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Wedding Day Advice | Reception and Ceremony

Garden Party Wedding

Whilst summer weddings are traditionally favoured by brides (but with winter weddings now hot on summer’s heels!), it’s somewhat surprising that more couples don’t tie the knot in spring. After all, think of the symbolism associated with spring – fresh, new beginnings, growth and sunny optimism. And isn’t that what weddings are all about? Celebrate a spring wedding in style by hosting a garden party. Read on…

What is a Garden Party, Exactly?

garden party wedding

Image courtesy of fionasweddingphotography.co.uk

A garden party is just that – a social gathering held outdoors, in a beautiful garden or park. Extravagant, society garden parties were seriously en mode during the Victorian era, particularly in England, France and the more ‘established and sophisticated’ parts of America – Boston and New York, for example. Garden parties still have an upmarket, lavish air about them – Heads of State, like Queen Elizabeth II of England and the President of Francehost garden parties each year, as do wealthy celebrities like Oprah Winfrey.

Is it a Formal or a Casual event?

Garden parties are smarter than other outdoor social events, like picnics or barbecues. But they can have a casual angle – guests can be encouraged to kick off their shoes, roll up their trousers or hitch up their skirts and feel the grass between their toes.

garden party wedding

Image courtesy of easyweddings.com.au

What Time of Day Should I Host My Garden Party?

Garden parties traditionally take place between four o’ clock in the afternoon and six in the evening, in the spring and summer months.

How Many Guests Should I Invite?

As many people as you like, budget permitting – the Queen and Oprah host hundreds at their garden parties, but you might like to keep the number more manageable at around 50 people (or less – garden parties are great for more intimate weddings). A bonus for animal lovers – invite your favourite furry friends, as well.

What Should A Bride Wear to a Garden Party?

This is not an occasion for a big, white wedding gown with metres of train and veil. If your heart’s set on a long wedding dress, rather go for a simple, vintage-style gown with short veil (the Lady Mary Wedding Dress is perfect). Or opt for a pretty retro tea length dress, with a simple fascinator instead of a veil – an elegant yet uncomplicated choice for the mod chicks amongst us. Afternoon dress is in order for bridesmaids and ladies – complete with sunhats or fascinators. Take a look at this guide to ‘garden party preppy’ dress.

What About the Groom?

Morning dress or lounge suits are both appropriate for the groom, the groomsmen and gentlemen guests – the former for a more formal garden party and the latter (which can be dressed up or down) for a more casual affair.

Tell Me About the Décor?

The most important thing to know about garden party wedding décor is that a beautiful garden provides the backdrop and is to be merely complimented with a few well-chosen, well-placed décor items. So, be careful to choose a wedding venue which fulfils this overarchingcriterion – a wine estate, country manor or botanical gardens, for example. To provide shade, or shelter in case of inclement weather, erect a marquée or Bedouin tent. People are expected to circulate at garden parties, much like at cocktail parties, so it’s not necessary to provide every guest with a seat at a formal table. Rather, provide a variety of tables, benches, sofas, cane chairs, big floor cushions and picnic blankets dotted about the venue. Keep blankets on hand in case the weather turns cool. Inside your garden tent, chandeliers and candelabra are a nice touch. Keep the table décor simple – country bunches in glass vases or fresh garlands – and stick to a crisp, spring colour palette of muted pastels. For inspiring wedding décor ideas, see this slideshow from Martha Stewart.

Garden Party Wedding

Image courtesy of polkadotbride.com

What Food Should Be Served at a Garden Party?

Keep it light – serve canapés and good old fashioned favourites like cucumber sandwiches, savoury tarts, scones with jam, strawberries and cream and other dainty goodies. If you’re looking to serve something a tad more substantial, why not go for a barbecue – not a regular ol’ South African braaivleis but a mouthwatering gourmet number like those prepared by celebrity TV chef and author Justin Bonello.

And Drinks?

From self-service tables, serve icy-cool sangria or punch (decant from big jugs). And don’t forget the chilled champagne, Pimms and perhaps a swanky signature cocktail, like a Gin Rickey. For the tea-total, tea and coffee (from your best china, of course), as well as refreshing homemade ginger beer and lemonade.

Should I Provide Entertainment?

Pipe in some soft background wedding music to lend some atmosphere but don’t drown out the wonderful backing track which nature provides – birds chirping, friends laughing and champagne glasses clinking! Garden party guests of old enjoyed playing cricket, badminton or croquet – you may wish to offer the same. If you’d like to have dancing, best extend the occasion into the evening – string white fairy light in trees and place hurricane lamps and floating candles in strategic places to light the way et voila! Garden party becomes romantic moonlit soirée.

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