Expert Q&A

How to host the perfect garden party

Lifestyle guru Emma Hawkins makes entertaining that bit easier with her top tips for being the hostess with the mostess this spring.

Summer garden party

The weather’s warming up so that can only mean one thing – it’s time to get everyone together for a garden party. Because after hibernating all winter, what could be better than sipping on a glass of sparkling in the sun, surrounded by friends and family – BBQ cranking – music playing and kids entertaining themselves? Sounds pretty great, to us.

Whether you’re going all out with the guest list or keeping it casual with a few friends, we asked Yellowglen’s lifestyle guru Emma Hawkins to share her top tips for hosting the perfect garden party. Here’s everything you need to know.

Time it right
Late spring to early summer is the perfect time for a garden party, says Emma. “The sun should be shining, flowers are in bloom and it’s not too hot like mid-to-late summer.” But, be smart and save yourself any bad weather stress by always having a wet weather back-up plan – even if it is just the living room!

Make a plan
First things first, send out a save the date. “Dates around spring/summer get snapped up quickly so lock your date in first.” Then pick a theme. “If you are struggling to think of a theme, then you should definitely still have a small concept as it will be easier for you to plan everything else. It could be a crazy hat garden party or more of a classic English garden party.”

Get your DIY on
“Whenever I host an event, I always try and do at least two DIY projects,” says Emma. It’s a great way to save cash (read: more money for sparkling) and you’ll feel great when guests compliment your design work. Emma’s suggestion? Make your own bunting, tablecloth or napkins. “Don’t be afraid to raid your friends’ and family homes for decorative items, too. I love the eclectic look for garden parties so it’s fun to mix and match items.”

Let there be light
Candles look beautiful, but aren’t always great outside – or around clumsy guests! “Fairy lights are always a winner as they’re practical and look gorgeous so drape them through your garden and trees.” Emma’s tip? “Fake flickering candles or lanterns look gorgeous when you’re creating a path, too.” You’ll be so wowed by the secret garden effect that you won’t want to take them down at the end of the day!

Emma's wedding to AFL player Tom Hawkins provides some perfect garden party inspiration!

Greet guests with a cocktail
“I always love greeting guests to a refreshing and pretty-on-the-eyes cocktail,” says Emma. Her pick? The Sparkling Gin Gin. “It includes Yellowglen Vintage Pinot Noir chardonnay, gin, sugar syrup, lemon juice, pink grapefruit and mint, served over ice.” Stock your bar (or ice-filled tub) with rosé, sparkling and Pimms, too. Chances are guests will bring a bottle or some beers, but a good party is all about the prep. “Don’t forget to keep the iced water on the table and some soft drinks as well,” says Emma. Homemade lemonade is always a thoughtful treat for those who aren’t drinking.

Aim to over cater
Lack of food is a major downer. Fact. “Better to over cater than to under cater,” says Emma. “Your food should complement your theme and be easy for the guests to eat.” Try finger food, like sandwiches, pizzas, BBQ chicken, prawns, salad skewers and strawberries or watermelon for a refreshing sweet treat. If guests are bringing children to the party, let them know what you’re planning to serve so that they can decide whether to bring extra snacks.

Don’t forget the ice
Everyone always forgets the ice. “That’s why it is so important to write a list of what you need to pick up the morning of the party,” says Emma. Lists are a lifesaver. Keep them for everything – food, drinks, guests, decorations, cleaning and a final checklist for the day of the party.

Think about the evening
Most garden parties go on way into the evening so it’s a good idea to prep for that. “I always make sure I have a few extra throws and jackets lying around the house for guests in case it gets cold in the afternoon,” says Emma. Pre-planning will save you running around like a headless chicken on the day. “It can be stressful being the host, but if you are organised, you’ll be fine.”

General housekeeping
In the general chaos of organising, the simple things can sometimes slip your mind. Always make sure that the bathroom is stocked up with plenty of toilet paper and hand soap and that you’ve put out a couple of fresh hand towels. Get some SPF and insect repellent – your guests will love you forever. If you don’t want to use your glasses and plates outside, add picnic plates, cups and cutlery to your list.

Brought to you by Yellowglen

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