How to throw a winning garden party

Melanie Whitehouse / 29 June 2016 ( 04 July 2017 )

Throwing a successful summer party in the garden means planning ahead to embrace the weather, as well as the occasion.

Plan for the weather

With our unreliable climate you can burn, drown, freeze or be blown away in the course of a day, so it’s best to have contingency plans. 

Luckily there are some great pop-up gazebos available that are quick and easy to put up and take down. Some are pretty basic with open sides – for example Wilko’s 3m x 3m,, and will just keep a light shower at bay. Go for more protection with Argos’smart blue Garden Gazebo with side panels and window.

Stay warm at night with a chimenea or a firepit. Some firepits come with integral grills, so you can cook your food while keeping warm. Some even cook pizzas, too.

Drape a throw, stole, wrap or scarf over the back of every chair, so guests can pull them around their shoulders if they get chilly.

Read our guide to choosing a garden wood burner for chilly evenings

Dress your table

A cheerful tablecloth adorned with bright, happy florals will set the scene for a delicious meal in the garden.

Use colourful crockery and don’t worry if the pieces don’t match. Painted terracotta plates and bowls brought back from Greece, Portugal and Spain always look sunny on a summer table, or go for a vintage look with pretty, second hand crockery from car boot sales and charity shops.

Invest in plastic glasses – you don’t want unstable wine glasses falling off your table and breaking on your patio in the dark. Look out for colourful acrylic wine goblets and tumblers.

For a quick centrepiece put a tiny jam jar filled with a posy picked from the garden – sprigs of honeysuckle, sprays of miniature roses, lavender and jasmine will all smell wonderful – at each place setting.

Give your garden a makeover and save money at the same time with a special Thompson and Morgan offer of 10% off.

Garden party lighting

Tea lights in jam jars are ideal for use on tables but use the battery-operated ones for safety reasons if the grandchildren are around. You can pick these up from most supermarkets.

Put bigger candles in closed hurricane lanterns, which keeps them safe and stops them blowing out in the breeze – Ikea has a great selection starting at just £2 for the Rotera.

So nobody trips over, light up steps and paths with solar-powered lights – Wilko stocks light markers that stick into the earth for as little as 85p.

Wind pretty fairy lights through trees and around gazebo poles – most shops sell an extensive range and you can get lights that either plug into a socket, are powered by the sun or use batteries. Don’t leave flexes trailing – make sure they’re taped down or safely out of reach.

Don’t forget the music, but keep it low after 11pm if you’re in a built-up area or have neighbours nearby, so they can sleep.

Try making your own tealight holders from jam jars

Tips for food and drink

Create a bar where guests can gather to refuel their glasses and chat. Big garden, large party? Have more than one area with beer and wine in an ice bucket, so nobody has to wait to refill their glass.

Serve up easy food – lots of light dishes, easy-to-eat nibbles, pretty salads and, of course, barbecues! Visit our barbecue section for delicious ideas.

Add flowers to your food – sprinkle the top of salads with edible foliage, which includes pansies, violas, nasturtiums and scented geranium leaves which you can buy in Waitrose.

Mix classic summer drinks like Pimm's but you don’t have to pay full price: shop around for cheap alternatives in places like Aldi and Lidl, or try making your own.

Read our tips for summer party drinks

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.