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Garden party essentials: four tips to be the best host

From garden games to barbecues, read our guide on everything you need to entertain friends and family this summer

Garden party essentials: four tips to be the best host

While restrictions are slowly being lifted, garden parties are a great way to spend time with friends and family safely. If you’re playing host this summer, find out how to wow your loved ones and throw an impressive garden party.

We’ll take you through all the party essentials, from keeping drinks ice cold and guests well fed, to providing entertainment for all ages and lighting up your garden at night.


Take a look at our garden furniture guide to compare the pros and cons of different types


Which? Gardening sign up

1) Chill your drinks

 

wine bottle in a cooler wrap

Wine bottle coolers

A glass of lukewarm rosé is never pleasant on a sunny day, so we’d recommend investing in a good wine bottle cooler.

Not only can they keep chilled wine cool for longer, but wine bottle coolers can even chill warm bottles to serving temperature – perfect if you’re struggling to fit your wine in the fridge.

If possible try, to leave the cooling wrap in the freezer overnight to achieve optimum chilling the next day.

Go to the best wine bottle coolers to find out which worked well in our tests, plus find out other tips and tricks for cooling your wine, and take a look at our food and wine pairings guide to help you decide which wine to serve with your food.

Beer

If it’s beer your guests are after, you should consider the fastest way to chill your beer.

We tested eight methods to find out which works the best and – spoiler – sticking them in the freezer wasn’t the quickest or most effective method.

2) Cook up a feast

Food on a bbq

Barbecues

Picking the right barbecue for your needs is essential to cooking up a storm if you’re hosting a garden party.

Here’s what you need to know to buy the right one:

  • Type – The main types are gas and charcoal – a choice that can divide barbecue purists. Those who are more skilled might decide to choose a Kamado or a smoker. Whichever you choose, a Best Buy barbecue will be sturdy, safe and easy to use.
  • Size – If you’re planning on using your barbeque predominantly for large parties, then it’s essential you look for a three-burner or four-burner gas grill or a larger barbecue type such as an oil drum or half barrel to enable you to cook for more people.
  • Features – Some standard features you should always look for are a hood, an ash collector and tool hooks. Then there are more advanced features for gas barbecues, such as fat drip trays, as well as lava rocks and vaporisers to create a smoky taste. Read more about barbecue features.
  • Tongs – A good pair of barbecue tongs can make cooking for a crowd feel like a breeze. We tested a range of barbecue tongs and found that longer is better if you want to avoid excess heat on your hands. It’s also a good idea to have a sturdy set for turning coals and another slimmer set for using with food.

3) Play some games

Family playing boules

It’s always a good idea to have a game ready to keep your guests entertained. It’s also worth considering whether your chosen game is both child and adult friendly.

In our recent garden games testing, we compared five popular outdoor games. We found that those with relatively simple rules and which required a small amount of strategy were the most fun to play.

Our testers’ favourites were Molkky – a Finnish game of skill and chance – and the classic boules. Both are games that our testers felt they could play with the whole family.

Read about our garden games testing to find out our verdict on the other games we played, including swingball, quoits and kubb.

4) Light up your garden

People sat at a garden party with fairy light around them

Solar fairy lights

Solar fairy lights are a must if your garden party is still in full swing as the sun goes down. There are a lot of duds on the market, but our solar fairy light tests have helped us to identify key buying tips.

  • Always check the product description before you buy. It’s easy to get duped into buying lights that look long and bright enough to light up a whole house, when in reality the string of lights measures just a metre and have a measly lumen count.
  • While it’s true that most solar fairy lights aren’t very durable, there are pricier ones that offer more durability. The two sets that are our Editor’s Choice are the most expensive, but they made it through all the tests with no signs of wear and tear.
  • Buying solar lights in the summer is a great idea because they’ll stay brighter for longer, however don’t expect them to work throughout the winter months.

Fire pits

Although the weather’s warmer in the day, the temperature still drops significantly at night. To keep your guests warm and cosy outside, a fire pit is a must.

Consider what you want from a fire pit. If it’s only heat and light that you want, you can get a fire pit table or a brick fire pit that will produce decent heat for a group of people.

If you also want one for cooking, we’d recommend going for a Kadai – a fire pit traditionally used for Indian cooking.

Or if you’d rather save yourself some money, you can make your own with an old washing machine drum.

Read our guide, which runs through all of the options, to help you choose the best fire pit.

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