With warmer weather finally here, and the holiday season almost upon us, it’s the ideal time to consider a garden party. Good food, natural surroundings, and it’s covid-friendly to boot!
Part of the charm of a garden party is its simplicity. There’s no need for elaborate decor and seating plans. A simple buffet or barbecue, some folding chairs and disposable plates are all you need.
That said, a little planning goes a long way. Take the following into account and turn your garden party from staid to spectacular.
1. Keep comfort at the centre
Your guests will forgive almost anything as long as they’re comfortable. If you’re going to be outside, spare a thought for the weather.
For a day time party, make sure there is plenty of shade available. Provide generous quantities of sunscreen in an easily accessible spot that will prompt your guests to use it. For evening events, dot the tables with citronella candles or lamps, and offer mosquito repellent liberally.
The temperature can drop sharply once the sun sets, so have some shawls and blankets handy to drape over shoulders and tuck around laps. Patio heaters or a fire pit can also provide much needed warmth on mild evenings.
If it’s one of those hot humid mid-summer nights, paper fans are useful as well as decorative. Mist the party area with water just before you lay out the food and welcome guests to drop the temperature a few degrees. There should be plenty of chilled water available at all times.
2. Flex the seating to encourage mingling
One of the charms of a garden party is that you’re not stuck in an assigned seat next to Great-Aunt Bertha and her bunions. Take advantage of the flexibility to encourage people to mingle.
Set up conversation circles in different zones so guests can move around. Set benches either side of a fire pit; lay picnic rugs and beanbags under a shade tree; arrange stools around a wine barrel for bar-style drinks.
Buffet-style food also encourages people to move about and fall into different patterns of conversation. Set up the menu so people can help themselves and you’ll get a great flow going.
3. Bring the indoors outside
Create a charming tableau by using indoor furniture to decorate your garden party. A comfy sofa, pretty rug and coffee table look stunning in a lawn setting, as well as offering comfort to your guests.
Hang a chandelier from a mature shade tree and you’ll conjure up the feeling of a lounge even if your visitors are sitting on picnic rugs.
Drape a weeping tree in fabric and stash beanbags and picnic blankets underneath for a kids or teen hangout zone!
4. Decorate to highlight the garden setting
The point of a garden party is to enjoy the natural setting, so don’t drown it out. Your decor should highlight the garden, not overwhelm it.
Drape your table with a crisp white linen tablecloth or vintage lace cloth. Stay away from heavy fabrics or dark formal colours. If you want a centrepiece, stick to fresh flowers or attractive twisting branches in a vase.
Draw attention to the loveliest parts of your garden using lights. You can string fairy lights in the branches of a spreading shade tree, dot solar lights in a pretty garden bed or hang lanterns from a garden arch.
5. Keep the food simple and the focus on guests
Above all, keep your party simple enough that you have time to relax and socialise with your guests. Remember, they’ve come to see you, not enjoy a fine dining experience. If you’re constantly rushing into the house to check on food or fetch the silver service, you’ll end up harried and miserable.
Plan to have everything close to hand. If it’s a barbecue, set up a station to toss salad and butter rolls while the food is cooking. For a buffet, plan a menu that can be mostly pre-prepared and stored in the fridge.
Consider make-your-own-food stations. Set up bowls of toppings and condiments so people can make their own burgers or tacos. Hand rolled sushi or cold rolls are another fun choice. For dessert, offer a meringue platter with small bowls of lemon curd, marscapone, raspberry coulis and passionfruit, chopped fresh fruit and individual meringue shells. Or an ice cream station with waffle cones and a range of toppings and sauces.