The temperatures in Dubai are dropping and the humidity is fading which can mean only one thing – the outdoor season has officially begun! It’s time to dust off the garden furniture, bring out the cushions and start making the most of the best time of the year.
For the first time since having kids we have a garden of our own, set up just the way we like it. Now our idea of a great weekend has changed from late nights partying in the hippest Dubai hangouts to something more relaxing and family friendly, and there is nothing we like more than having good friends round to the house to hang out.
Last weekend we had a great time putting on a casual garden party for some friends who had just got married. Ordinarily, a party at home would be a recipe for a lot of hard work – in preparation for it, during it and the clean up after it. However, with both me and Mr. very busy in the lead up to the party, and the unfortunate timing of our maid leaving the day before the party, this time we decided to play it smart and put on a family friendly garden party with minimal effort and maximum impact. Here is what we did:
Step 1 – Food and drink – In eastern cultures like ours, food and feeding guests is very important. You should never run out of food, everyone should leave satisfied and of course it should all be delicious. For the purposes of our party all this was achieved in one fell swoop – The Shawarma Man! We had booked the shawarma man for Monkey’s first birthday party and he was such a hit that we’ve been waiting for an excuse to book him again. Once again he delivered – a whole shawarma station was quickly set up in our garden, feeding guests fresh shawarmas hot off the grill and they loved it! For the vegetarians like me, we also ordered a tray of falafel, as well as sides including hummous and fattoush; it was all delicious and plentiful. The shawarma man can be booked through Eat & Drink Restaurant and a minimum spend applies (approx 150 shawarmas).
For the drinks, the easiest thing is to get (or borrow) a few giant coolers, fill them with ice and load them up with drinks, cans, bottles, cartons etc. We also had a mason jar drinks dispenser with a fruity cocktail mix and guests could help themselves to whatever they wanted, saving us the trouble of topping up glasses and checking everyone had something suitable.
Step 2 – Decorations – I love going all out on a theme for the kids birthday parties but for a casual garden party organised on short notice I wanted to keep things simple and casual yet still look elegant enough for a post-wedding party. So, mostly using things I already had around the house I whipped up some simple decorations, including paperchain garlands and bunting made out of basic white printer paper!
For the paper chains, I simply cut strips of the printer paper and stuck them together using washitape to add a flash of colour to the white paper chain, then strung them up in the trees. The white paper chains are actually very effective against the green trees but you could use any colour paper available.
For the simple paper bunting, I cut A4 printer papers in half (to make 2 A5 sheets each), cut a triangular wedge out the bottom of each piece and hole punched 2 holes at the top to thread string or ribbon through (I just used basic curling ribbon). This basic bunting can be decorated any way you wish – I used green paper I had at home to cut out some hearts and stick them on alternate pennants. I also did a shorter bunting for the garden gate with the couple’s initials made of love heart washitape (this is where having a stash of various washitapes becomes handy!) Different coloured plain or patterned papers would also make great bunting, or get the kids involved in decorating them.
I finished off the tree decor with hanging paper lanterns from Daiso. At only 9dhs each, their impact outweighs their price and they make a cost effective addition to any garden party, especially as they can be reused for future events.
I didn’t have time to get a banner made so I utilised the kids chalkboard wall in the garden to write a congratulations message to the happy couple. A chalkboard easel would do just as well or for a mock chalkboard sign I have previously used a black foam board from Daiso and written/drawn on it in chalk.
The decor was pulled together with a few small items like serving cutlery in a white Ikea lace effect plant holder with a co-ordinating napkin inside for colour. Everyone should have one of these plant holders at home, they are so pretty and versatile (at the bride’s beach wedding she strung ribbon through them to make a handle turning them into hanging confetti pails).
Step 3 – Entertainment – Get a good group of people together and for the most part entertainment will take care of itself. However, where the little ones are around it helps to have a few things around to keep them occupied. We have a pool so that was the obvious source of entertainment for most people and we had billed it as a garden/pool party but a paddling pool would be just as effective for the little ones, kids love any little bit of water they can find. We also have a large sand pit built into the garden which was a hit but a sand table would be just as welcome. I brought some of the toys and games that we usually have in our playroom out into the garden too. Since the weather in Dubai at this time of year is fairly predictable we don’t usually have to worry about sudden downpours ruining everything and can afford to take out toys we might not usually play with outside; I’m thinking tee pees, tents, tunnels, even a play kitchen, supermarket or puppet theatre, whatever you have!
A friend (who is more tech savvy than us) also brought along a few bits such as a speaker for music and a projector which he hooked up to a laptop, so once it got dark we had the Rugby World Cup games playing on one of our garden walls next to the pool. It was pretty cool and I’m tempted to get a projector of my own so we can have outdoor movie nights in the future, especially since it is getting dark so early now and the temperature is so lovely in the the evenings.
So there you go, a relaxed family friendly garden party in 3 easy steps. It literally took us only a few days to pull it all together and everyone had a great time by all accounts.
What are your essential elements for a garden party? Leave me a comment below, I would love to hear from you.