As summer begins it’s time to start thinking of entertaining al fresco. Whether your garden space is small and intimate or large and lavish, these top tips make the ideal guide to hosting the perfect summer garden party. Aldourie Castle loves to throw a good outdoor party and we’ve highlighted some personal Castle choices throughout.
Consider your guest list
When it comes to deciding on your garden party guests list it’s important to think about what will create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. At Aldourie we specialise in hosting the ideal house party of up to 30 guests taking exclusive use of the Castle and grounds. Social gatherings such as birthday celebrations, anniversary dinners or reunions are mainly made up of close family and friends. Therefore, we suggest this mix of guests as the ideal for your perfect summer garden party. Invite too many guests and you lose the intimate atmosphere. Likewise, invite distant relatives or friends of friends and you risk your party lacking familiarity and easy conversation.
Have a theme to focus on
The process of choosing a theme for your perfect summer garden party can be fun. Involve the children in sharing ideas too so they feel they’re involved in the party from the start. Having a well-chosen theme gives focus to the social gathering and makes it easier to plan the rest of the party set up. Ideas you could consider are nautical/beach, contemporary, Nordic or vintage.
Aldourie Castle Estate’s chosen theme: this would have to be the Scottish Highlands; scattering tartan blankets and cushions and offering a well-crafted whisky cocktail.
Tablescape – create a beautiful dining setting
Think ‘tablescape’ over party decorations. Food and drink are more often than not the focus of any party, indoor or outdoor, so make the most of showing these off to their full advantage. The table, whether a sit-down meal or buffet setting, should be the focal point of your party scene. All the better if it sits against the backdrop of a stunning natural landscape. Also, by making an effort with your artistic table arrangements you relinquish the hassle of having to decorate each and every nook and cranny of your party space. Less is more, as the story goes…
Delicious food and drink for your perfect summer garden party
You can host a winning summer garden party that will indulge your guests and be the talking point at social gatherings for months to come. How can you do this? By serving delicious, well-thought out food and drink throughout the day and into the evening. If you plan ahead with your food and drink choices you can create the perfect al fresco dining experience. The key is to opt for dishes that complement the season, using fresh ingredients and local produce. On hot days be sure to have jugs brimming with ice cold juices, Pimms and cocktails. On warm days keep the wine flowing and have a welcome drink ready for all – champagne, anyone? If there are families on the guest list then remember to feature some fun, child-friendly food and drinks too.
Aldourie’s dishes: a Loch Ness inspired fish course (possibly salmon to cater for the majority of guests) and Scotland’s own colourful, summery cranachan for dessert. Delicious!
Create pretty flower displays
Nothing helps to create the perfect summer garden party more than a beautiful display of fresh flowers. If you’re lucky enough to have a colourful garden complete with all the blooms of the season then why not pick some for your table centerpiece? Depending on your choice of party theme opt for either formal or wild flowers. The scent of the florals will also add to the guest experience of your perfect garden party so remember this when choosing what to place where; evoking people’s senses when they least expect it adds a touch of magic to your showcase.
Aldourie’s flower choice: a selection of blooms freshly picked that morning from our wild flower garden. This would be a perfect tribute to the wild Scottish Highlands landscape that surrounds the 500 acre Estate.
Choose the ‘right’ music
The aim of the perfect summer garden party is to relax and excite your guests from the moment they arrive. Background music is the key to achieving this. Music exudes ambiance and you’re best to be prepared by creating a playlist well before the party day. That way you can perfect the list, adding or removing songs to suit. If your garden party starts early and finishes late you may want to create different moods for different times. For instance, you can create an energy to the start of your party with upbeat, soft rock or popular songs and opt for more mellow or folky tunes for winding down and reminiscing.
Create designated spaces for your perfect summer garden party
A garden party should have flow and tell a story as much as it should create a functional backcloth to your celebrations and fun. With this in mind, think about creating ‘zones’ that guests can frequent throughout the event. Ideas include a cosy, intimate space for couples curling up with a glass of wine or close friends chatting into the evening; a partying space for dancing; and a play area for children and any lawn games – bubbles, hula hoops and croquet are just a few suggestions.
Aldourie’s game of choice: a spot of croquet on the Castle’s front lawn would be a must; for the more energetic guests, perhaps a Segway ride…
Set the mood with lighting
The perfect summer garden party needs to consider the small details, such as lighting both during the day and evening. Take on board these tips to keep guests happy. Make sure there’s lounging spaces placed in both shade and sunny spots – the latter to cater for sun worshipers hoping to top up their tans. Be sure that your designated dining space isn’t in direct sunlight. As dusk falls bring out the candles and lanterns for that all-important ambiance.
Prioritise comfort for your guests
Making your guests feel comfortable and at home is your top priority for the perfect summer garden party. As mentioned above if the sun is shining bright all day shaded areas are a must. And remember, a good host provides anything and everything so make sure you’ve got plenty of sun cream to go around – especially for the children. Your guests will appreciate this considerate touch. You may want to install some heaters if your garden party is set to go on until late and, of course, provide a basket of blankets for that essential garden party cosiness and warmth. As darkness descends, for any remaining guests lighting a small campfire is the ultimate treat.
Have a back-up plan
You’ve designed the perfect summer garden party with all the fixtures and fittings, but the weather decides to rain on your parade. Don’t let it! Back up plans guarantee a calm, collected host. So, should wet weather prevail, have a gazebo and umbrellas at the ready. If you have a very large garden space you may even consider having a small marquee on standby.
Aldourie’s perfect summer garden party back-up plan: bring everyone inside into the interlinking public rooms. We would let guests enjoy the inside of the Castle with its impressive views over Loch Ness and the Highlands.