Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Jane Austen Party

Before you get too excited, I do not mean a blogging party. ;) For some time I've been meaning to post about this party I had for my birthday a couple years ago, and now I finally am. I thought you, my dear readers, might enjoy it, and perhaps it might be a source of inspiration for random people trying to find ideas for a Jane Austen party.

I'm trying to decide whether to just ramble about it or try to do this in an organized manner... eh, well I'll try the organized manner first, but I've a sneaking suspicion some rambling might wheedle its way in.

My goal for the invitations was to give the effect of having come from the Regency era. Because my own handwriting is not that of an accomplished Regency lady, I used "Edwardian Script" on the computer and printed them out. (I happen to like that font much better than the one called "Regency". "Elegance" is also nice, which I use for the "&"s because the Edwardian Script one is a bit too fancy for my taste. However it would not copy into Blogger.) The invitation said something like this:

Miss Emerson is cordially invited to a party
in honor of Miss Melody Rose’s seventeenth birthday,
celebrating the world of Jane Austen
and the fictional lives of Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot,
Fanny Price, Emma Woodhouse,
Catherine Morland, Elinor & Marianne Dashwood,
and all her other marvellous characters.
March the twenty-third, three o’clock in the
afternoon. Those who would like to are also invited
to stay for dinner and watch a Jane Austen movie.
Please dress in your favourite Regency attire.

R.S.V.P. by March sixteenth.

The party was not really in March; I just used that for an example. I also do not really know anyone with the last name Emerson. And obviously my real last name was on the invitation, and I was not actually turning seventeen. I just think seventeen is such a JA-ish age. Now, I was following what I call "The Miss Rules" of the Regency era (also Victorian, I believe) where if a young lady is the eldest unmarried girl in her family, she is called "Miss {Last name}", but if she has an older unmarried sister, she's "Miss {Last name, First name}". Formally--when you talk to them face-to-face, "Miss {First name}" will do. ;) Now, the content was too modern to be historically accurate, of course, but you know, it's just for effect. And for those who didn't have a Regency dress (although several of them did) I was just going to suggest they wear their most old-fashioned clothing, or perhaps try for a shirt with an empire waist and a skirt; one girl borrowed a dress from me.

Then I folded it in the old-fashioned way (which I learned from The Jane Austen Handbook... or did a friend show me first?), making sure to fold it large enough so that the post office would accept it, and didn't use an envelope. Unfortunately I can't find instructions for folding it this way online, but if you want more information I'll be happy to help you out--just leave a comment. :) Since I had no sealing wax (I do now, though) I did the thing I used to do, which is use regular glue (you know, the wet kind) to make a round thing on the back, and then painted it burgundy when it dried. Sealing wax is definitely preferable (you can find this on eBay), but one does what one can. Address, stamp, and send. Of course, if you put it in an envelope or give it to people personally, you won't have to worry about the postal standards, which is nice, and it can be as small as you want.

Decorations, &c.
My favorite decorative bit of this party was what a cousin of mine later dubbed "A shrine of JA." HA. I acquired as many Jane Austen items as I could, from the library and with a LOT of help from a Janeite friend of mine... at the time I had very few items of my own (I have more now) as well as some generally old-fashioned things, and displayed them with candles and... well, a picture is worth a thousand words. Behold.
(Don't forget you can click on it to make it larger.)
Sigh of delight, anyone? Now, at the time The Friend From Whom I Borrowed Many Items did not have Emma 2009 on DVD, and I had not yet gotten it from the library (my copy was the one taped off of TV when it played on PBS), which is why you do not see it there. Some of those were options for what we would watch later on, but I'll get to that.

As well as displaying all of Jane Austen's works (well, not all of the minor works, but some of them) and The Jane Austen Handbook (which is fun to poke through), I had Shakespeare's sonnets and The Romance of the Forest as well. The latter, as you should know, was mentioned in Emma. Heehee.

