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!).
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.
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.
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)
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)
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?
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).