Top Tips for a Buckingham Palace Garden Party

I thought I should share my Top Tips for a Buckingham Palace Garden Party as we have just been to our first (and only I would think!).

Buckingham Palace

Tell all your friends.

This is a huge big deal and you should really enjoy your moment in the spot light.    You have been invited to a Buckingham Palace Garden party! These events have been going on for generations and mark the start of the summer season so ARE very special.   We got ours by proxy really so felt a bit of a fraud, but if you have been invited you are part of a very special group.  Enjoy your moment.

Get dressed up.

The invite has a dress code for a reason.  You are being invited to Her Majesty’s back garden and you need to look the part.  Digging something out of the back of the wardrobe is not really in the spirit of the event and if you can’t buy a new outfit for this event, when will you?  Even if you wear a dress you love and already own, buy a new hat, or pair of shoes, or handbag.  It doesn’t have to cost a king’s ransom (did you see what I did there?) and can be from a charity shop for a couple of quid.   The point is that you should treat yourself to something new for the occasion.

Talking of shoes.

Don’t wear your favourite nude stiletto spikes.   You will be standing a) in a queue to get through the gates for at least an hour; and b) then standing on grass for about three hours.   Stilettos are not going to cut it.   You want flats, or wedges, or shoes with a thicker heel.


I got some new ones from Hotter Shoes as I know they are comfortable, and they had a sturdier heel.   Just the right amount of height to feel special but not so high that I couldn’t walk or stand for a couple of hours.  And I didn’t have to do that tip toe walking thing that us women have to do when walking down wet wooden slopes out of the loos when we are not sure our heels won’t slip.

Wear clothes you can layer.

Whilst the sun was shining for most of the day when the sun went in around 5pm the temperature did drop, and even with the sun out it was chilly when the breeze picked up.   I had put a long petticoat / vest on under my dress, but I wish I had taken a black pashmina or a wrap too.     As with shoes, make sure you are wearing something comfortable and that you don’t have to fidget with.  There are chairs to sit down in so make sure you can sit as well as stand, you don’t want to be wearing something that looks fantastic but means you can’t sit down!  I was chuffed with my dress and jacket as it was easy to wear, and comfortable.  And also didn’t look crumpled up after an hour in the car on the way there.   Buying it added to the fun as all the ladies in the shop were very excited that my dress was off to the Palace and were keen to help me find just the right dress for the day.

Buckingham Palace Outfit


Please wear a hat!  It says on the dress code that ladies should wear a hat.  Or at least a fascinator.   I am not a huge wearer of hats but if you aren’t going to wear a hat to Buckingham Palace then when are you?  I bought mine in Debenhams for £30 and know that now I have it, I will wear it again.   I made sure it was on a head band so was easy to wear (and refit when the wind picked up and blew it perilously close to the lake)   There were some amazing hats on show, some of them huge, and also some beautiful little fascinators and it made me grumpy to see some ladies not wearing hats when it had specifically said we should.

Catching a glimpse of Her Majesty

If you want to see Her Majesty up close and personal you need to make sure you are near the steps of the Palace or along the route between there and the Royal Tea Tent.   The royal party makes their way along the garden and stop to chat to people along the line so if you want to be in with a chance, you need to be in position.   And not in the tea tent filling your face with cucumber sandwiches and then be at the back of a line four deep.

Secret tip

Top tip given to us on the day by a lovely man from Somerset.  If you are a wheelchair user, make sure at 5.45pm you are by the band stand to the left of the Palace.   Her Majesty leaves from the Royal Tea Tent and re-enters the Palace through a side door, walking back up the path lined with Indian Chestnut trees.    Anybody who is there and in a wheelchair is asked to join a queue against the Palace, on the path.   This gives everybody there a prime view as Her Majesty walks up the path and in with a chance of being chatted with.   Though if there is a special assistance dog within the group, forget it.  The dog is always going to win in the attention stakes.   Princess Alexandra and the Duke of Kent took the time to stop and shake the hand of everybody.   Wheelchair users and carers.   It really was a perfect end to the day.   And a very nice touch for all those in wheelchairs.     And we would have totally missed out if we hadn’t been given the tip.


