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A silver lining to Britain’s temperamental weather is the unbridled joy a sunny day brings. When those golden rays poke through the clouds, us Brits can’t help but flock to the great outdoors, spending as much time as possible soaking up the sunshine. For those wanting to make the most of it, a garden party is a great way to bring family and friends together to celebrate the return of warmer days. From seating arrangements to decorating ideas, read on for our tips on how to throw a garden party that will be remembered for many a sunny day to come.
For an event to thrive you need good people and good conversation, so start your garden party planning by refining the guest list. Our Co-Founder Sue Jones always makes sure she has a mix of age groups at her parties to keep the conversation varied and interesting. Choose people who you know will get along, and make sure everyone knows at least one person at the event, so they feel comfortable.
Once you’ve confirmed who is going to attend, it’s time to turn your attention to the garden itself. The right arrangement will encourage conversation, so ensure there are lots of seats available to invite people to relax and socialise. Avoid one large group of chairs, and instead opt for smaller circles that people can flow between. If you’re serving food, we’d recommend including a few coffee, dining or side tables too, so people have somewhere to rest their plates. If you don’t have enough room for lots of outdoor furniture, picnic blankets and plenty of cushions are a good alternative, and will create a relaxed and informal atmosphere.
Food is essential, but there are no rules on how you should serve it. For a drinks party, it could simply be a case of serving a few snacks for people to nibble on – think bowls of olives, nuts or crisps and dip. However, if your event is taking place over a mealtime, then you might want to serve something more substantial. A barbecue is always a winner on a hot day; grill a mix of meats and set up a table with salads, breads and sauces so people can help themselves. If you prefer a more formal affair, centre your party around the garden table and look to seasonal ingredients for menu inspiration. Remember, on truly hot days something light is always preferable.
No British celebration is complete without a selection of drinks. The question is, do you opt for a classic Pimm’s, a refreshing G&T or a crisp, dry rosé? We’d recommend leaving the decision making to your guests by setting up a DIY garden bar, complete with wine, beer and a few spirit and soft drink options. A jug of elderflower pressé will go down well with those who favour a non-alcoholic drink, while a few cocktails will appease those looking for something a little different. One of our favourite garden party ideas is to provide cocktail recipes for your guests to follow; just make sure the bar is stocked with the right spirits, plus plenty of glassware, ice and garnishes.
What’s a party without some decorations? If you’re setting a theme for the event, this is your chance to bring it to life with suitable bunting, banners and table decorations. You can also invite a celebratory mood with something as simple as fairy lights strung along the garden fence. If you’re party is likely to go on into the night, atmospheric outdoor lighting will help you set the tone; we’d recommend lanterns or battery-powered candles to create a subtle and welcoming glow.
If you’re serving a sit-down dinner, take this as an opportunity to embrace your tablescaping skills. Patterned tableware, colourful linens and tea lights will bring a suitably summery touch to your meal. For a showstopping centrepiece, consider floral arrangements in pretty vases to make a colourful nod to nature.
You never really know what surprises the British weather might have in store, so keep this in mind when planning your garden party, and make sure you’re prepared for every eventuality. For truly hot days, parasols, sun cream and a paddling pool filled with cold water will be welcome reprieves for your guests. You might want to set a dress code if your event has a theme, but otherwise we’d recommend advising your guests to simply dress practically depending on the weather –on scorchers this means lightweight fabrics such as linen, loose-fitting clothing and sun hats for extra protection.
In the springtime when the temperature is cooler, remind your guests to bring a jacket or jumper, and bear in mind that it can be chillier in the evenings – even during summer – so have a few throws or blankets on hand to keep people warm. In the event it rains, there’s nothing for it but to take the party indoors.
While the gentle hum of conversation does provide a nice soundtrack to a sunny evening, there’s nothing like music to get people into the party spirit. Why not create your own playlist to help the event progress? Start with gentle melodies for dinner to let the conversation take the lead, and bring in something more upbeat to get the party going later on in the evening. There’s no better grand finale to a sun-soaked day than dancing under the stars with family and friends.