Influenced by Queen Victoria’s Royal Garden parties, the 1920s saw a rise in lavish garden events. Now, a century on, with summer in full swing, Britain’s renewed vigour for outdoor events and a longing for elegance and escapism, provides the perfect conditions for the 1920s English garden party trend to flourish. Here, Liz Taylor, CEO of luxury event planners Taylor Lynn Corporation shares the essence of the 1920s garden party and how to recreate this style of event with refinement.
Set on the manicured lawns of a 1920s manor house, the parties of the era would blend the elegance of Art Deco with the Arts and Crafts movement’s love of nature.
That’s why the country’s 1920s homes make perfect venues for a garden party. There are a number you can hire for the occasion that make the ideal backdrop and immediately set the elegant tone. If you prefer to entertain at home, find space for a marquee and get busy styling the space.
Landscaping and freestanding pots can be brought in to reflect the era. Gardens of the era were all about greenery. The lawn, perfectly pruned, is a feature in itself. A florist can help to create focal points using popular perennials such as canterbury bells, irises, foxgloves, phlox, pyrethrum, coreopsis, hollyhocks, roses, columbine, delphinium, poppies, and carnations. Seating areas and pergolas are a great on-trend addition.
The 1920s was all about entertainment. Your garden party should blend some of the traditional, formal elements with the more contemporary ideas of the era.
Larger gardens can be designed as ‘outdoor rooms’ paying homage to twenties landscaping vogue. Provide different entertainment in each individual space – traditional outdoor games from the 1920s, such as croquet and bocce ball, could be available in one area. In a second, Charleston dance lessons from your resident ‘flapper’ will immerse guests in the new vibe of the era. And then a jazz trio. Arriving by vintage tandem to play in your ‘music’ space, they use the element of surprise to attract a crowd.
Roll up, roll up. Set out your stalls and add a sense of occasion to delight younger guests. Fairground garden games, hoopla, a high striker, tin-can alley, with a ringmaster to welcome guests with gusto.
For adults who want to join in the fun – emulate the rocking horse derby where would-be jockeys in flapper style dresses take their marks and make their way across a racecourse of wooden boards.
Provide outdoor seating with style. Feathers and pearls adorning oversized garden umbrellas affording summer shade to ornate, metal benches. Look up! As climbing roses and an abundance of wisteria provide a ceiling of scent and colour throughout a marquee or on pergolas. Or add a series of silver chandeliers for a more formal party.
In a nod to the Arts and Crafts passion for the natural world, bird boxes and feeders can be repurposed and dressed in flowers and lush foliage as unique table décor. Add clusters of eclectic silver mercury glass candle votives lining lace linens, and glass vases overflowing with English garden flowers. Vintage gramophones provide focal points in the design and celebrate the ‘flappers’ passion for music.
Large ornate Art Deco framed mirrors can be engraved with table and place names. Or use smaller ones, photo frame sized, as bar or buffet menus. Add a 1920s typewriter in one corner where guests can type a message (no twitter here!).
Hang straw boater hats and wide-brimmed floppy hats for the ladies, with name tags attached, on seats. Great place markers, fancy dress and sunshade. All in one. Ornate bird baths provide fountains throughout the space, and greenery should be in huge abundance.
Dining could take the form of afternoon tea – which was so popular in the era. Miniature scones, jam and cream with delicate finger sandwiches and devilled eggs served to guests in mini wicker picnic baskets, reminiscent of the baskets used at 1920s summer garden parties.
For a more formal affair, it has to lead with Oysters Rockerfella. An iconic dish from the day combining spinach Romano cheese and lemon juice. Cranberry orange ducklings and duchess potatoes make a main worthy of 1920s royalty. Oranges and lemons used not only to flavour, but create tall towers as centrepieces and you’ll carry the theme through to your dining tables.
A hint at the prohibition era in the USA. Speakeasy gin cocktails are a must. A Hanky Panky featuring gin and sweet Vermouth. A French 75 combining gin, lemon and champagne. Or a Gin Ricky with gin, lime and club soda were all favourites of the times. 1920s inspired cocktails are as much style as substance.
A gilded drinks trolley with spirits and mixers to cocktail shakers and vintage glassware can visit each table – blending a bespoke drink. Or serve in ornate filigree bird cages to echo the era’s passion for nature. Champagne saucers; the definitive cocktail glass of the era.
Lastly, if you’re planning a 1920s wedding or summer party, a hidden speakeasy is the real wow element. A discreet door, perhaps through a launderette or garage scene, leading you into a ‘hidden room’. Designed as a cellar, subdued lighting and faux brick walks are the backdrop for rich, deep red velvet banquettes and gold and black fixtures.
A piano is a must. A sexy singer integral. This is by far best place to blend and serve top 1920s inspired cocktails, with all the atmosphere and slightly ‘naughty’ feeling of the era.
Images courtesy of Taylor Lynn Corporation