It’s summertime and, as the saying goes, the living is easy - right? That may be true if your biggest concern is what to commit to as your drink of the season (always a tough one between Pimms & cider) but not when you’re tasked with hosting the party of all garden parties. Then the living is stressful - especially when you’ve got to factor in the calamitous British weather!
Here are 13 tips for hosting the perfect
outdoor p*ssup summer garden party. Whether your garden is large or small, these inexpensive steps will transform it into the perfect setting for an outdoor soiree. We've also thrown in some food & drink tips too. Get ready to channel your inner hostess with the mostess!
Prepare for all weathers
We hate to start with doom and gloom but let’s face it, British weather is so volatile in the summer that you can get burnt and frozen on the same day. If you’re not the spontaneous, plan-a-party-within-24-hours kind, check the weather forecast at least a week before your big day. If rain or showers are predicted then invest in a gazebo - there are loads of cheap, pop-up garden tents on the market that are perfect if your party’s a casual affair.
If you're hosting something more formal like a wedding party, birthday or anniversary party then luxury marquees are in abundance too (though we’d recommend getting one of these no matter what the weather). When done right a marquee looks so chic, offering shelter from the heat/rain and a fly-free zone to eat!
Outdoor Heating is Essential
Even if your party falls on the hottest day of the year, the temperature tends to drop steadily of an evening in the UK. You could bank on your guests getting too drunk to notice but a more practical solution would be to invest in outdoor heating - especially if you don’t want them taking refuge in your house or leaving early.
Patio heaters, chimneys and firepits make timeless and practical outdoor heating solutions and you’ll find several that double up as grills, such as the Evo Solo Charcoal Grill. Well, a chat by the fire whilst roasting marshmallows is certainly a classy way to end a party! Having blankets and fleeces at the ready for your guests will also come in handy if you want to keep the party outdoors for longer.
Light it up
Okay, enough with the precautionary measures and onto the décor. Good lighting is essential for an ambient summer garden party. The combination of lanterns, string lights, tea lights and solar-powered outdoor lights are key to creating cosy, Arabian-night vibes in your garden.
We could dedicate a blog in itself to garden lighting tips but for now, here's 3 quick suggestions:
1. Light up flora and forna by hanging lanterns from tree branches
2. If you have steps in your garden line them with candles or paper lights to provide after dark safety and to create a striking light display
3.Battery powered string / fairy lights look warm and cosy draped from hedges/ window sills but for something more permanent, invest in integrated outdoor lighting, especially if you enjoy al fresco dining throughout the summer.
We could dedicate a blog in itself to garden lighting tips but for now, here’s 3 quick suggestions:
Keeping cosy isn’t just for winter! Get hygge vibes in your garden by creating cosy corners where people can sit, relax and escape from the buzz of the party for a quiet chat. To create ambiance, vamp up garden furniture with cushions and throws or lay blankets and rugs down in cosy nooks such as under a tree, by your pond, or in a space where there is lots of fresh flowers and blooms. Guests won't mind cosying up on the floor as long as they're comfy and, as with indoors, ample lighting, colour and textiles are key to ensuring comfort.
If you have the infrastructure for it, hammocks, canopies and hanging chairs are also a great idea. Not only do they provide extra seating but they also give your garden an instant look of tranquility.
Ample seating is essential for a cosy garden party. No one wants to stand around all day no matter how much fun they're having, and it usually takes a few hours before people pluck up the dutch courage to start dancing. This doesn't require buying more chairs. As we've said above, blankets and hammocks are inexpensive ways to provide extra seating. Another cheap alternative is to make use of deck chairs and camping chairs gathering dust in the shed, or to put protective covers on indoor chairs and use them outside. Logs and tree stumps can also double up as seating solutions whilst giving your garden a serene woodland feeling.
Tables and chairs are essential pieces of any outdoor furniture collection but benches, sofas and outdoor coffee tables are perfect extras if you host parties regularly and want a separate area from dining for drinking, socialising and relaxing. Sticking to pieces within one collection will create a really seamless look in your garden and gives you the option of building your outdoor furniture collection over time.
The Hay Pallisade Collection featured above is our best-selling outdoor furniture range. Buy it here.
The Layout is Important
Decide what type of party you want to throw and set the scene accordingly. If it's a more formal dinner party, you want your table to be your centrepiece, with a break out zone guests can relax in between courses or after the meal if you have space for it.
If you envision a more free-flowing, casual affair, arrange the furniture around the outskirts of the garden, in quiet nooks or on the deck/patio, leaving the centre an open space for people to wander. Having zones is a great idea especially if there'll be kids at the party. Designate a patch of lawn for them to play and provide games to keep them occupied.
