about what you are doing.
Be sure to keep a list and follow up with companies who have agreed to donate to you - especially if they are mailing interstate, internationally or they ask you to follow up - do it well in advance so that you aren't left empty-handed on the day!
Last but not least, be grateful and be sure to thank and credit your sponsors for their generosity!
THANK YOU SO MUCH TO OUR KIND SPONSORS
(please click on name to visit their business page)
6. YOUR MENU
Planning your menu is an important part of any occassion.
My thoughts on this is that you have to have a good balance of sweet and savory options. You may also need to consider vegetarian or special needs as well. I think next time I would add more vegetarian options that are egg free too for more variety for my vegetarian guests.
I had a range of hot and cold savory items as I had my morning tea closer to lunch time so that guests could essentially enjoy "lunch". I think next time I would be a bit more vigilant about portion control as I had a lot of left over food, even after giving care packages to quite a few family and friends! I will have to share the Blueberry Cake recipe with you all soon, it was so good!
I included some of my most popular recipes on the menu:
7. SPECIAL EQUIPMENT AND SET UP
This is another one of those things that sounds so obvious but you would be surprised how easily it is overlooked.
When I began the process of deciding my theme I realized that I needed lots of little things - simple white cake stands, bowls that matched my color theme, cake forks, little things like this, so once you've planned your menu, think about what you need and systematically knock them off. Be careful not to go overboard - unless you are considering reusing items or doing this as a business as it is really easy to get over-excited and over-spend if you aren't careful. If you have friends you can borrow items from this will help you save a lot of money too.
Table cloths, silk/real flowers, pretty decorative pieces and items in your theme color all add to the ambience of your event - so keep all of this in mind when planning. For my morning tea I ordered some silk orchids, found some inexpensive vases from Living Emporium and some other bits and pieces from Woodvale Boulevard Chemist and News who have a great range of gift and decorative ware. I also used quite a few items for serving that I had bought from Kitchen Witch Stores and a few from IKEA as well. I finally got a chance to break out my girlie cushions from www.goddessbyferitta.com, which I thought were really fun and fit in with the theme perfectly t00! I also had some lovely aromatherapy melts burning during the event which made the house smell amazing thanks to Flicker N' Flame Soy Scents. These sorts of little touches are easy and make your event special.
Again as I said ealier, I was somewhat limited as to how much I could do due to the restrictions of having it at home but I thought the end result was very pretty and inviting.
One thing that I definitely recommend is, if you are displaying your food for professional photos, use rectangular or square tables on a clean background. I found it incredibly hard to get balance on a relatively small round table - if you have a key centerpiece and build outwards on a large round table it might work okay. Also try to use bright or white tablecloths - the grey clearly does not work but I had to make a call as someone accidently burnt the pink tablecloth during ironing - no it wasn't me!
Try to "prep"or pre-plan your table at least the night before if not earlier - place your servingware on the table and get a feel for where everything will go and I would even suggest that you grab some scrap paper and label your dishes with the items you will be serving on them so that you can pop everything easily into the right place on the day. It might sound obvious but in the flurry of welcoming guests, heating up food and making sure everything is in order, without proper planning it will get chaotic.
For the easiest way to achieve an elegant look, try to use rectangular tables and try to get a clean background so that the images come out "clean and elegant" as well. There is nothing more frustrating that a lovely table being lost in messy background (picture wise) which is something I found myself having to deal with and so you may well want to consider this in your set up and display as well.
Having a mix of stands/serving platters and dishes that are low and high on your table as this creates a more interesting landscape on the table. Use multiple tiered cake stands, boards, marble whatever you like to give your table the look you are after. Again I found myself limited by the table being round and would have done things a lot differently had my tables been rectangular or square.
An electric large hot water urn makes serving large groups of people tea and coffee a breeze - I highly recommending getting your hands on one if you can for a large event like this.
Keep your tea, coffee and beverages in an easy to access area where people can easily help themselves. Be sure to have container or plate for people to remove tea bags and their spoons once they've finished mixing in their milk and sugar.
Ensure plates, cups, sauces, serving spoons, cutlery, napkins, etc. are all easily accessible to your guests.
Provide labels for items may not be obvious to guests - for example if you have a variety of jams or cheeses, labelling them is helpful to your guests.
Serve vegetarian items on a separate plate to items that contain non-vegetarian items and label accordingly so your guests can easily distinguish between them.
Accumulate your items for your raffle or silent auction in one area. I found some items like the Heston Blumenthal Cook Book and Jessicats Medi-Spa Gift Voucher worked well as stand alone items while others worked well to create the gift baskets/hampers. Grouping your items together makes more sense for certain donations and you can create a feeling of "value and indulgence" to your guests by creating hampers. I picked up some lovely boxes from the local discount store to assemble my baskets.
Try to do most of your setting up the day/night before so you only really have to organize the food on the day.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST - you will most likely need help the day of the event so ask a few friends who you know you can count on to arrive at least 1.5-2 hours before the event and help you set up. I think 2-3 people is a good number.
8. PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEO
This is something I completely overlooked and while I got a few snaps that I took on my phone and some that my family and friends took and were kind enough to share with me, it would have been nice to have a dedicated photographer, or a friend who was responsible for getting some great shots on the day. As most of the photos were taken on phones and it was quite overcast on the day so the quality wasn't so great.
Still we got some good pictures and had a lot of fun on the day ;-) Here's the full gallery below - enjoy!
9. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
In an ideal world everything we do would just flow seemlessly and be effortless but the reality is sometimes things happen where you just have to take a deep breath and deal with whatever comes your way. In my case I was dealing with an unexpected illness and had people who were supposed to come early to set up get delayed as well.
In the end remember, it is easy to get stressed and upset when things don't quite go to plan but your friends and guests are there to support a great cause and understand that you've gone to a lot of trouhle for them so don't be so hard on yourself!
10. THE END RESULT
Well thanks to the generosity of my guests and some lovely family and friends who did not make it to the event the first Eat In Style by Ferittta, Australia's Biggest Morning Tea raised an amazing $1386.00 which was much more than my goal of $1000.00 so I was stoked!
Thanks again to all my family and friends who came and made this event so much fun, thank you to my family and friends who made donations despite not being able to make it on the day and thank you last but not least to all my generous sponsors!
So will I do be doing it next year? Oh yeah! And with everything I'v learned this time I am sure it will be so much easier next time so I look forward to making some changes and doing it even better next time!
I hope my experience, tips and tricks will help you plan your next event and make it a roaring success too!
Oh before I forget I would love for you to join me on Instgram - yep I have my own page there now @eatinstylebyferitta ;-)