Mad Hatter Tea Party on a Budget!


table, chairs, trees, banner, painting

Sometimes I’m not sure what I spent more time planning, my wedding or my daughters’ birthday parties. Luckily, you can throw a fantastic bash for your kiddo without breaking the bank. Check out this super fun Mad Hatter Tea Party we did for Violet’s second birthday.

Party invitationThe Invites

When planning a themed party, I always start with the invitation, which can set the tone for the whole day. After a quick “tea party” search on Zazzle, I fell in love with this adorable design. The little Queen of Hearts reminded me of the birthday girl, so another decision was made: Violet would not be Alice, but rather the feisty Queen of Hearts! At $2.25 apiece, 12 of these babies cost me $20.25 after a 25% off coupon was applied, but there were many other cheaper and equally cute options to choose from on Zazzle or similar sites, or you could even design your own.

The Decor

If you have a little girl, chances are you already own a tea set; I had two. In the spirit of the Mad Hatter, though, I wanted a large, mismatched collection, so I posted on some local toy swap groups on Facebook. Turns out people are desperate to part with their kids’ outgrown tea sets, especially when you specify that they don’t need to be complete. I ended up with three different donations of leftover tea cups, kettles, and saucers.

Next stop, the dollar store. This is where I like to buy my plates, silverware, cups, and favor bags, as well as streamers and a big plastic tablecloth I can scoop up at the end and send straight to the garbage.

For a fun touch, I cut up construction paper into arrow shapes and wrote Wonderland “directions” on them. Easy peasy!

tree trunk, signs, streamerstree trunk, signs, streamers

I have to admit, I got ambitious with my next project — a portrait of the Cheshire Cat and Alice that would serve as a photo-op for the kids. I was eight months pregnant at the time and Violet was still taking naps, so it only took two rainy afternoons to bang this puppy out during my “me time.” Now I’m no artist, but there are some very easy-to-follow instructions on the Internet that will walk you through these types of drawings. The parents loved snapping photos of their little ones on the chair or peeking out from the hollowed tree trunk!

tree trunk, painting, chair

Lastly, I always like to give Etsy a looksie for inspiration, which led me to these oh-so-cute bottle labels. I paid $4 for the download, which I could print at home as many times as I wanted. The kiddos liked the bottles so much, they chose water over juice!

water bottles

The Splurges

The thing with browsing Etsy is that it can get you into trouble. I couldn’t resist ordering this darling tutu for Violet to wear on her big day. At $55, it was pretty steep for a one-time wear, but it was custom-made to her measurements. And since I was expecting another girl, there is potential there for a future Halloween costume.

girl, tutu

I also impulse-clicked on this Etsy find, a gorgeous banner made out of cut-out tea cups that spelled out “Happy Birthday, Violet!” Cough, cough, $25.


The Activities

You don’t need much to keep a group of 2-year-olds entertained. Aside from the tea sets, which will keep them busy pouring and serving and pretend sipping, you can’t go wrong with crayons. I found some free Wonderland coloring pages online, printed them out, and set them on the table like placemats. A few cups of crayons and voilà — happy 2-year-olds.

Speaking of the table, no need to spend hundreds on a toddler-sized one! A set of tires and a piece of plywood will do the trick.

table, chairs, coloring, tea setstires, plywood, table

If your child is older, you could attempt a DIY croquet game or buy a generic one for 20 bucks. Here is a list of some other perfect games for a Mad Hatter party.

The Food

For little ones, brunch is best. It falls between the morning and afternoon naps, it offers plenty of kid-approved foods, and it’s easy on the wallet. I kept it simple with homemade PB & J triangles for the tots and a croissant sandwich platter for the adults (Hannaford’s, $37). I’m obsessed with the muffins at Hannafords, so I got an assortment of those ($18) and cut them into halves, so they didn’t go to waste on the three-bites-and-I’m-full toddlers. A few bowls of Goldfish rounded out the snacks.

watermelon, sandwiches, fruit salad


Next, I got a watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew, scooped out the insides with a melon ball, and followed this guide on how to make a tea pot out of your watermelon rind. It looks complicated, but it’s so easy to do and it will earn you mad crafty points.



For drinks, I did the aforementioned tiny water bottles and juice boxes for the kids and an iced tea bar for the grown-ups. I cheated on the tea and got some store-bought unsweetened brew, to which people could add whatever they wanted: sugar, Splenda, fresh mint, or orange and lemon slices. I also provided a “boozy” option for the parents — a mix of lemonade and sweet tea-infused vodka. Be sure to label any alcoholic beverages in case there are pregnant moms in attendance and make sure there are designated drivers in place. I was preggo at the time, so I sipped on the regular tea with mint and an orange slice — delightful!

drink dispenser, cupsdrink, cups, sugar, mint, oranges, lemons, ice

Last but not least, cupcakes for the grand finale… no-brainer!

The Final Numbers

After adding everything up (including the booze and splurges), this party cost me around $230. You could do it for less if you don’t say yes to the $55 dress and make your own banner!

What are your favorite party theme ideas?


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