How to host the ultimate garden party

As the weather warms up and the skies clear, we can feel the allure of the garden party growing. Throwing your friends or family a get-together over a delicious al fresco meal is a brilliant way to celebrate. Whether it’s a good old fashioned barbecue, summer cocktails and canapés, or a simple quiche and a fruit tart around the table outside, we have plenty of ideas up our sleeves for you. With a bit of planning and preparation, the ultimate summer garden party might just be around the corner.

So, if your idea of heaven is a weekend of cooking, eating and having a laugh with friends, check out our guide and top tips below. And you don’t have to miss out if you don’t have a garden – just grab a few blankets, a picnic basket and some beakers and make the park your own for an afternoon. Here’s how to throw an excellent outdoor soirée.

How to host the ultimate garden party

How to set the scene

Hosting a garden party should feel like fun so it’s worth going the extra mile to make the experience as joyous as possibl.

  • Choose a cosy corner of your garden where you can comfortably sit for at least a couple of hours.
  • Next, decorate! A garden party is an opportunity to dress up and use your finest wares, as well as some party adornments if you want to go all-out. Flowers, bunting, balloons and paper pom-poms are bound to get people in the mood.
  • Make sure you use a table big enough to seat friends and family comfortably ]and that easily holds the spread of food.

garden party

Garden party activities

If you want to make your garden party as memorable as possible, it’s nice to break up the nibbles with some activities. We suggest:

  • Games! Croquet, giant Jenga, or hoopla and skittles are great garden entertainment. The more traditional bat-and-ball and football also go down a treat, too, of course, if your garden is big enough.
  • A photobooth is a fun addition to an outdoor party, and will ensure you and your guests will remember the occasion for years to come. All you need is a homemade booth (nothing some cardboard and scissors can’t help with), a camera (or smartphone), and some props (such as hats, silly moustaches or feather boas) to encourage people to get snapping. All the more reason to get your glad-rags on too, eh?
  • A piñata is another way to amp up the excitement – and who doesn’t love a shower of sweets or treats raining down on them? Get creative with the design. The kids especially are bound to thank you.

What’s on the menu?

To ensure a stress-free event, it’s a good idea to plan your menu well in advance.

The cocktails
A cocktail is the perfect warm welcome, and you can make it all even more fun with your own outdoor makeshift bar. We have lots of suggestions for summer cocktail recipes. If you are catering for a fairly large group, and don’t want to be the designated mixologist all day, we recommend cocktails that can be mixed in advance. Think boozy peach iced tea or a negroni punch. Or the classic mojito can be scaled up and is always a firm favourite.

gin fizz
Mix up a jug of gin fizz and let guests help themselves

The canapés

If you want to get serious in the role of host, our canapé recipes are the best place to look. You could go for crowdpleasing sausage rolls, or if you are feeling a little fancier, our crayfish and crab brioches are impressive to look at and delicious to eat. If you’d prefer a nibble with some spice, these paneer bites are the new cheese and pineapple! And who doesn’t love food on a stick?

crayfish canapes
Go cray for these crayfish canapés

The meat barbecue

When it comes to the barbecue, traditional favourites will always include sausages, whether it’s a classic hot dog or a chorizo sub. We’ve all kinds of burgers as well as chicken wings to choose from, which are sure to go down a treat. For a centrepiece with a bit of a wow factor, consider these slow roast barbecue ribs or a spatchcocked chilli chicken, which can be marinated in advance. Find plenty of other barbecue ideas in our full collection.

chorizo sub
Imagine their faces when you bring out these chorizo sub rolls

The vegetarian barbecue

For the non-meat eaters in the gang, we’ve got plenty of vegetarian barbecue recipes to keep your troupes well fed. You can’t get much better than a barbecued corn on the cob with cheese, though these halloumi sweet potato burgers come close. Barbecue courgettes with lemon and dukkah are a real seasonal treat too.

corn on the cob
It’s hard to imagine anything better than hot melted cheese on your corn on the cob

Sweet and savoury tart ideas
For a garden party made simple, encase things in pastry! Tarts are easily transported outdoors and always pleasing to the eye. Below are a few of our current favourites…

Gin and lime custard tart
Tomato thyme and ricotta
Baba ganoush tarts
Peach and pistachio galette
Rhubarb and coconut meringue tart

Check out more quiches or sweet tarts.

The dessert
If you’re planning on making a pudding, consider our mini desserts a practical option. These mini cosmopolitan cheesecakes or gin and tonic ice lollies are fun to look at and deliciously refreshing to eat.

mini cheesecakes
Avoid the awkward serving of food with individual portions

Store-bought vs homemade

A garden party is all about having fun, so don’t agonise over having to make every element of the meal from scratch – it’s supposed to be a relaxing day! Serve up a mix of homemade and ready-made treats to keep things simple; you might want to buy ice lollies and burgers, and save the simpler elements such as the cocktails and salads to make yourself. Chin chin!

More to discover

Subscribe to our magazine

Food stories, skills and tested recipes, straight to your door... Enjoy 5 issues for just £5 with our special introductory offer.


Unleash your inner chef

Looking for inspiration? Receive the latest recipes with our newsletter

We treat your data with care. See our privacy policy. By signing up, you are agreeing to delicious.’ terms and conditions. Unsubscribe at any time.