Go hungry!  I thought the tea would be a bit “lacking”.  Just the odd sandwich or small cake but I couldn’t have been more wrong.   There were five different sandwiches to choose from and nine cakes!  You get to help yourself from the tea tent (the queue was tiny because this is a well oiled machine and they know how to feed 8000 people in the blink of an eye) and the selection is huge.   This is the menu, though it is a really bad photo due to the fact it was taken surreptitiously due to the “no photos” rule (like I was ever going to abide by that rule)

Menu from Buckingham Palace

And this is what that translates to.   Yes I did try them all (purely in the interests of research you understand.  I take this reporting to you my lovely readers lark very seriously)

Buckingham Palace Garden Party

And to round off the day we had one that looked like this.   Well if you were the Queen wouldn’t you want all your food to look like this?

Buckingham Palace crown cake

Some other questions you may be asking after receiving your invite

What is the dress code for garden parties and can ladies wear trouser suits?

Well, as I said above you should definitely make an effort and dress up.  Gentlemen wear morning dress or lounge suits, and ladies wear day dresses and usually wear hats or fascinators.  Yes ladies can wear trouser suits.  National Dress is often worn too and looks magnificent amongst a sea of people

Is Buckingham Palace open to the public?

Not during the Garden Parties.  You can book to do tours of the State Rooms from July to October but you can’t do during Garden Party season

Is there parking for the garden parties?

There is a designated area to park if you have a blue badge and directions to this should be with your invitation. If you dont have a blue badge then parking is limited and only permitted via Marlborough Road Junction and Pall Mall.  It really is best to arrive by public transport

What are the timings for Buckingham Palace Garden Parties?

Gates open from around 3pm, and the parties are officially from 4pm to 6pm

Can we wander around the Gardens at Buckingham Palace?

You can indeed.  For some pics of the garden here is the post I wrote about them: How Does Your Garden Grow Buckingham Palace Style

So there you have it, my top tips for a Buckingham Palace Garden Party.  Do leave me a comment if you have any questions though and I promise to come back to you.

PS they serve 27,000 cups of tea and 20,000 slices of cake over the course of the four parties a year (three in London and one at Holyrood).

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  • Oh the cakes look delicious and you don’t look half bad either 😉 Looks like you had a fabulous day. Thanks for sharing it with us x

  • What a lovely round-up! Thanks for sharing I am really looking forward to going myself next week. Great tip about the shoes, I was planning on heels but will definitely have a rethink now. Worried with my gluten thing, I won’t be able to eat a thing!! Hope I can sneak my phone in too… would love to get a selfie in the palace gardens!

    • Im going to a garden party this June. How did you get on with your gluten allergy? – i have the same problem. Hope you had a great day. Regards.

  • haha LOVE your sense of humour! And your lovely shoes!
    Sounds like a fab day!
    Well done

    • Ha ha I never thought about it matching my blog. That could almost be professional and planned. And then you remember it’s Bruce and I… 🙂

  • What a brilliant post. I am noting it all down for when our invite arrives (ha ha ha). Sounds like a great day and I love the surreptitious pics (especially the cake with the crown!). Glad you had a fab time. (PS We saw the Queen yesterday too!)

  • Fab! You looked amazing and I’m so glad you had a brilliant time. Yep, wedges, fascinators and a bit of cheek are the order of the day. H x

  • Thank you for your tips on a royal garden party. We’re off tomorrow to the garden party at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. Can’t wait, so excited! Woo hoo! Got my dress, check! Got my matching jacket, check! The fascinator is contrasting black, check! Matching shoes and bag, check! All dressed up and somewhere special to go, check! Look out Edinburgh, here we come!

  • Is it ok to wear smart trousers and top/ jacket do you think? I don’t like the new styles that only come to the knee, and am much more comfortable in trousers.