Don't rely on the natural greenery of your garden to make it interesting Gardens, just like our homes, deserve colour to enhance it. Colour could be added in the form of something cheap and simple such as bunting, vases, tableware and flowers or in the form of more extravagant pieces such as a statues and centrepieces. Whatever accessories you go for, remember that the beauty of your garden lies in the detail, so have a colour palette in mind and shop around accordingly.
A sunset colour palette is perfect for summer - Yellow, pink, blue and orange blend beautifully together to create Moroccan vibes whilst complementing the natural greenery of the outdoors. For something more sophisticated, a white and beige palette is a great choice and will complement the natural earthly tones of your garden such as the wood, branches and stone.
Gardens are beautiful displays of nature but sometimes they need a human touch. If your garden is quite plain, add character with an abundance of flowers, plants, plant pots and foliage. There's a massive trend for indoor green living right now but that doesn't mean you should neglect outdoor green living in the process. Pinterest is a great place for some plant inspiration, and there's a growing wealth of literature on gardening for beginners. How to Grow, My Garden is a Car Park and House of Plants are three places to start!
Pick a Theme
If you're really undecided on how to style your garden for a party, start by picking a theme. Avoid anything too cliche like a Hula-themed party and go for something more broad such as 'vintage', 'laid back' or 'elegant'. These are good ideas that don't bring to mind sunburnt dads in Hawaiian shirts and haven't been overdone.
Once you've picked your theme, you have a good starting point for your colour scheme and decor. It will even help you decide on your food and drink menu, especially if you go for a global theme like Spanish or Italian. Once you've got a theme in mind, you can let your creativity run wild.
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When it comes to drinks, more is more
They say less is more, but even us lovers of minimalism know this mantra has its limits. When it comes to the drink menu of your garden party, more is more. Guests need to stay hydrated with a good selection of beverages and by that we don't mean water. A garden party isn't a party without a summer cocktail - this really is essential. Pimms or Sangria are crowd pleasers but anything sweet, fruity and at least 2/3rds alcohol can generally constitute as a summer punch. Check out some of our favourite cocktail recipes here.
If you're hosting a party for a large amount of guests whose drink preferences you don't know, have a wide variety of beverages to appeal to all tastes. You can't go wrong with a good selection of wine, prosecco, beer, soft drinks and of course the nation's favourite - gin. This may sound excessive but what's the worst that can happen? You end up having left over refreshments to last you all summer long? How terrible! In a society that's becoming increasingly health-obsessed (especially during summer), garden parties are one of the few occasions when you can really indulge in guilt-free excess.
If you are going heavy on the drinks then you'll need somewhere to put them. Have a designated bar area in your garden - a makeshift bar can easily be built using an old table and a nice tablecloth but if you're willing to invest a bit more time and money into it you could build or buy one.
What's really important is how you store the drinks. Cool buckets are essential and can easily be made by filling any plastic or steel container (for example a storage basket or a bin) with ice. For cocktails, it's worth investing in a drink dispenser as this will protect the drink from flies and encourage people to help themselves, taking the pressure off you to serve people all night and giving you time to mingle. The same goes for glassware. Make glasses, cups, jugs, pitchers and other bar accessories easily accessible so you don't have to run around after people all night.
When it comes to Food More is also More
If there's one thing that's more important than the drinks menu its the food menu. Food creates anticipation and becomes a talking point of the party even once its over. Barbecue food is the perfect partner to a summer cocktail so you might want to think about investing in an grill. Burgers and hotdogs are great child-friendly options but opt for tapas and seafood if your guests have a more refined taste palette. BBC Good Food is a great place to start for some recipe-inspiration!
As well as the main luncheon event, have enough snacks to keep guests going throughout the day. Here's a few ideas for healthy-low-sugar snacks. If you think your party will last late into the evening, have something in mind that you could serve around the 6-8pm mark. A curry is a great idea if you have a slow cooker as you can pre-prepare it before guests arrive but pizza and burgers make a delicious alternative quick fix.
Finally, don't forget about sweet treats! Roasted marshmallows, smores and ice lollies are perfect for a summer party and if you're the baking sort guests will certainly be impressed with a show stopper cake. As long as your menu has a good mix of meat and veggie, sweet and savoury, hot and cold and adult and child-friendly plates then you can't go wrong.
All this preparation might sound overwhelming, leading us onto our final tip - ask for help. We did promise a stress-free party after all! If you'd like your guests to bring food or drink, don't let the British 'stiff upper lip' stop you from saying so! Most people will be grateful you're the one hosting and will be more than happy to bring something to the table. If you are worried about doing it all yourself, see if your closest friends and family will be willing to help you set up and clear away. Chances are someone will have a young niece or nephew willing to serve a few drinks and collect glasses for some extra cash, leaving your garden looking spick and span once the final few guests have cleared out.