I’m not going to lie: I’m into all things ‘Royal’, and having the chance to attend a Royal Garden Party back in 2019 was a privilege and an honour.
We have a lot of traffic on this site to posts about the garden parties held at Buckingham Palace and similar venues. A question we’re asked quite a bit about is what’s the deal with Royal Garden Party attire? How should a guest approach styling for such an event?
Now that the future of the Royal Garden Parties under King Charles has been confirmed, people around the UK and Commonwealth have started receiving invitations! Exciting :)
Here’s what you need to know about the fashion dos and don’ts!
Royal Garden Party attire – what to wear to a palace
If you have been invited to a royal garden party, there is typically a specific dress code that you should follow. The dress code for a royal garden party is formal, but not as formal as a black-tie event.
Guidelines we adhered to:
A formal day dress, cocktail dress or a skirt and blouse is appropriate.
The dress or skirt should not be too short.
Avoid showing too much skin, so a sleeveless or off-the-shoulder dress is best avoided unless you’re balancing up your style in different ways. That said, over the past two years, ‘cut outs’ have been in fashion, so use your best judgement – if in doubt, don’t.
Hats or fascinators are traditionally worn, but it’s not mandatory.
A suit or a blazer and trousers with a tie is appropriate.
It’s recommended to wear a light-coloured suit, such as grey or beige.
A morning coat or tailcoat is also acceptable if you have one.
Top hats are typically worn but it’s not mandatory.
Here’s how we addressedit:
Wear comfortable shoes because it is a garden party, and you will be walking on grass. I wore low chunky heels which worked out well as the grass was a bit wet and soggy. Even the Royals can’t control the weather.
Speaking of, keep an eye on the temperatures. While England is generally cool, occasionally summer days can be extremely hot. If you strike one of those days for your visit, you’ll want to keep cool as well as classy.
Avoid wearing anything too casual or too flashy. Elegant is the way to go.
Many people stick to conservative colours, such as navy, black, beige, or grey, but if you can pull of classic red, blue or green, go for it – just keep it stylish and classy.
Overall, the dress code for a royal garden party is formal and traditional, but not as strict as a black-tie event. It’s important to dress respectfully and conservatively while still maintaining a sense of style and elegance.
Royal Garden Parties: a special and rare affair
Our Royal Garden Party experience was truly exceptional.
With the sad passing of Queen Elizabeth in September 2022, I’ve been thinking back to the Royal Garden Parties she hosted. In 2019, Cooper and I were exceptionally lucky to be invited to attend a Royal Garden Party.
As it happens, this was one of the very last of these events the Queen actually hosted. The following two years saw this special event cancelled due to COVID. When the Queen’s Garden Party returned in 2022, she was already beginning to get quite frail and did not attend.
Royal Garden Parties: What does the future hold?
During the past week as the Queen’s funeral unfolded, I have been contacted a few times on LinkedIn with enquiries about our time at the garden party. Our Royal Garden Party experience was truly exceptional and we felt so honoured to be invited.
There’s a lot of interest around how to get an invitation to the Royal Garden Parties in England and Scotland. I was even approached by Business Insider to share my story about this!
Image courtesy royal.com
The question remains though, will King Charles continue the tradition of hosting such events? At the time of publishing, there’s not a lot of detail around how this will look in 2023.
What I can tell you, is to keep an eye on the Royal website for updates on events in 2023. As these are summer events, I would suggest that the schedule would be set around February.
You could also do a little research to see if your country’s High Commission or the like, extends offers to apply or be nominated to attend. The Mirror in the UK published a little advice on the topic in 2022 too, read here for more details.
You could also keep an eye on active ‘royal watcher’ blogs like this one that shares updates and goss as it becomes available. If you can find your way into a royal event, it’s well worth it. The Brits really know how to make an event fabulous!
While we will miss the Queen, I hope King Charles continues the tradition. I hope that you have the chance to attend too :) In the meantime, if you’d like a little more insight into what expat life is like in London, travel on over to our YouTube channel and look for the living in England playlists.