    • I am so pleased you asked that! I am going this week to The Princes Trust Garden Party hosted by Prince Charles and have been fretting about legs, feet, shoes, etc if wear a dress…will definitely put my trousers suit on now! Hope you have a great time!

    • I am not sure to be honest. It may be that there are if you ask Or when you RSVP maybe there is an option to request that, but I wasn’t involved in the RSVP so I didn’t see. As so many people are on gluten free diets these days it would surprise me if they hadn’t thought of that.

  • Just got my invite for this year …. sooo excited – thank you for the tips – are there photographers there? Shame not to get a picture in your glad rags 🙂

    • Hi Jan

      YOu will have a fantastic time. Congratulations on the invite! There are photographers there and there will be a commemorative DVD released with all the pics and some video on so you might spot yourself on that. You will be sent info on how to order it after the event I believe. I think the no photo rule is getting more and more relaxed to be honest. If you have a camera on your phone I would definitely try and get a pic of yourselves there!

  • I’ve been invited myself this year and can’t wait to attend. Thanks for the in informatio and advice

  • Some great tips before I go to a garden party in May. off to buy a hat.Thanks

  • Thank you for your tips I will definitely be taking them on board.
    We are looking forward to our visit on the 23rd of May 2017.

  • What a nice down to earth blog. Many thanks.
    What I would like to know is , what are the times for the day.?
    Coming from South Wales, do we travel in the morning or the night beforehand?
    What time are we allowed in?

    Cheers. Brian

    • Hi Brian

      Thanks for your comment. I can’t remember the exact timings but it is certainly afternoon. I think if you can get up the day before and make a real trip of it, then I certainly would. We all know how unpredicatable train journeys can be sometimes and I would hate for you to miss it, or arrive flustered. There is a lot of standing around, queuing, and then obviously in the garden too, so it is a tiring day, without all the travel on top.

      Have an amazing day!

  • Thank you for your advice it’s a great help. My husband and I have been invited to the Queens Garden Party this May.

  • I’m going tomorrow and not only has your post got me all excited, it is really really useful info. Thanks so much.

  • What a lovely blog post! I enjoyed reading this and found it useful preparation before attending a garden party for my husband’s regiment earlier this week. It’s nice to read about other people’s experiences. Unfortunately it poured with rain so we didn’t explore the garden. Gutted but hoping that my hubby can get us on the list for an invite to another one in the next couple of years!
    For anyone reading and wondering about photos. They are discouraged but everyone has phones now and zillions of people were taking pics and nothing was said. As long as you’re asking the Queen to pose for a selfie, you’ll probably be okay with snapping a few discreet pics and get someone to take a pic of you with the Palace in the background.

  • Please can you tell me if you can drive into Palace or where does one Park.? We do have a blue badge as they asked.

    • Hi Marcia, I think the arrangements are likely to be the same but it’s probably worth confirming by checking your pack. Our parking was just in front of the palace by the roundabout (under the trees). You have to cross the road but there is a pelican crossing and a PC on duty to keep the traffic in order. The queue forms along Constitution Hill but we jumped that as Jim was in a wheelchair. Don’t forget your paperwork and have a lovely day!


  • I was lucky enough to get an invitation through the Charity I volunteer for and it was the most fantastic experience that my husband and I have had.
    The food was wonderful and the atmosphere fantastic.
    Your notes about shoe wear were so true as unfortunately I left one of my rubber heals from my stiletto’s in her Majesty’s lawn.

    • Oh what a well deserved treat for all your hard work volunteering! I hope it didn’t rain. Oops to the heel, I am sure it is not alone. Glad you had a lovely day

  • Hello I was wondering how long before the event the invites are sent out as my wife has been nominated to attend through working at the NHS. It is around a month away May 31st 2018 and we have not heard anything or received our invites. We are getting a wee bit worried. We have bought new clothes.