Above the JA table I had two poster things I made with the JA heroes and heroines... although, I will confess that at the time I made four very sad mistakes. The first two were that I did not use Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller for Emma and Mr. Knightley. Shocking, I know. But I'd only seen it once or twice and for some reason I was still not totally convinced that they were my very complete favorite portrayals... as far as looks went, because I already favored their acting jobs. The other mistakes were *cough* misspellings of two of the heroes' last names. Did I really just admit that? It's horrid to know that I once did something I am now so picky about people not doing. (What am I doing now that I might be mortified about in a year or two, I wonder?) My excuse is that I hadn't read either of the books in question yet. (And I'm not volunteering the information of how many I had read. Er, not read. Or that I may have continued in one of the misconceptions even after I read the book. Ahem.) Nor had I been blogging yet.

Anyway, just for fun, they looked something like this, only here, my mistakes are corrected. ;) Oh, well, if I made it now I probably would use Kate Winslet's Marianne... but I just thought Charity Wakefield's looked a little more like the book's description. Again, it wasn't because of the acting. And the way they are arranged don't have to do with favorites, just however the collages seemed to work best. Oh, and I left Edmund out of the heroes collage, hahaha, but that was only because I couldn't find a good picture for him at the time.

For another old-fashioned touch, I had flower garlands on the stair rails. Flowers used to be a popular way of decorating for parties... I'm not so sure about in the Regency era, but we won't quibble about details.

Now, a main point of this party was the Tea, so the tea table was also decorated. Silly Me did not take any pictures of it, however... I didn't think about putting pictures on my blog at the time, of course, since it was not yet in existence, and I probably thought that since I recorded it with our camcorder that would be good enough. Heh. Or perhaps I was going to wait until all the food was on the table and then forgot... because I DID take a picture of a couple place settings.

As you can see, I made little place cards with everyone's names and a Jane Austen silhouette. (Unfortunately our selection of cloth napkins is not the widest, but I thought that using paper napkins would not be the thing.)

So I shall explain what I did with the table--first I put on our nicest tablecloth, and in the center I had a vase with flowers (you don't need to know that they were artificial) and two tall candles. Oh, and by the way, when it started growing dark outside I lit all the candles (including the ones on the JA table) and didn't turn on any lamps until necessary. It created a delightfully old-fashioned atmosphere, especially during dinner.

Now for the fun part. Sorry this is so long, everyone... I TOLD you it would rain I would ramble.
  • Quiz.
As everybody arrived, I had them take an Jane Austen quiz, and I had a prize (a small cream pitcher) for the person who got the most answers correct. These were the questions... I tried not to make the quiz too hard, although most of my friends declared it to be difficult. It may not be for most of you, though... anybody care to try? (Spelling mistakes corrected, again. Heh. *blushes* I was a shamefully ignorant girl back then. I doubt I thought so at the time, though....) Sorry it's so small... I wanted to save room.

Jane Austen Quiz
1. What was Jane Austen’s first published novel?
2. What was Jane Austen’s last completed novel?
3. Was Jane Austen ever married?
4. How many of Jane Austen’s main characters were proposed to by someone they did not marry?
5. List the ages of the following heroines:
Emma Woodhouse:             Elizabeth Bennet:           Anne Elliot:            Elinor Dashwood:     
6. Match the gentleman’s last name (and title) with their first name:
Charles                                   Mr. Bingley
Fitzwilliam                            Capt. Wentworth
Frederick                               Mr. Darcy
George                                   Mr. Knightley

7. Match these character’s first names with the last names they have (or will have) by the end of the book:
Anne                                       Bertram
Catherine                               Brandon
Elinor                                     Darcy
Elizabeth                               Ferrars
Emma                                    Knightley
Fanny                                     Tilney
Marianne                               Wentworth

8. Which of these titles go with which opening sentence?
a. Northanger Abbey
b. Pride and Prejudice
c. Sense and Sensibility
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
“No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine.”
“The family of Dashwood had been long settled in Sussex.”
9. Which two were not written by Jane Austen?
a. Jane Eyre
b. Sanditon
c. Lady Susan
d. Wives & Daughters
e. The Watsons