Important update: 2023 dates announced
This post was originally published in 2022. The dates for the 2023 Royal Garden Parties are Wednesday 3 May and Tuesday 9 May. This coincides with all the wonderful events that will surround King Charles’ coronation happening then too.
Many local councils and organisations across the UK have already nominated people to attend the garden parties this year, but you could do a little research in the area where you live to see if there are still opportunities available. Let us know how you get on!
Following a surprise Royal garden party invitation to an event we attended this past week, here’s what it’s like at a Buckingham Palace garden party…
If you’re invited, you’ll need to know:
Buckingham Palace garden party need to know
When to arrive at the Queen’s garden party
What to bring to a Buckingham Palace garden party
What to wear to the Royal garden party
What to eat for afternoon tea
How to greet the Queen, the royals and make friends
We were so fortunate to get to attend the Queen’s Buckingham Palace garden party in May 2019. Thanks for all your kind messages on the blog and on Twitter. It’s a special privilege to be invited. We certainly had a lovely afternoon.
We were blessed with probably the best day of the year – sunshine and warm. No jacket or umbrellas required! But there’s preparatory work we’d recommend if you find yourself with a ticket to a Royal garden party.
When to arrive at the Queen’s garden party
We turned up at the time the ticket said the gates opened. That’s fine and we were inside the Buckingham Palace garden party within an hour, in time to see the Queen arrive.
However, getting there a bit early to be at the front of the entry line would have meant more time inside Buckingham Palace without the crowds.
The benefit of going in earlier might also mean getting in first for the food. Additionally, you may have a better chance to stand at the front of the line to see the Royal family when they emerge. I can’t guarantee you’ll meet them – that seems to be ‘pre-arranged’ – but a front row seat is always worth a shot.
So, if I had the chance at a Buckingham Palace garden party again, I’d be at the gate well before entry time.
What to bring to a Buckingham Palace garden party
There’s strict information on the ticket about what you can and can’t bring. It’s indicated that you can’t bring big cameras. I took this to mean DSLRs.
Phones are perfectly acceptable. Some people had smaller DSLR cameras though, including ones with zoom. Helpful if you want a close-up of the Royals or celebs (in a non-stalkery way, of course).
We have a camera that would have passed muster, but our phones were fine for photos.
In the event of rain at a Royal garden party, I’d advise taking as little as possible. I’m not sure there’s much cover except in the food tents which would get very crowded if the weather was bad. Apparently you can take umbrellas if you get unlucky with the English weather.
You’re on your feet for a good few hours, so avoid unnecessary jackets and extra items to carry around. It’s just easier that way.
What to wear to the Royal garden party (and ladies, tips on shoes)
Everyone is dressed up. A Buckingham Palace garden party is one occasion to plan for and go all out. We did, and I’m pleased we put some thought into it.
Plan for different types of weather – light jacket if it’s likely to be cold.
Hats and fascinators are the way to go. I had the chance to borrow a fabulous fascinator which had actually been to a Buckingham Palace garden party previously!
Shoes need special consideration, ladies. You need style and comfort. The grass can be squishy or wet. You’re on your feet for a long time too, both standing in the main garden party area and wandering around Buckingham Palace’s grounds. I wore mid block heels which were fine for a few hours, but started to cut near the end. I hadn’t taken flats for my commute home – definitely would if I had my time over.
View: behind the scenes – click ‘read more’ or the arrow top right to look at our photo story:
What to eat for afternoon tea
There’s plenty of food – sandwiches, sweets, tea, iced coffee.
The lines at the beginning can be long so wait a while until it calms down. You won’t miss out. Our invitation read a little like the food starts to run out after about an hour. It certainly didn’t appear that way to us.
