In spite of the unpredictable British weather many people enjoy holding a party in their garden, especially the relaxation of eating and drinking in the beautiful great outdoors. The tone of any alfresco informal garden party should be leisurely and laid back, whether you are having a just few friends round to eat in the garden at your new wooden table and chairs set or whether you have hired a marquee and a classical trio.

Don’t forget that your own garden can be one of the loveliest settings for an unusual party, it is the ideal place to invite all your friends and show off your horticultural design skills. With a little bit of imagination you can transform even a small garden into a gorgeous outside dining room especially if you have invested in some outdoor furniture.

Top tips for holding small and intimate garden parties:

Use lots of additional flowers, striking vegetable displays, ice-sculptures, floral garlands, living willow baskets, painted wooden crates, jolly table linen and clever lighting effects.

For a more dramatic effect hire in statues, balustrades and wrought iron arches. Split your garden into “rooms” with temporary picket fencing or white-painted trellis.

Seating can be formal or bohemian style with lots of cushions, rugs or even deck chairs.

Erect a small striped open-sided garden style marquee for the bar. It makes a colourful and weatherproof feature, as well as being immediately visible. It can also hold some useful outdoor essentials such as sun block, insect repellent, sting lotion, ice-lollies for children and spare sun hats.

Cold buffets can be prepared well in advance but formal hot meals will take more planning to avoid you spending all your time in the kitchen instead of being outside having fun with your guests.

Barbecues are a very popular option to having pre-prepared food. They create a good community spirit and appeal to all age groups. Keep food simple but do try to be imaginative and inventive, a few sausages and a bit of plain steak won’t leave your guests hungry for more.

If you are going to hold a barbecue it is often a good idea to hand round a few trays of filling canapésto mop up the first alcohol of the evening and also to avoid leaving your guests ravenous, while you battle with damp charcoal or underdone food.

If the weather looks like being a problem make sure you have an accessible area or room where people can run for shelter, with their food, as the first spots of rain begin to fall.

Don’t forget that a party that starts at lunchtime can finish in the dark, so be ready to switch on the lights or ignite a series of garden torches.

Make sure grass is well mown before the event to avoid damp feet and hemlines.

Light any walkways at night.

Check local by-laws for late night live music and firework displays.

Calculate the amount of food and drink you will need then double it – people are always much more hungry in the open air and decidedly more greedy when in a group.

Make sure you don’t forget to feed helpers and any entertainers.

Try not to annoy the neighbours.