  • Tea.
(Since I forgot to take pictures of my own tea table, I took the opportunity
of snagging this lovely picture off Google Images. Heehee.)
As I have said, this was one of the main activities of the afternoon. If you think that tea parties are only for little girls, you mustn't have had the pleasure of experiencing an elegant tea for ladies. They really are most delightful. Now, I considered trying to make treats that were authentic to Jane Austen's time period, but dismissed the idea as too difficult, so I just went for treats and foods of an old-fashioned air instead. My journal reminds me that we had cookies, raspberry chocolates, chicken salad and cucumber sandwiches cut into fourths (definitely not early 1800s, but I couldn't think of anything else non-dessert-ish to have), biscuits (baking powder biscuits, not the English cookie, haha) with butter and jam, grapes, these bite-sized pies that I made by baking pie crust in a mini muffin pan, filling the shells with berry pie filling with whipped cream on top, and then of course we can't forget the tea itself. I had two pots with a different flavor in each to accommodate the different tastes of the guests. ;) Oh, and an old-fashioned looking lemon cake, in which I blew out my candles. (It was a birthday party, after all.)

Sitting down to tea encourages polite and elegant conversation, but also makes one feel just a tad restrained and quiet. So it's nice to have some conversation starters in mind--something at which a good friend of mine is quite adept--such as asking everyone what books they are reading or have just finished (which is always very interesting to me, anyway), if they are going or have gone on any vacations, if they're working on any projects, etc. Some parlor-type games will also work, which brings me to one of the games we had...

  • The Assume a Jane Austen Character game
Couldn't think of a clever title for that, haha. Anyway, this was quite fun, I thought. What I did was cut up slips of paper with names of female Jane Austen characters on them (all the heroines and just some other well-known ones, especially those I thought it would be fun to pretend to be), folded them up, and put them in a basket. (Using a basket for such things is just a nice, old-fashioned touch.) During tea I passed the basket around, and whatever name was written on the slip of paper you get, you are now that character, and everyone else has to try to guess who you are, and vice versa. You are allowed to ask other people questions, except, of course, questions where the answer would be a proper name are not allowed. That is, you can't ask their name or what book they're from or where they live--that sort of thing. Much too obvious. You can quote your heart out, however, and the object is not to conceal who you are from the other players, but just to have fun. And if you see someone really quiet, be sure to ask them a few questions, because if they're Fanny Price or Jane Bennet or Jane Fairfax they probably won't be randomly joining into the conversation. There were a couple instances where some of my friends weren't familiar with the character they drew, so I just let them pick another one.

We liked the game so much that we played it later on in the living room parlor and over dinner. And as I happened to write it down in my journal, I shall tell you that during the course of the afternoon and evening I got to be Elizabeth Bennet, Jane Bennet, Mrs Jennings (very fun one, that), and Marianne Dashwood.

  • This game that I don't know what to call which involves acting and Jane Austen quotes.
Where I first learned a version of this game was when I took a drama class at a homeschool co-op... it was so much fun that one of my friends (who was also in that class with me) and I like to play it at our parties when possible. How we play it is you divide everyone in your party into groups of 2-4 people, depending on how many you have and how many groups you want. Everyone receives two slips of paper, and thinks up some random phrase to write on it. Quotes are very popular, and for my JA party I changed the rules a bit and instead of any random phrase or quote it had to be a Jane Austen quote. (All of JA's novels were nearby in case people couldn't think of anything.) Now, once you have your two quotes written, you go around and trade your papers with everyone else. You can do this multiple times, but you have to be careful not to end up with the quote you wrote. That's just not fun. ;) Anyway, then you split up with your groups and all go in separate rooms, or else talk super quietly in different corners. You decide on some little skit to perform--something you randomly come up with or even a scene from a movie--and then everyone meets back together and takes turns performing their skits.

The funny part comes when, during the skit, everyone has to open their slips of paper at random and read (out loud) what it says. Sometimes it's so spontaneous it doesn't end up being that funny, but other times it is quite humorous, especially if it actually does make sense, or if someone else in the skit thinks of a witty response to what you just said. It's the challenge of trying to fit the quote into the context of what you're saying or doing--but no peeking first. That's against the rules. The first time you read it has to be when you're reading it aloud during the skit.

The skit two other young ladies and I made up was about three sisters complaining about how poor they are, and trying to think of ways to make money, in which we inserted possible occupations for ladies which we were just looking at in The Jane Austen Handbook (which we'd sneaked down to the family room with us to try to get ideas from).

