I love a good garden party. Hanging out with your best friends, eating yummy food, talking, laughing, singing along to the radio and just chillin’ out.
My housemates and I threw one at our student house in our last year of uni. We cleaned the garden, I made a bunch of cakes and snacks… and then I ended up having to go into work and missed out on all the fun. Boo hiss.
Well last week, Newman’s Own asked me throw another party, one for my best internet gal pals. And, if I do say so myself: it was a roaring success!
We had food and drink and a lot of laughs. But it didn’t come without it’s stresses.
Catering for 12 people is no joke, and things can quickly get out of hand if you’re not prepared for things (like torrential thunderstorms…).
So here are my tips for hosting a super party, without the super stress-headache to match!
1. MAKE A LOT OF LISTS
There’s nothing worse than realising ten minutes before your guests arrive that you forgot to make the dessert, or buy plastic cups, or set up the speakers for music.
Find a way to keep track of everything you need to do, make, or buy before the big day. I found it easiest to keep all my lists on my phone, as notebooks and diaries have a tendency to go missing right at the exact moment I need to check something.
Guest lists, menu lists, ingredient lists, to do lists, party decor lists… make one for everything and tick it off as you go.
2. PLAN FOR EVERYTHING
And I do mean, EVERYTHING.
The day before my Party, the weather predictions suddenly went from “dry and sunny” to “torrential thunderstorms”. We had to put in an emergency call for a gazebo from Argos and pray the garden wouldn’t flood.
Luckily, the gazebo was in stock, but I didn’t leave anywhere near enough time to put it up, so half an hour before everyone was due to arrive, we were still wrestling with tent poles and green canvas.
Plan for everything, make a schedule for everything, and give yourself extra time for every little job you think you have to do. It’ll give you time to breathe and not stress!
3. KEEP THE MENU SIMPLE
The issue with the gazebo put me behind on my food prep, but because I’d decided on such a simple menu, it actually didn’t take me long to get back on track, and back with my guests.
A garden party is not the time to whip out individual souffles. You want good, hearty food. Dishes that you can cook in a big batch, that can be (at least mostly) prepped in advance, and that won’t leave you hanging around in the kitchen for hours while everyone else has fun.
At my party, I made tomato bruschettas as a sort of starter course: chopped tomatoes, Newman’s Own balsamic dressing and a pinch of salt, on toasted bread. Easy.
For mains, I made four giant bowls of simple but filling salads, using my own recipes and a variety of Newman’s Own salad dressings.
Then we finished everything off with chocolate brownies, strawberries, and cream.
Simple but delicious.
4. START YOUR PREP THE NIGHT BEFORE
The other good thing about keeping it simple: you can probably get most of it ready in advance.
About 80% of my food prep was done the night before: tomatoes chopped and marinated, potatoes and pasta boiled, bacon fried, peas steamed, vegetables roasted, and brownies baked.
That left me with only a handful of jobs left in the kitchen, and a lot more time to spend on things like putting up gazebos, decorating, and drinking prosecco!
5. ACCEPT HELP AND HAVE FUN
When someone is silly/lovely enough to offer their help: take it.
If you accept their help, the worst that can happen is that there actually isn’t anything for them to do, and then they can sit in a corner with a glass of prosecco.
If you don’t accept help, the worst that can happen is that you end up curled up in a stress-crying heap on the kitchen floor.
Whether it’s the offer of an actual garden to party in, or helping nailing down the gazebo (so it doesn’t fly away a la Wizard of Oz like ours tried to!), or running down to the off-licence for more prosecco, or tossing salads with dressings, or even helping clear up the mess once everyone’s gone… Every little helps.
The most important part of any party is that everyone has fun, and that includes you!
(Happy to report that my friends are total legends, and there was absolutely no crying on the kitchen floor at this party. ♥)
Thank you Erica for lending us her garden! ♥
And thanks to my lovely guests and hand-models:
*This post is sponsored by Newman’s Own.