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A History Lesson In The Garden Party

These famous garden parties provide inspiration for throwing your own backyard fete.

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The concept is simple: an afternoon soiree held in the garden. But thanks to the royals — and European bon vivants as far back as the 16th century — this type of affair can be anything but. From fantastic hats to delectable treats, these famous garden parties provide inspiration for throwing your own backyard fete.

Buckingham Palace. London’s most famous residence hosts three garden parties a year — a tradition that dates back to the 1860s. Take a page from Queen Mum’s book and schedule your party in the late afternoon (4-6pm). Request that guests wear their Sunday best — suits for men, party frocks for women — and encourage hat wearing from both sexes; a regal fascinator is so very British. Serve typical Brit fare like tea sandwiches, scones, and Pimms cups.

No garden party is complete without a little floral and fauna. Keep your bloom British by filling vases with roses, peonies, and posies.

Versailles. Marie Antoinette was known for many things — including the soirees she held in the private gardens of Petit Trianon at Versailles. Though thought of as a woman of excess, the Queen’s garden parties were actually a way for her to entertain foreign dignitaries on a budget. 

Follow in her footsteps by hosting an early evening fete. Since you won’t have sunshine on your side, illuminate your yard or garden with twinkling lights, lanterns, or even an outdoor chandelier. Request that guests wear all-white (as Her Majesty was known to do), provide soothing background music — classical, jazz, or instrumental indie bands like Air— and feature bouquets filled with traditional French flowers — lilies anyone?

Stick to finger foods like French cheeses, a charcuterie plate, and petit fours. And don’t forget to provide plenty of bubbly!