It’s as simple as creating an elegant, English-style garden party.
By Monica Haim | Party design by KBYdesigns
Self-affirming newsflash: you don’t have to be Alice or live in a place called Wonderland to create your own—especially when you’re celebrating something special, like a Sweet Sixteen, a graduation, a wedding or an engagement party. In fact, all you have to do is pay attention to the seasons (think spring, summer and early fall) and consider—no, dare to dream up—an affair so uniquely enchanting it would make any princess cry out with elation.
Garden parties have the power to make guests feel as if they are at a gathering in some bygone era, with the clinking of slowly melting ice, the hum of chatter and flirting, and the music setting the whole scene. Here among the rustling of the trees and the chirping of the birds, memorable atmospheres are easy to create, and when you eliminate the walls from any occasion and instead use nature as your backdrop, you instantly lend that occasion a lot more soul. There’s just no getting around it: on a beautiful day under a brilliant sunset, the music sounds better, the food tastes more delicious and the photos turn out great— it really is as simple as that.
So why not make your next fete in the style of an English garden party? Invite your guests to escape the urban hustle for one long, lingering afternoon of relaxed elegance. Create a sweet world of enchantment that evokes and celebrates femininity and works with some of nature’s prettiest elements to create a dream-like affair. According to Koby Bar Yehuda, one of Israel’s premier creative event producers, the key to creating such a setting is to give yours guests 360-degree vistas of flowers no matter where they are in the space. He does this by creating arrangements of mixed blooms in gradients of deep to pale pinks all together in massive urns, known as Marco Polo urns, that overflow with unexpected varieties, such as peonies, roses, hydrangea and lisianthus, creating a constant sense of abundance and fertility. Rather than arrange them in circular formations, the urns are placed in various depths to create a more interesting perspective. Ten large ones dispersed throughout can make an extraordinary statement, and you can accessorize the space with smaller tables and consoles that carry along the same motif.
A garden party is the ultimate scenario for private corners and secret gazebos, tiny enclaves of mystery guests can wander off to and mingle on their own. Cover these mini-structures (one of which could easily be a chupa) with green vines and roses, draping them throughout for a soft and lyrical ambience. White wrought-iron seating and tables are ideal for this type of affair, where it is the green foliage and crimson palette of the flowers that brings natural color to the scene. You can also use clean, antique style furniture, such as a chaise longue and some ottomans and benches to give the party a touch of homegrown class. A particularly appealing aspect of the garden party is that you can begin in the afternoon and take the festivities into the evening, when the addition of torches, chandeliers and large candles all up the drama and create almost an entirely new event. In the afternoon, passed canapés such as finger sandwiches and savory scones make for perfect snacking; when night falls, you can change over to carving stations and more serious passed hors d’oeuvres. Because the event is open-air, it is a nice touch to come up with a menu of foods that can be prepared right in front of the guests.
Liberate your guests from the typical invitation to some dark, depression reception hall, and bring them into your lovely world of playful elegance. They will remember that sunset cocktail and the endless attention to detail that a party like this can evoke. The elements are basic; you just have to think stylistically about how you want to get the theme across. What is your color palette? How do you want to serve your guests? What are some interesting cocktails that can punctuate this very special moment? Get creative, get outside, and let the breeze and the trees inspire your plan.