After so many questions about the garden party, I asked my Mum and Sister to help contribute towards a blog post so we could share how it all came together and highlight some of the things you should consider if hosting a garden party at home.
How did your Garden party come about?
I have wanted to host a party for my 60th birthday for about 2 years. I have some wonderful friends and family, and I thought it would be a lovely way to spend my birthday with the people I’ve shared some of my most special memories with.
To begin with, I looked at local venues, mainly hotels so guests that lived further away could stay overnight. As most venues are a blank canvas, it makes them quite easy to dress and decorate. Unfortunately, they also come with an expensive price tag and a lot of restrictions which I was unaware of. I realised it wouldn’t work with what I was hoping to achieve and it was at this point I decided to have a party in my garden.
What should people consider when organising a Garden party?
When planning the party, we spent a lot of time walking it through, from how guests would arrive, to where they would be dancing most of the night. This was to ensure we captured any challenges and highlighted things we might need to consider.
It’s key to know your guests so you can try to cater to all, you want to ensure that everyone enjoys the party. Make sure there is seating for those guests who probably can’t stand all evening, but ensure there’s enough space for those party animals (like Ian) who want to dance the night away.
What were the key requirements for the party?
I’m fortunate that my birthday falls in June and although I only have a small garden I had the space to accommodate around 70 people which were the number of guests I had on my invites list. The key requirements for me personally were:
- A chilled out Moroccan vibe with lots of colours.
- Informal seating – no large tables or chairs which would take up space.
- Easy food and great music.
- A dedicated bar for cocktails and plenty of drink on offer to all guests.
We used Pinterest for inspiration to help with ideas, it is a perfect place to start so you can see lots of different ideas and then make them your own. We kept the theme simple and enhanced everything with our own lanterns to add to the theme and decor.
What were the first things on your list when planning the party?
When planning any party, try and get all the companies you plan to use booked up as early as possible. With June being wedding season, we knew we had to get some quotes, agree on the prices and then secure my party date as soon as possible.
Key things to book early were:
- The Marquee
- The DJ
- Hire Company (Lighting and Tables etc.)
- Ice Supplier
- Party Helpers
Once you have decided on your venue, invites need to be sent out at least 8 weeks before. Make sure your guests RSVP before a specific date so you can keep an eye on the numbers. I set up a dedicated email address for my party to ensure all correspondence (including confirmation of bookings etc.) was sent to this address. This helped make sure I didn’t miss anything.
The very talented @victoria_homeandart sketched, and hand-painted my invitation, I think she captured all of the things I love perfectly! Those of you who follow me will know I’m a big Emma Bridgwater fan. It was just left for the wonderful Laura Penny from @lulabeeweddings to bring it all together and turn it into the personalised invite I had hoped for!
Although my birthday is in June, you can still never rely on the good old British weather, so just in case, I hired a couple of marquees from Magnifitents. Stewart and his team were so helpful and ensured we got the right Marquees to fit the small spaces we had to work with. They listened to what was required, and nothing was ever too much to ask. On set-up day, they ensured we went through all the available options for the positioning of the marquees to make sure it was absolutely perfect. I can’t recommend Magnifitents enough and would definitely use them again.
Whether you decide on a band or a DJ, remember they need to play music for all ages. We have a DJ that we have used for all our family events over the years, and he knows the crowd he is playing for which made life easier.
When offering food try to provide a simple option where guests don’t require cutlery or seating. We chose Grahams Hog Roast to come in and set-up a pizza oven on the driveway. Who doesn’t love a freshly cooked pizza!? It was a massive success with everyone who came, not only was it delicious but you only required a napkin to eat it. There was also plenty of pizza boxes to box up the remaining Pizza’s at the end of the night for those guests who wanted to have a late-night snack and take them home.
The cocktail bar was a fabulous idea and a focal point for the evening. We soon realised everyone liked having their drinks made for them, so we moved all the spirits behind the bar and kept it in one area to make the most of the bar. We were unable to hire a bar stand, so my husband found some old pallets and made one, following some simple instructions on YouTube.
At the side of the house, we had all the Bottle beers, Processco and wine. We ensured there was a good selection of drinks, from the fantastic cocktail bar right down to a great selection of soft drinks to ensure we catered for everyone.
We bought good quality plastic tumblers and wine cups from Morrisons so we could re-use them for years to come. Although Waitrose does an excellent glass hire.
Each guest was welcomed with a glass of bubbly as they arrived which gives guests a chance to find their feet and take in the surroundings.
Plenty of Ice
We found a company online that had a calculator for the amount of ice that was needed. We required both crushed ice for the Mojitos and cubed ice for the Gin Coolers and Sex on the Beach cocktails. We also required lots of cubed ice to chill the beers in the cooler buckets.
I decided to shut off the house from the party, so we didn’t have 70+ people coming through the house using the downstairs toilet. I found a local firm that supplied 2 portable toilets. It obviously depends on the size and layout of your house (or the location of your toilet inside your home), but for us, it was sensible to have outside toilets.
Music is essential but it can be an inconvenience to your neighbours. We typed out a letter explaining when our party was happening and apologised in advance for the music. My advice would be not to put a finishing time on the note, that way if the party goes on a bit longer you haven’t committed yourself. Our neighbours were great and offered our guest to park their cars in the drive for the evening. We even received cards wishing us a great night. Most of all they were grateful for the heads up.
Seating & Tables
We were limited with space, so it was important we utilised all the possible areas for guest seating. We added a selection of poser tables which we hired from Cherubs Floral Design this ensured it was the right balance between standing and sitting.
I was reluctant to use my new garden seating as I was worried the cushions would get stained or damaged. Ross and Ian came up with a brilliant idea and headed to Matalan to purchase some really reasonable duvet covers for £12 to cover the seats and then added a few cushions to create a fantastic seating area which I loved!
Up-lights are a great way to create colour, and we used ours all over the garden. We placed them under trees and plants, and in empty corners. They look amazing when the lights go down at night and can really transform a garden party so its definitely worth the extra cost. I loved the bright pink colour, and it worked well with the colourful Moroccan feel. Throw in a disco ball and a party atmosphere is created. We hired all our equipment from Moonraker Disco
Lanterns and Candles
When dressing a party, candles create a gorgeous light and ambience. Different size lanterns look great to fill an empty corner and help create a lovely atmosphere. The larger lanterns were supplied by Cherubs, and they also added the finishes touches around the garden. Use scented candles, citronella and 8-hour tea lights, this means you don’t have to keep relighting those tea lights throughout the evening and helps to keep those biting insects away.
I wanted chalkboards, but they can be expensive, so that’s where Pinterest came in handy. We used a bit of MDF, chalk paint and some glow in the dark chalk pens. I was lucky that Ian was an excellent freehand drawer and created these wonderful signs for me. Very talented!
We set up a selection of blankets for guests to help themselves to help keep warm later in the evening. It’s a really nice touch, and the guests loved them!
It was a beautiful evening, and I just wish we could do it all again!