Top five tips for an amazing garden party
Nothing says summer quite like a garden party, so whether you're hosting a laid-back event for friends and family or a more formal affair, check out our tips for everything from menu planning to decoration to make it fun, affordable and stylish.
1. Keep calm and shop ahead
About a week before the party, work out how many guests are coming, the ratio of adults to kids, and how many vegetarians there will be. That way, you can devise a menu to please everyone and cut down on leftovers. For great ideas, check out Sainsbury's garden party menu ideas. If your guest list rivals the Queen's garden parties for size, shop online in advance to keep your workload on the day to a minimum and, if fridge space (or budget) is an issue, ask close friends or family to bring along a pudding or fresh nibbles, such as olives or crudités. Don't forget to add extra essentials to your shopping list, such as paper napkins, kitchen roll, plastic cutlery, cups and plates and even loo roll.
2. Cheat your menu
If you'd rather be spending time in the run-up to the party decorating the garden (or lying down), cheat your way to a ready-made menu. There are plenty of affordable pre-prepped options - from New Yorker sandwiches to Bakewell cake slices and cloudy lemonade from the by Sainsbury's range. Serve up the cheats on nice plates and decorate with herbs or fruit, then dot them among homemade dishes. No one will be any the wiser...
3. Get the drinks in
Stock up on beer, wine, Pimms and soft drinks, plus plenty of juice drinks, cordials and flavoured water for kids - all are must-have staples of any good garden party. Unusual drinks your guests might not have tried before will go down a storm and get the party going, too. Elderflower Cyder or Alcoholic Ginger Beer are both fresh-tasting summer party drinks that will complement most dishes. For more ideas, check out Sainsbury's garden party drinks ideas. Don't forget to buy ice for chilling the drinks - Sainsbury's sells 2kg bags - and to clean and set aside a smart bin, bucket, plastic toy or gardening trug to store the ice and display the drinks in.
4. Is the garden party-ready?
It goes without saying that you'll mow the lawn and maybe even plant out pots with a few bright blooms to get the garden looking its best, but don't forget to take a look at the weather forecast so you can be prepared for all eventualities. If it's really hot (here's hoping!), you'll get away with a parasol or two, but if rain is forecast, a gazebo is a sensible investment - you needn't spend a fortune, DIY stores sell cheap foldaway ones for around £20. Or, you could buy a more permanent structure, such as the St Tropez canopy for £249. Ensure you have enough tables and chairs - even at an informal buffet, people will want to sit down, so ask neighbours if you can borrow theirs if necessary. Consider the time of day of your party, too. If it's going to run into the evening, you'll need outdoor lighting. Choose a combination of hurricane lamps (or tealights in old jam jars without the lids on) for tables, solar-powered garden lighting for deck or patio boundaries and fairy lights to string around fences, through trees and bushes.
Giving your garden party a theme will make it look instantly elegant. This might be something as simple as a colour scheme or as sophisticated as a dress code. A colour scheme might well be driven by the colour of the plates or garden furniture you already have and needn't be expensive - you can add to what you've got by buying bunting, paper napkins, candles and even cake icing in that colour.
For a themed party, again consider what you have, and exploit it. For example, if you own a vintage tea set, deck the garden out to look like a traditional village fete with floral bunting, pretty table cloths and flowers displayed in colourful vases. Buy or make traditional British dishes to serve up, such as roast beef and horseradish sandwiches, Eton mess and jam tarts. Or, if there will be lots of kids around, give the party a bright, bold Mexican theme and buy a piñata filled with goodies to hang from a tree. Serve up fajitas, chilli con carne and plenty of tortilla chips, and let the kids bash the piñata when it's time for something sweet.
Check out Sainsbury's Live Well For Less for more ideas.