You can go back for seconds too (just ask Cooper). Don’t feel like you need to pile your plate so high you risk spillage. That would be embarrassing 😁
How to greet the Queen, the royals and make friends
Get lucky enough to shake hands with the Queen? Start with ‘Your Majesty’, and subsequently ‘Ma’am’. Royal.uk offers a helpful guide on how to greet other members of the Royal family. Read more here
If you happen to speak to any of the royal family, stay away from personal questions.
We would have had a chat about how the Corgis must have loved playing around the palace grounds! 🐕
Of course, there’s thousands of others at the Queen’s garden party at Buckingham Palace. It’s easy to strike up a conversation with another interesting character who has received an invite. Start by asking if you can take a photo for someone, or accept their offer, and go from there. Don’t be shy – everyone’s in a happy frame of mind so you’re likely to make a new friend in the process.
Do you have other tips to share, or questions? Perhaps you have been to a Royal garden party at Buckingham Palace also? Drop us a line in the comments…
Things can happen unexpectedly. Little miracles, if you will – and that’s what I spotted this week when entirely out of the blue, I received an email inviting me to a Royal garden party in London in May! The Queen’s Garden Party, no less. I squealed (fortunately not aloud), and ran over to my colleague’s office from where the email had come.
‘Are you kidding, can I go to a Royal garden party?’ I squealed (this time).
‘Can you go?’ She smiled, ‘Are you free on the 21st?’
‘I’ll be free for the Queen, yup, absolutely!!!’
The Queen’s Garden party – are you kidding? I’m not going to pretend I don’t care about this – I love the Royals. We’ve been in London for the excitement that was William and Kate’s wedding and Harry and Meghan’s. We even covered that 2018 event for radio in Australia. It was divine!
Image courtesy royal.com
Royal Garden parties
Every year the Queen hosts three parties at Buckingham Palace and one in Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. These events are designed to recognise and reward public service.
Another truth, I’m a fan of Royal dramas – everything from The White Princess to The Tudors, Victoria and The Crown – count me in!
I’d spotted that Queen Victoria initiated a ‘breakfast’ (although also held in the afternoon, akin to the contemporary Royal garden party) in an effort to get more in touch with her people. Up until then as I understand it, most Royals kept themselves at quite a distance from, well, the rest of us.
With the world rapidly changing in the Victorian era (mid to late 1800s), the demand for our royalty to be more in touch with everyday life increased. And so the mingling began.
Events with the public have changed shape over the years though, and Queen Elizabeth’s summer garden parties as we know them today at Buckingham Palace have run since just after the second World War.
What to expect at a Royal Garden Party
Lots of people (thousands – like a very elegant festival!).
And a Royal garden party serves up loads of food. Think 27,000 cups of tea, 20,000 sandwiches and 20,000 slices of cake. Included on the menu are many of the Queen’s favourite treats.
There’s royalty too. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh accompanied by other members of the Royal family speak to a range of people throughout the afternoon.
The dress code is strict – women wear a day dress and hat or fascinator and men wear a lounge suit (or ‘morning dress’).
How to get on the invite list to a Royal or special event in London
While the Queen’s Garden Party is invite only and I was lucky to be randomly selected through work (I had no idea it was even possible to go to something like this!), I’ve discovered there are ways you can apply to try and get yourself on the guest list.
Do a quick Google for the authority that relates to you to see if there are any ties that give you the chance to apply in advance for an event like a Royal Garden Party with the Queen in summer at Buckingham Palace.
Be mindful of making the best of your opportunity though. I believe that you can only receive one invitation and/or only attend once. With demand being so high for such a special occasion, frequent chances to go along simply do not exist.
If you can’t make a Royal garden party though, you can tour Buckingham Palace. It’s usually open in the summer, and you can find out more by searching for it on Visit London’s website, among other sources.
We’ll report back in May on the event. Wish me luck … that I don’t trip over my feet or my words 😎
This past sunny Saturday we chose to make a day of it and find the best new things to do in South Kensington, London.
Our itinerary turned out to be fun, so I’m sharing it with you, whether you’re a local looking to explore, or you’re travelling and staying in Kensington and seeking newer cultural experiences.
