You have seen the pictures of perfectly decorated tea tables flanked by flowers and plants in various magazines, and you have secretly fantasized about having your own garden party. Your garden is your special place, and you have worked hard to grow flowers, get rid of weeds, and make it your personal sanctuary.
You might think that it would be too hard to set up such an event and that you are not sure your friends would be comfortable at such an elegant gathering.
Today’s garden parties can be formal or casual. Setting one up is not as hard as you may think. Here are a few suggestions for throwing the perfect alfresco soiree.
Decide on the Theme of the Party
Are you going to throw a classic English Garden party complete with tea and crumpets, or would you rather listen to some traditional jazz as you and your friends enjoy the serenity of your garden? You can theme your party around your favorite color or flower, or you can have an Alice and Wonderland-themed party.
Food can be served buffet style, or you can serve your guests or hire a waiter or two. Remember to keep the food consistent with the theme. For example, if you theme the party around mermaids, seafood might be in order. On the other hand, if you theme your party around rabbits, you might want to have a vegetarian meal.
Butterflies, ladybugs, and bees also are a common theme at garden parties. You can get laced table cloths and napkins with images of these popular insects embroidered on them and offer various kinds of honey with your tea.
There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to today’s garden parties. You can throw traditionalism out the window and theme your party around a favorite book, television show, or movie. Of course, you can also have a garden party to celebrate a birthday, impending nuptials, or an anniversary.
Make an Invitation
Traditional English garden parties tend to have formal invitations with raised letters and calligraphic writing. However, if you feel that is not within your budget, you can always make an invitation on your computer with calligraphic font.
Pastel paper is generally used for such invitations, and the invitation should specify your name, the address, the time, and the date of the party. As the party will be outside, people will likely want to bring their kids and their dogs. If you wish to prohibit either of these visitors, you should say so on the invitation.
Decide on the Decorations
Execution is everything when it comes to any themed party. Colorful tablecloths and napkins are fine, but you will want to have something extra to make your tables truly unique. For example, if your most prized flowers have reached maturity, you can set them on each table in colored vases.
Cucumber water served in decorative pitchers can brighten up any table, and so can a lemon centerpiece.
If you have a traditional English theme, you can drape the tables with white lacey table cloths and use a decorative teapot as a centerpiece. You can serve traditional tea pastries and sandwiches on several tea towers.
If your garden party is in the evening, you can put tea candles in small mason jars and hang them from the trees. In addition, you can put tea candles in paper bags to create luminaires as a centerpiece for an evening party.
You can also make a summer wreath decorated with citrus fruit, flowers, or berries. You can hang your wreath from trees in your garden or on a fence.
Don’t forget to decorate the table from which the food will be served. You can have several small service tables if you are serving your food buffet style. If you will have table service, you can make a dessert cart out of a simple rolling card table, by putting a lacey table cloth on it.
If you host a traditional English party, you will want to serve tea-time treats such as cucumber, egg and cress club, and crab sandwiches.
Scones are essential to an English tea party, and you will want to have an assortment of jams and, of course, clotted cream.
Tea cakes are also an essential part of traditional tea. Be sure to put out various flavors to please the taste buds of all of your guests.
You may also want to try a sandwich bar. If this idea sounds too plebeian for a garden party, remember that you can stock the sandwich bar with various high-end ingredients. For example, you can offer a variety of different kinds of bread, fancy cheeses, as well as hummus and olive compote.
It is an excellent idea to serve a variety of different salads at a garden party. Three bean salads are always refreshing, and so are different kinds of slaw. Kale salad with watermelon dressing is a light and nutritious addition to any garden party.
No-bake cheesecake served in a mason jar makes a great dessert for an outdoor event. You can also serve Italian cookies, fruit salad, and cupcakes. Sugar donuts that are decorated with flowers are also a popular sweet at garden events. Be sure to cover your desserts with proper toppers so that flies and other bugs don’t try to crash your party.
You will undoubtedly want to have ice tea, hot tea, and both iced and hot coffee for your guests. Lemonade and limeade are very refreshing and look pretty in a pitcher.
Any truly memorable party will have an official cocktail. Something themed around the garden is appropriate. If you have a buffet, you can have a bloody mary bar featuring celery, olives, and pickles. If that sounds too old school for you, there are many other flower-themed drinks you can serve.
You can put edible flowers at the bottom of all your cocktail glasses. You can also make those cocktails with a flower-based liqueur.
You can always serve Strega as an aperitif. This sweet liqueur contains many different herbs, including mint and fennel. You can use it in a Frank O’Hara cocktail, a pretty and easy-to-make concoction containing gin, and a lemon rind.
Xtabentúni is a Mexican liqueur that is made from a flower. It is combined with rum and anise seed. It was once used to treat stomach gas. When taken in enema form, it was known to be a potent hallucinogenic. When served in a cocktail, it has a pretty yellow color and tastes like sweet licorice.
If it is going to be one of “those” kinds of parties, you can use génépi in your drink. This potent alcohol is also known as woodworm and is the primary ingredient in absinthe. It will make your guests tipsy, and it aids in digestion.
It is a good idea to have a mocktail or two for the non-drinkers at your party. Sparkling grape juice is always a good idea. You can experiment with various fruity flavors to come up with the perfect concoction for your tea-toting friends.
History of the Tea Party
Garden parties began during Victorian times. Queen Victoria herself liked to host breakfasts in the gardens of the palace. These breakfasts were held in the middle of the afternoon. They were originally organized for the presentation of debutants. This was done as a precursor to their debutante balls.
These meals were very exclusive. If you were not of royal blood or at least a noble, you were going to have to get your crumpets elsewhere. The royals continued to have these exclusive shindigs until the 1950s.
In those days, the sun never set on the British empire, and England received imported spices and teas from around the world. The royals loved the robust and eye-opening hot beverage, and soon tea was the official beverage of Great Britain. Soon tea sandwiches began to appear at the Widow of Windsor’s breakfasts.
When Queen Elizabeth took to the throne, she decided to make some changes around the palace. In 1958 they stopped presenting debutants at garden parties. A progressive of her day, Lilibet opened the garden party to commoners who had done remarkable things for their communities. Awards were occasionally given away at the parties. Today, garden parties are given by people all around the world.
Most people will never get to attend a garden party, so it should be a special treat for you and your friends. With a thoughtful theme, tasty food, and relaxing and delicious cocktails, your garden party will be something your guests will remember for many years to come.