Girls may grow up, marry, build careers, and become mothers, but they never outgrow tea parties! Garden parties are coming back in vogue, and for good reasons: they’re easy, affordable, and best of all, fun! Garden parties have roots in the Victorian era, and are still commonly held by the upper classes in England. But you don’t have to be in Europe to enjoy this time-honored tradition.
How to Get Started
Begin by planning your venue. The backyard is perfect, but if you live in an apartment or don’t have a suitable yard, consider a local park or botanical garden. The location is important, because it will set the entire scene of the party. Traditionally, garden parties are held between the lunch and dinner hour, ideally 4-6 p.m.
Next, select the perfect invitations. There are lots of preprinted invitations available at local party stores, or you can make your own. Pinterest is brimming with ideas for homemade invitations (as well as tons of other garden party ideas). Make sure to include the dress code so ladies know what to wear. The traditional garden party calls for dresses, usually in spring patterns and floral prints. Sandals and pumps are equally suitable.
Let’s Talk Menu
After the invitations go out (about two weeks before the event), you’ll be excited to begin planning the menu and decorations. Select a color theme and plan everything else around it. White and green make excellent garden party colors, because so many of the natural surroundings play into this scheme. Procure dainty tables and chairs, and get enough white lace or silk linens to go around. Cloth napkins are traditional, though paper is acceptable if you’re on a budget.
White tea roses, baby’s breath, any and all white flowers are perfect for traditional garden parties. Or, select flowers to match your color scheme. Think spring colors, such as the soft blues and pinks of tulips, or perhaps the vivid oranges and yellows of daisies. Supplement these colorful flowers with generous sprays of greenery, such as variegated ivy.
Finally, it’s time to coordinate a traditional garden party menu. Think traditional English tea items, such as dainty cucumber sandwiches, scones, and cupcakes served with refreshing teas and Pimms. Chicken salad is a universal dish which leans well to service on sandwiches, on crackers, or solo. Also, offer some fresh vegetables with dip and a few selections of bite sized fruits. With the scones, offer strawberry jam and clotted cream. Orange, strawberry, and lemon cupcakes are ideal topped with rich butter cream frosting.
Offer a variety of teas and lots of serving options, such as cream, sugar, lemon wedges, and sugar substitutes. If you want to be as traditional as possible, brew loose tea rather than tea bags, as the English ladies do. For an American guest list, it’s perfectly acceptable to offer the option of iced tea in addition to the hot tea selections, especially in hot weather.
Finish in Style
For the perfect finishing touch, prepare each guest a gift bag to take home. Choose bags in the color scheme of your garden party, such as ivory bags with green paper. Fill the bags with packaged teas or perhaps some fragrant bath powders. Potpourri is another lovely suggestion. To keep the flowers from going to waste, invite some of your guests to take some home with their gift bags.
The only thing you’ll enjoy more than the party is all the lovely planning you get to do!