London day out itinerary: Japan House Kensington and the best new things to do in South Kensington
Japan House Kensington
We are huge fans of Japan and our lovely sister-in-law, Asami, inspires us to seek whatever knowledge we can about this fascinating country.
When we read about Japan House Kensington opening, it was swiftly added to our ‘must do’ list, especially as we’d already had a look through the cool Japan Centre in Soho, we wanted to compare.
The space is sleek and clean, boasting design that pleases the eye.
Set across three levels, at the Japan House Kensington, you can shop for unique gifts, plan a travel trip, relax in the library, and soak up history within the exhibition area.
Japan House is intended to offer full cultural immersion through food, art, hospitality, events and carefully curated exhibitions.
Japan is famous for its cuisine and at Japan House, centrally positioned in a Grade II Heritage Listed Art Deco building on High Street Kensington, there’s a beautiful restaurant on the top level, and a cafe at street level.
I tried a Matcha tea shot (or ‘small tea’) – traditionally brewed in front of us – quite bitter to taste and very strong.
At first I didn’t feel so good because I hadn’t eaten in the morning, but I’m pretty sure the tea gave me a clean energy boost that lasted the entire day. I’m sold.
Japan House Kensington is one of three new cultural centres that aim to show the ‘real’ Japan, the other two being in São Paulo and Los Angeles.
Everything at Japan House is Japanese, from the floor tiles to the chefs preparing authentic cuisine.
It’s easy to pop in for a quick look around, or spend a while browsing the displays and books.
Under a ten-minute walk from Japan House Kensington is the fabulous Design Centre in its new SW London home.
The Design Museum was housed in a former banana warehouse on the Thames at Tower Bridge for 27 years, before moving to Kensington and becoming one of the best new things to do in the area.
Upon entering the building in South Kensington, we learn that the place was founded by Sir Terence Conran in the belief that design has a vital part to play in shaping and understanding the world.
Honestly, visiting here was a highlight of our day out finding the best of contemporary Kensington attractions.
The museum celebrates creativity and innovation, and all that has shaped the world around us, including design we might not even see or consider, such as digital design.
The Design Museum, like Japan House Kensington, is picture-perfect in shape and design. It’s mostly free but there are paid exhibitions that might interest you too.
Aside from being visually engaging across all exhibitions that range from fashion to typewriters, transport and political posters, the Design Museum asks us to think about the world around us. How did we get to Kensington – bus or train? Have we looked at a map today; touched a phone; put on shoes; posted to social media?
All of our activities involve design, and usually a manufacturing process developing goods for a specific end-user.
This immersive and interactive experience offers a glimpse into familiar objects of the past and present like cameras, computers and calculators. It also showcases futuristic 3D-printed objects, virtual products and a projection of the world’s transport, immigration and healthcare systems as time ticks on.
A thoroughly enjoyable reminder of the creativity and innovation we are surrounded by each and every day. It’s time we stop taking it all for granted, I think. Drop by the Design Museum for a visit – I dare you – it’ll make you think differently.
Time for lunch at Zuaya in South Kensington
In keeping with our theme exploring the best new things to do in South Kensington, visiting Japan House Kensington and the Design Museum, we made our way to a new restaurant, Zuaya.
Zuaya is a short stroll from Japan House or the Design Museum and is opposite an entrance to Kensington Park – perfect for walking off a big meal later on.
It’s a fabulous South American themed restaurant, with a chic rainforest-themed interior.
The menu draws on influence from Mexico, Argentina and Peru and all dishes are absolutely photo-worthy.
Service at Zuaya was excellent, and we enjoyed our dining experience.
There’s a range of sharing options at Zuaya, as well as an a la carte menu, all reasonably priced. If you’re up for ditching the usual high-street chains which are plentiful in this area, give it a go.
I particularly liked the vegetable cau cau, a stew of sweet potato, butternut squash, mint and Peruvian potato (pictured above).
