Words by Tammy Levine, LLM USA correspondent.
As much as we love the simplicity and enthusiasm of game-day BBQs, there is nothing like the charm and sophistication of a garden party. Surrounded by lush, garden scenery and floral arrangements that smell absolutely divine, these elevated affairs are the perfect excuse to dress up, nosh of savory spreads and enjoy the final days of warm weather.
Since garden parties are a tiny bit fancier than your typical backyard bash, it helps to know the basics. If you’re the host throwing a first-time garden party, you might feel overwhelmed and not know where to start. If you’re a guest, you probably have the usual questions: What can you expect? Should you bring anything? And most importantly, what should you wear?
In this guide, we’ll cover both roles so you can relax, enjoy yourself and be a gracious host or a picture-perfect guest. Without further ado, here is everything you need to know about garden parties.
Throwing a garden party
So, you’re the host of this whimsical, backyard soiree. Good for you! Someone has to do it, and you’re the perfect person for the job.
Not so sure about that? After reading this guide, you’ll be ready to host a gorgeous garden party in confidence and style.
Choose a color palette
First things first: Your color palette. Though a theme isn’t necessary for a garden party (FYI, flowers are your theme), a color palette is key to putting together a cohesive look. Your choice of colors will act as your roadmap for all your décor, your music and potentially your menu, so choose wisely.
When choosing your color scheme, play around with different textures and patterns. For example, pair your colors with chevron accents to make your dessert table pop or see how they look when combined with a burlap table runner.
Create stunning (and informative) invitations
Both practical and elegant, invitations set the tone for the party and give your guests important information for the event. These days, you can hop on a number of invitation maker websites and craft gorgeous invites in your color palette.
Remember to add the time, date and location of the event. Also, it helps to be specific about the dress code. Does the affair call for business casual attire? If you don’t want the guys showing up in comic t-shirts and blue jeans, be sure to spell it out (politely, of course) for your guests.
Plan your menu
As you probably know, a typical garden party menu doesn’t involve hot dogs and hamburgers. Instead, focus on building a menu with an array of finger foods (think deviled eggs and tea sandwiches) that your guests can nosh on without feeling too heavy. Don’t forget to dazzle your guests with a signature cocktail!
Make Your guests comfortable
If you want to be a good host, it’s important to make your guests’ comfort a priority. For instance, you can have a basket with blankets outside in case one of your guests gets too cold.
One of the biggest discomforts that often plague garden parties are mosquitos. Consider placing mason jars with citronella or eucalyptus scents to keep mosquitos at bay. Bonus: They double as décor!
Set the scene
Florals are a must for any garden party, so be sure to splurge on seasonal blooms that go with your color palette. If you haven’t already, make friends with your local florist and get their expert advice on which flowers will look the best for your backyard bash.
When it comes to florals, keep in mind that you don’t need to stop at your centerpieces. Consider adding a sprig of lavender to your cocktails, choosing plates with subtle floral details or designing your invites with lovely blooms to set the mood.
Build a playlist
Even if you don’t think your garden party needs it, you may want to build a playlist to serve as light, background noise. Ideally, you’ll want it to be at least three hours long and be turned down low enough for guests to have normal conversation. Be sure to keep the tunes light and carefree.
Attending a garden party
If you read the host’s section, then you know that pulling off the perfect garden party takes a lot of work. To take some of the stress off the host (and get invited back), the best thing you can do is to be a helpful, model guest. Here is how to do exactly that:
RSVP on time
If your invitation requests that you RSVP, you need to do it in a timely manner. The invite should have a deadline, but if not, send back your response as soon as you know whether you can make it. Even if the host is your best friend and knows you’re coming, responding officially is the polite thing to do.
Dress the part
Always follow the dress code on your invitations. If there wasn’t a dress code, opt for a smart casual look.
Keep in mind that garden parties are held during the day in the heat of the summer. If you don’t want to be sweating in your clothes, take a style tip from the Southerner’s playbook by dressing in classic Southern clothing. Button-down shirts and khaki pants for men are always a solid choice, while the ladies can wear Southern dresses for an effortlessly chic look.
Offer to help
When you first arrive to the party, you’ll probably greet the host who is busy cooking or finishing up with the décor. Rather than stand there, awkwardly, ask them if they could use help. Even if they say no, your host will appreciate you having asked.
Go easy at the bar
Garden parties are not the time to be wild and drink like you did in your college days. Keep it classy and know your limit. Drink water in between your alcoholic drinks and make sure to get enough food in your stomach.
Thank your host
Ideally, you should thank your host twice: Once during the party when you’re about to leave and a week or so after the party with a thank you note. While some hosts might not expect the second note, it’s a kind gesture nonetheless and shows your appreciation.
Relax and enjoy
While there might be a little more to a garden party than your spur-of-the-moment BBQ, it’s totally worth it. Everyone loves a good excuse to dress nice, sip fancy cocktails and have a good time with friends.
Whether you’re the guest or the host in this scenario, remember to relax, smile and don’t sweat the small stuff. If you make an etiquette faux pas, just consider it a learning lesson for the next backyard soiree that comes around (and trust us, it will come around).