I've seen a lot of questions in egl pertaining to gothic lolita events and how to throw them, so I've decided to actually be a non-grumpy lolita for once and actually contribute instead of ranting. Therefore, I ask that the mods add this to the community memories, and all lolitas take note. I'm not an "expert", but you'll probably have noticed that I run the majority of the monthly Chicago-area gothic lolita events, and I ran a sizable tea party at ACEN, which had 25+ attendees. So here is my advice... including a mini-tutorial on tea parties!
Step 1: Determine What's In Your Area
Although a tea party/picnic is the most common type of activity that lolitas plan, there are a lot of other things that can be done in gothic lolita wear, not all of them directly related to the fashion itself. If you live in a major city, as I do, coming up with events can be pretty simple. I like to do things centered around the free activities that the city offers (festivals, fireworks displays, musuems). If you live in a smaller area, it may be more of a challenge to find different things to do, but be creative! Basically, any fun group activity can be a gothic lolita event-- it's just an event with a dress code!
My personal suggestions for events include:
- ice or roller skating
- shopping trip
- cooking party (if you have a small group or a sizable kitchen)
- laser tag (it works!)
- scavenge hunt
- boating trip (like a boat tour...)
- musuem trip
Also, make sure to consider food into your event because everyone will get hungry over the space of the day. If you are at a tea party, this is usually covered, but other events will require a stop for lunch and perhaps dinner.
Step 2: Determine Your Budget
Every event has a price tag, even if it is something as simple as meeting at a park for tag. The best way to determine your budget is to write up your event in detail, and then put a cost to each portion of the gathering. For instance, if you are meeting at a musuem to take pictures, going to a movie, and then having dinner at a Chinese resturant, you will need to calculate transportation costs, musuem admission, movie ticket price, and dinner. Although it seems obvious, you have to include each and every one of these in your considerations because people will inevitably ask "How much money should I bring?"
You will also need to decide if the budget is feasible. Some gothic lolitas are pretty young and still at home, not getting very much cash from their parents. You should definetly survey the lolitas in your area to make sure that the price and itinerary of your event are acceptable. Make sure that the event can accomodate everyone's budget within reason, and also considers things like curfew, transportation time, and any other "commodity" which you will have to budget. (After all time is money too!)
If you are planning something like a picnic or tea, you will need to consider wether you can afford to provide food, if you want donations, or you want to do a potluck. I'll explain in more detail below, but basically, some events can support potluck, others will need you to do the purchasing and collect donations for reimbursement. This is all part of your "budgeting" for the event, carefully planning out time and space issues alongside the monetary.
Step 3: Logistics
There are jokes made about a "Lolita Army", but really at an event, it can sometimes seem like that! Moving any group of people requires some planning and discipline. If you are the main event hostess and are expecting seven or more people, I highly reccommend a secondary hostess. That hostess can help manage the group, and if you get sick, they can take over duties. (One of my events went down in flames after an untimely winter cold struck me head on without warning.)
Public transportation is my preferred method of getting around for events. In most major cities, there are "fun passes" that the public transport department will offer that give you unlimited rides for one day. You should definetly make sure that people know about this in your initial survey, so that they can budget in the purchase of a pass if they choose. I suggest that you buy the passes ahead of time for those who want them, and then distribute them on the day of the event. Any parents that are worried about public transport can be reassured ahead of time with judicious phone calls or emails that basically let them know that you are not a crazy kidnapper, and are planning to not talk to strangers, take candy from strangers, flash your petticoat at strangers...
If you are lucky enough to get private transportation through the use of a van or car, go for it. God bless you too.
Most parents are very open to their kids attending these events, provided that they can see that the gathering is well-planned and attended. As hostess it is your duty to reassure the parents, and the gothic lolitas themselves that they will be safe and comfortable. The Lolita Army is a form of protection, since it allows people to go about in public in their unusual fashion without feeling alone. But the Lolita Army also requires discipline. As hostess, you must behave maturely, and gently regulate the behavior of othersm in your group. Most people will react with delight or fond amusement at seeing your group, but if you act like a bunch of obnoxious teenagers, the reactions will be very different. Everyone should have fun, but keep your group's behavior appropriate to the occassion and enviroment.
When planning the event always include a central meeting space, one that is easy to find, and is open enough for people to spot your group from a distance. Hotels, musuems, and monuments are good spaces for this. Also, it is traditional to include a time for photos, usually in some type of lolitaesque enviroment. You can break up tradition of course, but I like to pick a photogenic meeting spot so I can kill two birds with one stone. So a fancy hotel lobby, an elegant musuem, or a park space are my first choices for meeting spots.
And while you're planning make sure that your itinerary includes one or more "drop" points for younger lolitas with curfews. If you and the older lolitas will be running around at night, make sure that the itinerary includes a central place where parents can retrieve their youngins before the older kids go off to bounce around town.
This is getting a bit long on the section, so I will conclude this part with: planning is essential. Just do careful research on all activities, making a schedule, taking into account all factors of transport time, delays, and how long people will want to linger. Good planning and patience result in successful events.
Special Section: Tea Parties and Picnics
The tea party is the most popular gothic lolita event. It is pretty simple to plan one, since there are three main types of tea parties and picnics: Pot Luck, Do It Yourself, Catered.