The dessert menu is tempting too, but we highly recommend the smooth and creamy home-made mango ice-cream. Yummy!
Take a look at the website or Instagram feed for more London foodie inspiration.
V&A Museum: the future starts here
Your afternoon itinerary could vary greatly in Kensington, depending on the weather and your interests.
As mentioned, a wander through the neighbouring parks of Kensington and Hyde is entirely viable; you could visit Kensington Palace too, or the shops on the high street.
We chose to catch a bus about five minutes up the road and got off at the Albert Hall stop with Exhibition Road in our sights.
This road is pretty busy – understandably – it houses a number of London’s most popular museums that are all free to enter, including the Science Museum and Natural History Museum.
Today however, we wanted to go somewhere new and found ourselves inside the very excellent Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum. Dubbed ‘the world’s leading museum of art and design’, it’s also free to enter, however we being particularly technologically-curious, decided to pay for an exhibition called The Future Starts Here.
This exhibition showcases ‘100 projects shaping the world of tomorrow’.
This includes robots, social bots and wearable tech; digital avatars keeping you around upon death; emails to trees; and bracelets designed to revive you after death (pictured above) if you are one of the couple of thousand who have signed up for cryonics and wish to be frozen but woken when we figure out how to do it!
Most fascinating is a live project that tracks a young Nigerian living in LA who has faced homelessness and trauma through years of hiding from immigration officers, knowing that if his meagre income as an Uber driver were to cease in America, his family back in Niger would be totally ruined.
He agreed to be part of this project that tracks his insomnia as well as use of WhatsApp and Instagram so he can keep in touch with his much-loved and missed family and friends back home. Pictured above, when the curtains are open it means he’s using these services and they also show where he is within his sleep patterns.
A study hailing all the way from our home of Queensland was featured too, and upon donning this attractive headset, you’re dropped into the middle of an extraordinary colourful coral reef to explore as if you’re in the waters just off Cairns.
I won’t give the rest of the secrets of this exhibition away. You really might enjoy it for yourself. If you miss it though, there’s plenty of other options at the V&A. I’ll definitely return soon.
Final stop: dessert at Maitre Choux
A shout-out to our friend Lisa for suggesting this little spot, about five minutes walk from the V&A.
Maitre Choux bakes fresh eclairs and chouquettes every day, made by none other than three Michelin Star pastry chef Joakim Prat.
For a decadent little treat (or two) to get you through the rest of your day, this will hit the spot.
There’s a colourful array of delicious goodies, but the place is small so choose a time when it’s likely to be a bit quieter. Saturday around 3pm was fine, and you can take-away or dine in for respite from the crowds outside.
Find this place on Instagram for a regular dose of prettiness.
That’s our day itinerary in SW London – from Japan House Kensington to a host of museum experiences and delicious, adventurous food. The activities are mostly indoors so perfect if it’s getting a little chilly outside or it’s raining.
We had the exciting task of dipping our toes back in old familiar waters, and ended up as London correspondents for a number of Aussie breakfast radio shows.
Royal Wedding Aussies live from London
Throughout the week we talked all things royal wedding as Aussies live from London on River (Brisbane), Power FM, and a host of other stations across Queensland and New South Wales. We were a little tired by the end of it, but it was good fun.
We were also tipped-off by channel nine that they would be broadcasting live from Buckingham Palace, and I fortuitously ended up at a royal rehearsal in Windsor!
Take a look at these Instagram Stories highlights for the best of the royal wedding, Aussies live from London.
Congrats Harry and Meghan! What a lovely, sunny, romantic and historic event to be a part of.
Let us know in the comments how you celebrated xo
Love Royal Experiences? Did you know we have a few other great posts and insight to share?
Welcome to Travel Live Learn! We are Sarah + Cooper, Aussie expats living in the UK with our Westie dog, London, along for the ride. Our most popular content here is about pet friendly travel, house + pet sitting, and designing a life as expats or digital nomads wherever in the world you want to be.