Jane Austen fans in fancy hats and dresses gathered at the Provo City Library ballroom for the library’s first-ever Regency Tea Party held Saturday, Oct. 26. Guests also listened to a panel of four local Regency authors during the tea party.
The event was well-received among those who attended, including Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi.
“Regency tea is the ultimate event you could come to for people who love to read from this era,” Kaufusi said. “(It was) the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon.”
Gene Nelson, the library’s director and a BYU alumnus, said the library offers more events and opportunities like the Regency Tea Party to the community than other city libraries do.
“This building allows us to do amazing events like this,” Nelson said. “With our programs, we really try to create an experience for people.”
Nelson said he loves being involved in the library events.
“I like to have fun too. I like to dress up and have a good time,” he said.
As the tea party started, Nelson gave a single pink daisy to each woman as they entered the ballroom.
“There have been so many that have come to the door and I give them their flowers and they’re just tickled pink,” Nelson said. “They’re just delighted to be here.”
Erika Hill, the library’s community relations coordinator, plans and organizes all the library events. She said the idea for the Regency Tea Party came from wanting to give adults a chance to dress up after the success of the library’s Fairy Tea Party for children.
Hill said one of her favorite parts of planning this event was taste testing items from BYU Food-to-Go.
She said she knew guests would be excited to meet the authors and get their books signed because Regency books are the most popular category that people check out at the library.
Many of the guests have been Jane Austen fans since their childhood, including Adriane Richardson who said she loves the author because she is so funny. Other guests commented similarly and said not many people know how funny classics can be.
For BYU genealogy student Katerina Sanders, the experience was a chance to see the books she loves brought to life.
“They just let you feel like you’re in the books that you’ve read for the entirety of your childhood,” Sanders said. “You get to dress up and be around people who also enjoy doing it and so you don’t feel silly.”
Jessica Bauer, BYU alumna, and her husband, Kevin, also loved the experience and both wore rented Regency costumes.
“I love seeing people dressing up. It’s an excuse to dress up and wear time period things that you don’t wear in public,” Bauer said.
Shelley Bushman and Heather Ashby, experience design and management students, said the event was well done and had all the touch points necessary to engage and excite guests.
“I love seeing women be so genuine in the era,” Ashby said.
As the participants gathered in line for the tea party, they got to take photos against a Regency-themed backdrop. Josh Perry, a BYU pre-business student, volunteered to be a character for the event. He rented his costume from Hale Center Theatre and interacted with guests in a British accent.
“They seem to be very into it,” Perry said of the tea party guests.
Some of them even joined Perry in speaking with British accents. Others quoted Regency books and spoke with the old vernacular, such as one guest who told her daughters to “quickly make haste,” when the line was moving.
The ballroom was decorated elegantly with tables set with decorations and tea kettles. There were treat stands with an assortment of scones, macarons, puffs, fruit kebabs and tarts. Each table also had name cards for each guest and columns with vines and ribbons spiraling up them stood in between tables.
During the tea party, guests wrote down questions to ask the panel of Regency authors Nancy Campbell Allen, Julianne Donaldson, Sarah Eden and Jennifer Moore.
Shaina Robbins, who works in the library’s community relations department, said the authors seemed to connect with the audience.
“It seems like there’s a lot of similarities between the authors and audiences’ interests,” Robbins said. “You can tell they’re excited.”
Christina Champenois, who is originally from Denmark, attended the tea party with her mother, Birthe Champenois, and her sister, Charlotte Champenois.
“I thought it was really great seeing people dressed up and I enjoyed hearing authors talk about their books and characters and how they write,” Christina said.
Her sister Charlotte added, “I liked the food, it was fun, and we got to experience the atmosphere of what we read about.”