How to make sure your garden party goes well – words Al Woods

The British summer is a strange beast at the best of times but when you’re trying to plan a garden party it’s enough to send the calmest of people into a flap.

It also turns you into a nervy weather stalker. When a garden party is looming, I find myself glued by the hour to the Met Office website as the chosen day closes in. The problem is the weather can affect all aspects of the event. You will approach the party in a different way if it’s warm sunshine and blue skies than if there’s a chance of rain.

But because this is Britain and because we love to party in our gardens, the only way around this is to be prepared and to think flexibly. 

Have a backup plan

If the weather starts to look really bad don’t be afraid to change the date. Yes, I know to some people this sounds like a terrible idea, but believe me it’s a lot better than having guests all huddled up in your house staring outside as the rain pours down. We’ve moved dates when torrential rain suddenly appeared in the forecast and the next day looked bright and sunny. Yes, a couple of people couldn’t make the change, but most could and it’s turned out really well. It’s easy to send a group text.

Another idea is to have an indoor venue on standby. So, if on the day it looks like heavy rain you can quickly let everyone know to meet at a nearby venue. Yes, this is a hassle. You might have to decorate the venue and take equipment with you. You could avoid some of the hassle though if the venue do their own catering and have their own sound system then music is easily sorted. These days you don’t even need a DJ. We often use apps that allow you to build a playlist that kids and adults alike can request from during the event using their smartphones.

Entertain the children

Keeping the kids occupied is one of the things it’s crucial to get right. If they are unhappy and unoccupied then all their parents and grandparents will be unhappy too. Not a great combination. Have outdoor games available – croquet, giant Jenga, a paddling pool, a football pitch set up – whatever you think will go down well. If it looks like you might be in for showers then get a covered bouncy castle or disco tent. Once started they’ll dance or bounce around and forget about the rain outside.

Invest in some outdoor shelter

Remember that gazebos are your friend. We first bought a gazebo because it looked like we’d get showers for our daughter’s birthday party. It was a decision that really paid off. We had food set up under the gazebo and a covered bouncy disco for the kids. During the event we did end up with a few showers but it still went very well. We packed away the gazebo wondering if we’d ever use it again, but it’s actually proved really useful. It can offer shade we well as shelter from rain so works when it’s very hot. They can be picked up relatively cheaply and used in lots of different ways. For a little more protection from any breeze or wind, you can purchase a pop up gazebo with sides from Garden Camping. We’ve since used ours as a VIP area for our daughter’s pre-teen party, and as a stall at school spring fairs. They are portable and so easy to put up, you can use them at other events and parties too.

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