As a successful planner of numerous failed garden parties, I consider myself an expert on the subject and am glad you have come here for advice. The following elements should be considered:
Obviously a garden is kind of a key element. Though garden is a pretty loose term here, as really a lawn is about all that is really required. Weather should be appropriate for prolonged outdoor activity, so try to plan accordingly (though really all you can do is hope that it won't rain and not be a complete moron and plan it for January or something). Generally late afternoon is about right as it will still be light out, but nobody wants to go out in the morning/mid-day. Aside from some form of greenery, shade and seating need to be taken into consideration.
As with most parties, milling about and general chatter will probably be the primary activity for your guests, but it is highly encouraged to have games on hand to keep people entertained. Lawn games and garden parties go along hand-in-hand, so have at them. A few games to consider: croquet, badminton, bocce, egg rolling, lawn darts. Though essentially any party game could work if brought outdoors (Pictionary on blankets with an easel on the lawn would be fun, for example).
While I don't recommend going with a strict theme for the party as a whole, I would recommend sticking to something fairly specific for the food. You can go with a Southern theme (watermelon, fried chicken or something barbecue-y, mint juleps, etc.), an English theme (cucumber sandwiches, scones, tea, etc.), a French theme (baguettes or croissants, cheese, creme puffs, etc.), whatever suits your fancy. But maybe that's just me. I mean, I suppose you can't really go wrong with like fruit and vegetable trays and some punch. And though it takes away from a little of the formality aspect, feel free to delegate food responsibilities to some of the closer friends attending; most people our age these days are on a budget.
Dress for a garden party has already been extensively covered here . As a host/hostess, it is imperative that you make it clear to each invitee that dressing up is highly encouraged (Unless you don't care, I suppose, but who doesn't care? Outfits are the best part of any themed party). Also be prepared to offer advice/encouragement to invitees who may be nervous about their attire for the event. If you want to go all out, you may even want to have some props on hand (parasols, fans, canes, hats, etc.) so that people who aren't as done up for the event can have something to make them fit in better in pictures.
Decor can be fairly simple, as just the outdoor setting creates the atmosphere you're looking for. If you have lawn furniture, it can add a nice touch and be practical. Paper lanterns are kind of nice and outdoorsy, though not really necessary unless you're wanting to do things in the evening (which I don't recommend as the games would be trickier if it's darker out). I also think mirrors are always fun to have around at dress up parties, because everybody likes to see themselves in costume (right? I'm not the only vain person here, right?). Whether you have some big mirrors to prop up somewhere or maybe some little mirror squares on the table or something, they act as both classy but simple decor and add to the fun. Flowers are also good, if you have some garlands to put around the food or whatever.
Jun 11, 2010
What are necessary elements (as well as unnecessary but favorable elements) to a successful garden party?