It's interesting to see someone one minute lamenting over the price of sugar and then suddenly popping out with "If Jane dies, my dear, it will be comfort to know it was all in pursuit of Mr. Bingley." It's also amusing to watch Anne and Diana walking through the haunted wood, when Anne pipes in with "Oh, shocking! How shall we punish him for such a reply?" (Actually, the latter skit, which the other group did, was simply hysterical. Insert applause here.)

(Next time I play that game I'm going to write "If I am a wild Beast I cannot help it. It is not my own fault." Remind me. :D)

  • The Emma Word Game
Ah, the first game with true Austenese roots. In case you haven't already figured it out, this is the little activity that the characters in Emma played at, mainly Emma, Frank Churchill, Harriet Smith, and Jane Fairfax who was kind of forced into it. In the book I think what they used were some sort of alphabet tiles that Emma's nephews were supposed to have left at Hartfield, and I recommend using Scrabble game pieces. Unfortunately, my family does not have that game (shocking, I know, but we are fans of word games in general) so I used the letters from the game Upwords (pictured above) which is said to be very similar. You simply pick out a word, mix up the letters, and hand it to someone to figure out. (Yeah, like an unscramble game. Except more fun. And it's nice to be able to rearrange the letters.) Of course, we went with words connected with Jane Austen. Can you sort out the three words in the picture (besides Dixon, of course)? Oh, and you may decide for yourself whether proper names are allowed. I would say they should be. That may or may not be a hint. :)

Another game idea might be to learn whist with everyone, because that was such a common card game in Jane Austen's time. What little I know of it I don't care for, but anyways, just an idea. I'm sure you can find the instructions online, and they are also in The Jane Austen Handbook. (There is a reason I've mentioned that book five times now. It just has everything, and is so very fun.)

  • Jane Austen Movie
As you already saw if you read the invitation, I gave everyone the option of staying for dinner and the evening as well. One of my friends actually couldn't come in the afternoon, so it worked out quite nicely. I also mentioned to everyone that they might like to bring a change of clothes in case they didn't feel like dressing up the whole time. Now, what I did was lay out the movies that would be short enough, which were both the Persuasions, the 1996 Emmas, and Sense and Sensibility 1995. I don't condone either of the newer Mansfield Parks. (Huh? What are you talking about--some version of Pride and Prejudice made after 1995? Nope. No such thing. Ahem.) Anyway, I put little sticky notes an all of them and had everyone write their initials on the two they wanted to watch the most, then the one with the most votes was chosen, and the winner was... duhn-duh-duhhhhn... the brown-haired Emma. AKA the 1996 A&E version or what some people call Emma 1997. Most everybody hadn't seen that version yet. It was fun. :)

(For those of you who many not know, "&c." is the old-fashioned way of writing "etc." I find it quite delightful to use myself. Jane Austen used it frequently, after all.)

Anyways. A few other things I wanted to mention.

During the party I had three JA soundtracks playing. It was P&P95, S&S95 and fakeP&P P&P05, the latter only because I didn't have another one to play at the time. (Now it would have been Emma09.)

For party favors, I had a delightful time making Jane Austen bookmarks. I printed out Jane Austen silhouettes, a little lacy-looking thing to go around them, cut those out, and put them on the main bookmark part. On the front I had a Jane Austen quote (each bookmark had one, and there were eight, so I had two from Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice, then one each for the other novels) and on the back a list of her main works. Look here:
Then at the top I punched holes and tied on ribbons. Oh, and I used packaging tape as my own version of laminating. Haha. You can sort of see the finished effect in this picture...

There are all sorts of things online that one can get as party favors and such for a Jane Austen party (a friend showed me this once, which I practically swooned over) but I tend to go the homemade route. (Less expensive, you see. And that always appeals to me. :P)

So there you have it! It really was great fun, and I wish that I could have another one with some of you Janeite blogging friends out there! :)


Miss Dashwood said...


Why didn't you invite me to this party, Chrys??? *pouts* I should have so liked to go! Why didn't you? I want to KNOW, Anne!

