Dos and Don’ts for the Firefly Tea Buffet

Even though it is tempting, don’t invite more guests than you have seating and by seating, I mean a chair and a place at a table. I know some people are quite adept at eating while sitting in folding chairs, balancing their plate and iced tea on their knee but I find that pretty risky. The guests, after all, were asked to wear white.

Seating guests at tables also allows you to set the table ahead of their arrival. Napkins, silverware, and iced tea glasses should be in place. Just before you ask everyone to sit down, place the gazpacho and set a basket of the White Cheddar Scones and a little container of Chive Butter on each table. Keep the scones wrapped warmly in a napkin. Pour the iced tea now or fill the glasses as you visit each table. Keep a pitcher of water on hand too in case someone doesn’t want to drink the tea.

Your guests will finish their soup and get up to go through the buffet line in naturally staggered times. Be sure to place the tables and chairs so there are clear paths to the buffet.

Your buffet doesn’t have to fit on just one table. Use a separate table for desserts. Let everyone see what’s coming up next! You might use a small table to hold pitchers of tea, ice and water.

On the table itself, vary the height of the serving pieces. You can slip a box or big can underneath the tablecloth to elevate a dish but don’t do too many of these or your table will look awkward. Use your footed cake stands and yes, this is the time to use your three-tiered trays.

A few Dos and Don’ts for the Hostess:

*Don’t use paper plates, cups or plastic forks.
*Don’t bring foil trays or dishes that the food was cooked in to the table to serve from.
*Do have extra napkins.
*Do offer sugar, artificial sweetener and lemon on the tables even if you prefer your tea without those things. This is about making your guests comfortable, not pushing your own beliefs. (I add this one for myself.)
*Do pull your teenage kids into service. They can clear the soup, help keep the tea glasses filled, remove the plates as everyone goes for dessert and clear the tables when everything has been eaten. If you don’t have your own kids, borrow a neighbor kid, your niece or nephew, a couple girls from church, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find teenage help.
*Do keep a roll of paper towels and a dish towel or two handy but out of sight.
*Do serve the food if someone brings it as a hostess gift. That is, if there is enough to go around. Proper etiquette says you don’t have to do this but why risk hurting someone’s feelings by not using what they brought. Yes, even if it is Watergate Salad. Being kind and generous outweighs having a perfect buffet table.
*Do try to relax and enjoy the party. A nervous, fussy hostess will make her guests uncomfortable. The people you invited are your friends and none of them will be upset if they have to wait a few minutes for a tea refill.

Dos and Don’ts for the Guest:

*Do ask if the hostess would like help but if she says no, please believe she means no.
*Do stay outdoors unless you need to use the restroom. Don’t hang around inside when the hostess meant this party to be outside.
*Don’t bring food to the party unless you’ve cleared it with the hostess first. She’ll probably welcome your vegan-glutton free-no peanut-diet delight but give her warning. She’s probably already set her buffet table. Don’t make her scurry around at the last minute.
*Don’t annoy the hostess by asking “What’s in this?” unless you have an allergy that will send you into anaphylactic shock. If you want the recipe, you can ask her tomorrow when you call to thank her.
*Do try to be in an upbeat party mood. Do think of something interesting or funny ahead of time to contribute to the conversation if you aren’t a good spur-of-the-moment speaker.
*Do be receptive to tasting new foods.
*Don’t bring booze; this is a tea, not a BYOB party. The hostess might indeed serve something alcoholic but that’s totally her call, not the guest’s.
*Do look for signs that the hostess is ready to say goodnight. And say goodnight.
*Do write a thank-you note the next day or at the very least, call the hostess to let her know how great everything was. She’ll really appreciate it and you’ll be invited back again.