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How to host a garden party

Debbie Elkind
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Garden party invitation
Garden party invitation
Hang paper lanterns and float candles in bowls of water and cover tables with fresh summer blossoms, scattered petals or large bowls of fruit.
Debbie Elkind

Garden parties are a gorgeous and elegant way to celebrate in summer, perfect for either a small celebration — say, a girls' get-together or baby shower — or a larger occasion, such as a birthday or engagement party. There's a certain elegance to eating in the garden, so play it up with lovely table settings, fresh flowers, sophisticated summery cocktails, and crisp linens

Pick a theme

Setting a theme for your party helps add a festive air to the occasion and can also help guide your menu and decorating choices. This might be as simple as a floral motif (sunflowers or roses are lovely summery choices) or an insect theme (think butterflies or lady bugs). It could also be a single colour or colour combination that ties everything together from the invites to the table settings.

Or, for the more ambitious, choose an elaborate theme and include this on your invitations to help guide your guests' attire. Paris in the summertime or Arabian Nights are two choices that lend themselves well to great food and decorative choices.

Set the scene

There are a million ways to make your garden look extra special without spending much money. Among them, huge bunches of balloons, strings of fairy lights and armfuls of fresh wildflowers. p>

Hang paper lanterns and float candles in bowls of water and cover tables with fresh summer blossoms, scattered petals or large bowls of fruit. If you are doing individual table settings, get creative about it and be sure to think in terms of texture and contrast. For example, mismatched floral china set on crisp white linen scattered with rose petals or pale vintage enamel plates paired with brightly coloured linens and white gardenias. At night-time, string lights through your trees or shrubs for a magical fairy garden effect.

Create the perfect menu

Your menu will depend in large part on how you plan to serve your guests. Will you, or perhaps hired staff, pass around trays of finger food? Or would you prefer that people serve themselves from a buffet? If you are going to have individual place settings, consider large platters of food that can be easily set on the table — or on a buffet — for people to help themselves, such as roast and grilled meats, salads, antipasto plates and cheese boards. Of course, if you've planned a themed party that will guide your choices. Whatever you serve, make sure it's easy to serve and eat. Also, be sure to keep all food inside until just before serving.

When it comes to drinks, in hot weather large jugs of iced cocktails are always a winner. Think light sangrias (perhaps white wine with lychees and other summer fruits), mojitos or Pimms. Always be sure to provide interesting non-alcoholic drinks too, such as iced tea or mocktails. (See cocktail suggestions below.)

Don't forget

  • Music: Classical music or jazz are always refined choices for elegant parties.
  • Games: Old-fashioned games, such as crochet or lawn bowls, suit the garden party theme.
  • Make sure you have enough clean cutlery, plates and glasses. Hire extra glassware if you need to or use disposable plates and glasses.
  • Large buckets filled with ice or eskys can help keep your drinks cool outside to save you running back and forth to the kitchen.
  • Make sure there's enough seating for all your guests. You don't want your party to turn into a game of musical chairs.

Finger food ideas:

Arancini

Chicken and almond finger sandwiches

Chicken skewers with chilli lime sauce

Sexy summer cocktails

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