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!
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
Royal garden party at Buckingham Palace featured image via Royal.uk
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