(Um, to those of you reading this comment who aren't Melody-- I'm only teasing her a bit. She and I hadn't met yet when she had this party.)

Sigh, it all just looks so deliciously fun. I would have LOVED to be there! You will just have to have another one when I come to visit. :D

I like the dates on the invitation, heeheehee. Especially that RSVP one. :P

What an ingenious thing you are, Twinnie! I shall have to keep that in mind, about making glue circles to seal old-fashioned envelopes... Haha, your "one does what one can" was reminiscent of Mr. Casby. Was it meant to be? ;)

Have you actually read The Romance of the Forest? That might be fun to read together sometime...

As for the quiz, I cannot resist--

1. Sense and Sensibility
2. Persuasion
3. Um, no. :D
4. Ooh, good question! I think three... Lizzy, Emma and Fanny. Wait, did John Thorpe actually propose to Catherine or did he just hint at it?
5. Emma: 21, Elizabeth: 20, Anne: 27, Elinor: 19.
6. Charles Bingley, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Frederick Wentworth, George Knightley
7. Anne Wentworth, Catherine Tilney, Elinor Ferrars, Elizabeth Darcy, Emma Knightley, Fanny Bertram, Marianne Brandon (that last one has such a nice ring to it).
8. "It is a truth..." (P&P)
"No one who had..." (NA)
"The family of Dashwood..." (S&S)
9. Hahahahahaha. Jane Eyre and Wives and Daughters. I'm terribly curious as to whether anyone got THAT wrong...

Fun quiz, dearling!

Ooh, I'd scrolled down to the 'tea' section and was oohing and aahing over your GORGEOUS teapot and then I saw 'twasn't your picture. Heeheehee.

I LOVE THE ASSUME A JA CHARACTER GAME! We simply must play that if we are ever in a group setting together! What FUN! Haha, I should have liked to see you being Mrs. Jennings... I am sure you did a monstrous fine job of it. :P

Ooh, and the acting game sounds like great fun too!

The letters spell Regency, Dixon and Bingley... but I can't figure out the othah one. It will come to me at three of the clock tomorrow morning, I am sure. :D

I like that bookmark you've pictured... it's so very pretty. Only I think the kind with the "gentleman or lady" quote is even prettier. :D :D :D

I wish you could have another one tooooooooo! If you ever do, dearest, stop and think of meeeeeeeee. :D

(Ooh, and I see your tears have turned to smiles in your profile. I liked both pictures, but I think I like this one bettah.)

Lily of the Valley said...

M'dear Melody, that party was simply smashing... ; ) I am sure that you and I both know ever so much more about Jane Austen now than we did two years ago, but my knowledge is almost entirely indebted to you. : ) This was a lovely post. Thanks!

Kiri Liz said...

Looks like it was a lot of fun!! Loved hearing about all of your games! Though, I do pity you for having to watch the Kate Beckinsale Emma. I really cannot say that I like that one at all.

And the words in the "Emma/Scrabble" game (what would you call it, anyway?) besides Dixon are blunder, regency, and Woodhouse.

Melody said...

Miss Dashwood,
Ooohhhh, I would have liked SO much to invite you, Cordy! As you know perfectly well. But you have cleverly got me on the subject of lamenting that I couldn't. :P
However, in all actual actuality, if I had sent you an invitation you would not have come, because you'd have no idea who on earth that Melody person WAS. Plus you'd have to travel a bit too far. Eh-heh.
Anyways. I shall indeed have some party of the sort WWFT. I don't know if I could get away with two Jane Austen parties, but we can have some JA themes going on. Indubitably.
I thought you might like those dates. ;D And I'm not sure it was supposed to be reminiscent of Mr. Casby, but I was hearing his voice in my head at the time, haha; in fact of point, I came close to saying "One does what one can... whhhhat one can." But the people who didn't "get it" might think me mad, and I didn't feel like saying "for those of you who don't know..." haha.
Nope, I 'aven't read The Romance of the Forest. We should read something of the sort together... although I think it should be Udolpho. Then all the anti-Northanger-ness will likely amuse us. :) (Well, it would proberly be that with TROTF too... but anyways. Udolpho is on my classics club list. :P)
You completely failed the quiz. *snort* Not. You would have won the cream pitcher had you been there... well, actually, perhaps not, as you likely didn't know nearly as much about JA back then. ;) I think one or two MIGHT have gotten that last question wrong... hahaha... but most of them got it right. ;)
Actually, if I remember correctly, I made a monstrous fine mess out of Mrs. Jennings, but it was fun alwaysthemore. ;P
ARGH. You can't make out the other one because I left out a letter.
Anyways. New picture--have another go. Haha. And I had to change Bingley, because one of the letters in that were required for the other one, but you were correct. :)
Yup, very special people get the gentleman or lady quote. ;)
Oh, don't worry. If I had another one I'd probably stop and think of you before I thought of the party. ;D
Glad you like the picture... I switched it around from Gmail, you might note. :)

