Who is invited to a Garden Party?
In summer, the Sovereign traditionally hosts three Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace, and one at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Scotland. Historically, Garden Parties took the place of presentation parties attended by debutantes, and have evolved into a way of recognising and rewarding public service.
Throughout the country, a long established network of sponsors is used to invite guests, who include Lord-Lieutenants, Societies and Associations, Government Departments, Local Government, the Services, the Church and other Faiths. They nominate guests for invitation and we hope in this way to achieve a representative cross section of the community. It is not possible to acquire invitations to The Queen's Garden Parties through direct application to Buckingham Palace.
What happens at a Garden Party?
On the day of the Garden Party, the Palace gates are open from around 3pm. The Party officially begins when Members of the Royal Family enter the garden at 4pm, when the National Anthem is played by one of the two military bands present.
While the bands continue to play a selection of music, Members of the Royal Family circulate among the guests through 'lanes'. Each takes a different route and random presentations are made so that everyone has an equal chance of speaking to a Member of the Royal Family. Members of the Royal family then arriv at the Royal Tea Tent, where they meets further guests. Guests are free to eat, drink and stroll around the beautiful Palace gardens.
Special Garden Parties
Traditionally, a Garden Party is held for the Not Forgotten Association each year, a charity for war veterans, which is usually hosted by the Patron of the organisation, The Princess Royal.
In past years, Queen Elizabeth II has also given permission for additional Garden Parties to be held, for example to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme in 2006, and the Territorial Amy's 100th Anniversary in 2008. In 2006 to honour The Queen's 80th birthday the gardens were transformed into a scenes from children's books for the Children's Party at the Palace. In 2015 there were Garden Parties to celebrate the Centenary of the Women's Institute and Blind Veterans UK.
What to Wear
For a Garden Party, gentlemen wear morning dress or lounge suits, while women wear day dress, usually with hats or fascinators. National dress and uniform are also often worn.
The Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, 28 June 1897
This oil painting by Laurits Regner Tuxen shows Queen Victoria and Alexandra, Princess of Wales in the midst of the crowds.
View on the Royal Collection website