TIP: The Royal Garden Parties, London & Edinburgh

Photo: Average Socialite

Her Majesty the Queen will give three Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace in London and one Garden Party at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh in 2017.

Buckingham Palace, London: Tuesday,16th May 2017 @ 4PM
Buckingham Palace, London: Tuesday,  23rd May 2017 @ 4PM
Buckingham Palace, London: Thursday, 1st June 2017 @ 4PM
Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh: Tuesday, 4th July 2017 @ 4PM

What are The Royal Garden Parties

With tea, cakes and a beautiful garden to stroll in, garden parties are among the most relaxed and informal Royal events.

Every summer, The Queen hosts at least three at Buckingham Palace, as well as one at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. Over 30,000 people attend.

Garden parties have been held at Buckingham Palace since the 1860s, when Queen Victoria instituted what were known as 'breakfasts' (though they took place in the afternoon). In the 1950s the number of garden parties held at Buckingham Palace was increased from two to three a year. They took the place of presentation parties attended by debutantes, but have evolved into a way of rewarding and recognising public service. They are attended by people from all walks of life.

What happens at The Garden Party

Garden Parties take place between 4PM and 6PM but the Palace gates are open from about 3PM. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, accompanied by other members of the Royal Family, enter the garden at 4PM, when the National Anthem is played by one of the two military bands playing selections of music during the afternoon.

After the playing of the National Anthem, The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, together with other members of the Royal Family, circulate among the guests through 'lanes' which are peculiar to Royal garden parties. Each takes a different route and random presentations are made so that everyone has an equal chance of speaking to Her Majesty and members of her family. The Queen and other members of the Royal Family eventually arrive at the Royal tea tent, where they meet further guests. 

In both London and Edinburgh there are tea tents for other guests. Tea and other refreshments are served from long buffet tables. The quantities served are enormous. At a typical garden party, around 27,000 cups of tea, 20,000 sandwiches and 20,000 slices of cake are consumed. Some 400 waiting staff are involved in the serving. 

At about 6PM, The Queen and other members of the Royal Family leave the garden, when the National Anthem is played to mark the end of the party. 

At Buckingham Palace the Yeoman of the Guard, Gentlemen at Arms and Gentlemen Ushers are on duty. At the Holyroodhouse garden party the Royal Company of Archers and the High Constables of the Palace are on duty.

The Guests

Approximately 8,000 guests attend each garden party. People from all walks of life are invited on the recommendation of a large number of national organisations who submit lists on a pre-arranged quota. For example, the government, Lord-Lieutenants and organisations such as the Civil Service, Armed Services, Diplomatic Corps, charities and societies, all have quotas for nominations. This ensures that a representative cross-section of the community is invited and that guests are generally people who have contributed a large amount to their various organisations or society.

Garden party invitations are sent out by the Lord Chamberlain' s Office in the Lord Chamberlain's name on behalf of The Queen. All the arrangements are planned by the Lord Chamberlain's Office. 


People from all sections of the community are invited, usually through organisations such as the Government, Armed Services, Diplomatic Corps, Police, Church and other Faiths, charities, societies and the Lord-Lieutenants, who nominate guests, within a quota. In this way a representative cross-section of the national life is invited. For this reason individuals cannot apply for an invitation and as a general rule people are only invited the once.

To nominate someone for a garden party invitation, contact the Lord Lieutenant's Office.


The office of the Canadian High Commission in London gives a limited number of invitations to Canadian citizens visiting or living in England. The royal website describes the event as among the most relaxed and informal Royal events, with tea and cakes. To apply for an invitation, email ldn.publicaffairs@international.gc.ca with “Royal Events 2016” as the subject line.


Each year the Australian High Commission in London is allocated a limited number of invitations or tickets for Australian citizens to attend Royal Events in the United Kingdom. For information on how to apply contact the Australian High Commission.

New Zealand

New Zealand citizens may also apply for invitations through New Zealand Foreign Affairs & Trade.

Dress code

Ladies: Day dress with hat or substantial fascinator. Trouser suits are permitted providing they are of matching material and colour. Gloves are optional.

Gentlemen: Morning dress or lounge suit (i.e. business suit).

Service Attachés may wear the appropriate uniform.

Cameras are not permitted. Children under 18 are not permitted.

Special Garden Parties

Every year, there is also a garden party for the Not Forgotten Association, a charity for war veterans of all ages, which is hosted by a member of the Royal Family, often The Princess Royal who is Patron of the organisation.

The Queen gives permission for additional garden parties to be held to honour large national organisations celebrating a special event, such as the Territorial Army’s 100th anniversary, the centenary of the British Red Cross's Royal Charter, or the Lambeth Conference. These are often attended by Her Majesty or another member of the Royal Family.

In 1997 The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh hosted a garden party for couples sharing their Golden Wedding anniversary (50 years of marriage) with them. In 2002 special garden parties held at Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse included garden parties for individuals born on 6 February 1952, the day of Her Majesty's Accession.

The Duke held garden parties for the 50th anniversary of The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme in 2006 and, in 2007, for the centenary of the Caravan Club, of which His Royal Highness is President.