    • oh gosh I would have expected it to arrive before now. I think my in laws got theirs in early April, might have even been late March. Not all those nominated are invited sadly.

  • Thanks for all the great advice. I’m going to the garden party on Tuesday and can’t wait!


  • Thank you for sharing your blog. we are attending end of May. How early does the queue start and which gate is perhaps the best to enter by?

    • From memory the gate we queued at was in the far corner on the right as you look at the Palace. I can’t remember the timings though, sorry. I dont remember standing around for too long, maybe an hour? It was all very efficient!

      Have a fabulous time

  • Thank you so much for all the advice. We are off to a Garden Party on 5th June, off to buy my dress tomorrow !!!!
    Really looking forward to it, just hoping this lovely weather doesn’t disappear!

    Best wishes, Gill

  • so lovely to read your post, I’m off this the queens garden party this week as my husbands plus 1
    Very proud for him & thrilled that both of us can share this truly unique event
    Thank you for the tips I have bored my family silly with fashion parades of numerous dresses & shoes & hats but am finally my choice is appropriate, pretty & I feel comfortable in it

    • Keep boring them silly!! It is a HUGE achievement and you have every right to be proud. I hope the weather clears up and you have a gorgeous day.

  • Than you for that looks like you had a wonderful day, were too going tomorrow31st but what do you she up to get In?

  • Does anyone know if there is a bag drop off at the entrance for things you don’t want to carry round with you all afternoon?

  • Thank you for your wonderful blog, it’s very helpful. I’m very lucky to be going to a Royal Garden Party next week and I’m so excited but incredibly nervous. I especially love the tip for wheelchair users, thank you. And my assistance dog will be coming with me too, so hopefully he’ll grab attention lol

    • Oh Julie you will have an amazing day! Your assistance dog is likely to get a tickle from some very important people that afternoon (don’t be offended if they dont chat to you though 🙂 ). Have an amazing day and do let me know how it went!

  • Great blog! What time does it end? Is there an official ”kicking out ‘ time? We are planning to drive and so are looking at booking a local parking space. If we do, I need to select a departure time. Thanks in advance.

    • From memory Rachel I can’t really remember but I do remember thinking “we won’t be home until 8pm so we will need to order a take away”. So I think around 5pm? Kicking out time is signified by The Queen leaving and heading back indoors I think, but I dont think it is strictly enforced with guests being rounded up, I think you can leave at your leisure. We had watched The Queen leave so we also followed and made our way out but there were alot of people still around. Get parking until 6pm maybe?

      Sorry that is all a bit vague but hope it helps.

  • Thank mention of loos or where you can park or dropped off.
    Be grateful for .for any advise

    • Hi Irene. there are definitely loos, and very posh ones at that! They are the porto-loo ones but nothing like I have seen before, and far removed from a festival loo. As you would expect at Buckingham Palace, obviously 🙂

      Sorry, I cant help with the drop off / car park as we had a disabled parking space allocated due to my father in law being in a wheel chair. From memory though there are suggestions on the invite I think? I would think dropping off would be difficult as Buckingham Palace is on a busy roundabout and stopping will be hard. I did find this though which might help

  • Thank you! I am going 18 May as my son’s plus one. I will definitely wear a hat! And always planned on flat shoes or kitten heels. You looked fab! Lovely to read your account as I don’t personally know anyone who’s been to a BP Garden Party before. I can’t wait!

    • When you got invite was plus one on invite as I know someone has just had a invite for the 25th but no mention of plus one

      • From memory we were named so there was no “plus one”. Security is very tight and you have to take ID so I would be surprised if a plus one without a name was permitted, but I couldn’t say for definite.

  • Thank you am going on Thursday for the not forgotten dithering about my dress a Silky pattern one or a lace your tips helpful

  • Hi, I have been invited to the royal garden party on 9th May. I will be travelling by train, but am wondering is there an area for coats or bags? If I’m travelling back on train it will be cold and I will need other essentials as it will be a long journey? Any advice will be helpful xx