The Pot Luck-- This is the most popular type of tea party since it is easiest. It involves picking a place for the tea party, having everyone meet up with their dishes, and arranging the party from there. As a hostess, you should make a sign-up list with slots for people to chose what they would like to bring, and you should also confirm everyone on their dish a few days before. It is important for you as hostess to provide basic utinsels, any picnic equipment (such as blankets), and some basic refreshments for the tea party. (I like to provide the drinks and the main foods so that lolitas just need to bring desserts or small dishes). If you are having the event outside, or are traveling extensively to the meeting place, ask guest to bring food that travels well. Things like cookies, brownies, certain tea sandwiches, and bottles of juice travel well. Cakes, anything with icing, and hot water do not travel well. This is basically part of your logistics work-up, but consider the space you are working with, what it has available, and what you have to do to make the event work in that space.
Remember that people cannot live on sugar alone, and always have someone bring something more substantial, or bring it yourself. I include some recipies at the end of the tutorial, but you can also consider things like pizza, fast food, or even having people bring their own picnic lunches and a dessert to share with the group. Whatever the case, make sure that you always bring paper towels and a garbage bag. No one likes a mess, least of all the people who will be coming after you.
Do It Yourself-- This is along the lines of a cooking party and is best suited towards smaller groups. Essentially, you invite everyone over to your house, and everyone cooks together and enjoys the food afterwards. The recipies at the end of the tutorial give you some good ideas on where to start, but the sky is the limit. Just always keep logistics in mind, planning how long each dish will take to make, clean up time, how to make it, and if ingredients can be used in more than one dish. It is not impolite to ask people for small donations to cover the cost of materials that you have to buy, and usually the cost is low enough where $2-$6 per person will cover everything.
Decoration for these types of parties is very easy, since you are basically only decorating the eating area. A cheap table cloth from the local dollar store, some paper dollies, and a pretty centerpiece are sufficent, but if you are a creative person, you can have unlimited fun with it.
Catered-- This can be one of the most satisfying and elaborate events, and can be done in two manners. The first one is simplest: Call the nicest hotel in your town and ask them if they have a "high tea" or "formal tea". Most fancy hotels have that type of tea in the afternoon, usually on the weekends, and serve a variety of desserts with fancy teas and coffees. It is a very elegant way to have tea, but can cost between $15-$25, so make sure that everyone approves! If your town's hotel doesn't have one or you are cheap, you can go to a local coffee shop or ice cream parlor and do it that way. As long as everyone is together, you will have a lot of fun!
The second manner is also simple but takes more planning. I think this way is best for anime conventions, or within the capacity of other, larger events, but you can also do this indpendently. (For my birthday in December, I am hosting another tea party at a nice suite in downtown Chicago-- Look forward to it!) If you are lucky enough to have offical sponsorship from the convention, you can get both space and a budget for the tea party. But if you have to do it on your own, you will need donations unless you feel like being very generous.
For space, I reccommend a hotel suite, or other large space with furniture. It will give everyone enough room to breath, and as hostess, you will have more room to work with. This requires some research because you will actually need to visit the hotel to get an idea of the space that you are working with. For the ACEN tea party I actually visited all the hotels in the convention area, and asked the concierges to let me tour their suites. I made a price list, took notes, and made my decision based on maximum space and price value. In this case, the Holiday Inn had a reasonable and spacious suite available a few blocks from the convention. Since I had roomates, I was able to save a lot of cash on the suite by splitting the costs of the room with them.
After finding a good space, call your local grocery store and ask them if they cater events. Grocery stores are usually cheaper than actual catering, and they have everything you need for an event in one place. For the ACEN tea party, I ordered some cakes, a few trays of sndwiches, some fresh croissants, juices, as well as the utinsels and paper goods. The cost was extremely reasonable, and since they delivered the food directly to the hotel, I just had to set up everything with my crew. The hotel can usually provide you a carafe of hot water, and you can use instant coffee, cocoa, and tea bags to give everyone their choice regarding hot drinks. Clean-up for the party is also easy, since you can ask the hotel for garbage bags and cleaning supplies.
This is the really easy way to do any event, but make sure you have enough people coming to make it worth it. You will probably want to ask for donations since the cost will be a bit much if you aren't capable of getting the cashj together on your own. To be honest, even if you are capable of providing the food and room on your own, it is not impolite to ask for donations since you are doing everyone a service.
Activities for tea parties usually include conversation, and verbal party games. Also, showing a classic movie or some visual kei videos would not be amiss.
So in conclusion any event requires three things: planning, creativity, and planning. Anyone can run an event so long as they think about it carefully before preparing. Once you run a few, it will become easy for you to plan, and it will soon be a routine! Pretty soon, your area will have monthly events in no time!
Recipies For Tea and Other Fun
Tea Sammiches II
Focaccia Sandwiches-- this is also known as "pizza bread", and can be filled with a variety of things. These sandwiches are flat and travel very well!
Chocolate Chip Tea Cake-- Tea cake is a compact, dense cake that is only lightly glazed and can travel well. You can find a ton of variations in Google.
Irish Tea Cake