Melody said...

Lily of the Valley,
Haha, I'm glad you think so. ;D And I'm always very happy to pass JA knowledge on to anyone who will pay attention. Hahaha. I'm pleased that you enjoyed the post!

Kiri Liz,
Thank you! But don't pity me with the Kate Beckinsale movie... I actually like that one. :) Not half so well as the 2009 version, but it was my favorite before that came out. Now, I can't abide the Mr. Knightley on that one, but I thought KB had her good points... in fact, I tend to picture her & hear her voice when I read the book, and I know I'm not the only one. :) Plus Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax were pretty good... especially the latter (she's my favorite Jane) and it had a nice, old-fashioned feel to it, I thought.
Now we have both made our argument, let us not quarrel.
Oh wait, you didn't really make an argument. Well, never mind then. ;)
I don't remember them ever calling the game anything specific in the book or movies... well, they might have called it "alphabet letters" or something like that in the 2009 version... haha. Anyway, I just call it "the Emma word game". :P And good job on the words! :)

Marie said...

Ooh, this sounds like such fun! As to your not having read all the novels at that time, 'tis better than me. Of a truth the only novel I have read all of is Northanger Abbey *moans and covers face in shame* not because I think they're boring, just because I've been reading other books. I do plan to read the rest, of course :)

Jessica said...

Very enjoyable post. ;-) I love tea parties, as you know!

Hayden said...

looks like it was fun :)

You've been tagged!

Shannon said...

Ohhh, how fun!! :-D Thanks for sharing all of these ideas!


{ Blog: }

Miss Dashwood said...

Popping in to say that I reread this just for fun and a bit of reminiscing about OUR party, and to apologize for not reminding you to use the wild Beast quote this time around. Heehee.

Theresa said...

Thank you so much for posting a detailed description of your party, I have been thinking of having a Regency/Jane Austen tea party and really need suggestions as I have never done it before! Would you mind if I borrowed some of your great ideas? :) Thank you again! :D

Melody said...

Feel free to! :) That's part of why I posted about it. I'd love it if you stopped by afterwards and let me know how you went! Hope it's fun...

Miss Jane Bennet said...

I nominated this post for I'd Like to Share. I'm sure you already know what that is, but I'm going to put a link in anyway, for convenience. :)

Melody said...

Miss Jane,
Why, thank you!! :) When I saw about the blogging project I doubted I'd be nominated for anything, haha. But I am happy to be wrong. I would much rather be merry than right, haha. ;)

Maggie said...

Hi there! I am throwing a regency ball and would love to know how to fold the invitations in that way you were mentioning. Step by step instructions would be great. I've looked on google, but found nothing. Overall, this post was really, really helpful! Thanks tons!

Melody said...

I'll get working on that! When do you need the information by?
Wish I could come. ;)

Maggie said...

The sooner the better! I am handing them out next Tuesday, so Sunday at the latest, I think. Thanks for getting back with me so quickly!

Melody said...

All finished! :)

Maggie said...

thank you so much for doing that!!!! It means a lot!

Kate said...

Too funny- my birthday is March 23rd!

stevenjared0853 said...

This is perfect. My friend’s birthday is around this corner and I have finalized one of the Chicago event venues for her surprise party. She really likes to read all of these and I am sure she will love this theme for the party. So glad to have come across this post.

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