Oh, Huntington Gardens, alllll the way! I've been there dozens of times and never have been disappointed. Here is the info...but I still think that depending on the size of the party, they may waive the entrance fee or AT LEAST give a great discount? Either way, it is soooo worth it, it is so lovely and peaceful. Ahhhhhhhhhhh........
Rose Garden Tea Room
Tuesday – Friday, noon to 4:30 p.m. (last seating at 3:30) Saturday – Sunday, 10:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (last seating at 3:30pm) Reservations required.
Enjoying tea in the Rose Garden Tea Room Overlooking three acres of roses, the Tea Room is the perfect setting for a memorable repast. A pot of brewed tea and a basket of freshly baked scones are served at each table. From a central buffet, guests may choose from an array of savory finger sandwiches, imported and domestic cheeses, fresh fruits, chilled seasonal salads, and specialty petite desserts. Best of all, you can return to the buffet as often as you like. Limitless refills of tea and scones are served upon request. There is no dress code in the Tea Room: shorts and t-shirts or dresses and suits are equally acceptable. Children are welcome. Private rooms are not available; for groups of 6 or more, please call the Tea Room for information.
Adults $19.95 per person, plus tax
Children (ages 4-8) $9.98 per person, plus tax
Groups of 8 or more $25.49 per person (tax and gratuity included).
Museum admission is a separate required cost, paid upon entering the grounds.
Cash, traveler’s checks, or credit cards accepted (MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover Card, and Diner’s Club). No personal checks.
Tea Room Reservations: (626) 683-8131 Reservations should be made at least 2 weeks in advance. Call Tuesday through Sunday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. (closed Mondays). Sorry, reservations cannot be accepted via e-mail.
I've enjoyed a beautiful tea at the Ritz Carlton in Pasadena, which overlooks the courtyard and the elegantly landscaped grounds. The ambiance at the Ritz Carlton is really charming, from the Japanese garden and koi ponds to the wisteria-arched walkways -- a really nice place for a shower.
While the Huntingon Gardens offers more beautiful and extensive grounds, each guest will have to pay an entrance fee to even step foot on the grounds (as WildSwede mentioned). Moreover, I found the tea there to be subpar -- the pastries, petit fours and tea sandwiches had been sitting out for a very long time, rendering them stale and/or melted.
Also, the nice thing about the Ritz is that the room is sized to comfortably accomodate a large number of guests, whereas some of the smaller Pasadena teahouses like Chado would be a very, very tight squeeze for 36.
Chado Tea Room in Pasadena on Raymond might be able to help you.
There is a popular tea room in Glendale on Wilson, I believe, btw Brand and Central called Favorite Place. It's small but they do their best to please people and the food is quite good.
Im starting to forget names...lets see...If you want buffet try the one in alhambra on commonwealth between fremont and atlantic..Its next to a hotel and across the street is albertsons and El pollo local...They have a private room for 36 and food is not badd for a buffet..sushi is also included and seafood of course....more of a chinese thing...the price is not badd for the food...I believe its around the price range you were looking for and Im possitive its not beyond 15 a person...
Just keep in mind that if you attend the one at Huntington Gardens, you have to pay the admissions fee into the gardens as well as for the tea (unless they do something special for groups).
I think Scarlett in Pasadena would probably fit the bill.
There is also another tea house near Scarlett that is called Tea Rose Garden.
I have been to neither, but have heard good things about both. I have been to the Huntington and it is the only buffet-style tea I have been to. They do have a private room.
I'm also in the midst of planning a shower and contacted the Rose Tree Cottage yesterday via email...they're not taking private parties at this time. The proprietor said, "Unfortunately, at this time we are unable to take private parties as we are experiencing a very stressful time at Rose Tree Cottage: The property we have occupied for over 25 years has been sold for redevelopment and we have to close in mid-February. Therefore, we are unable to take private parties at this time. Of course, we continue to serve tea Tuesday through Sunday for smaller parties (8 or under) with reservations taken the usual one week in advance until that time."