I have noticed that several people are finding their way to my site by looking up Garden Party. I thought a few of my own observations might help ease troubled minds.
First of all, if you are an ordinary person like myself, it means that someone out there thinks a lot of the work you do. They have gone to a lot of trouble to nominate you and to find two referees. The nomination goes to the Lord Lieutenant for vetting and allocating your award (in this case, the Garden Party). From there it is vetted by Parliament and I understood it to be the Prime Minister before it goes to Buckingham Palace. So, be proud to have received the invitation.
Someone had asked about taking her husband and you are allowed to take someone. If you are a family, you can take a young person over 18 I think. It is all on the information that comes with the first notification.
You are given a guide as to what to wear and there is no need to go overboard. My dress came from Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Marks and Spencer do some lovely dresses. Maybe go for something that is not too outstanding and dress it up with your jewellery, bag and hat. There was another lady wearing my dress but she had teamed it in white, I had teamed it in black. There will be around 10,000 people there so you will not be conspicuous.
Do NOT wear high heels and especially not the silly things they are wearing now or you will find yoursef aerating Her Majesty's lawn. It is all grass where the main event is taking place.
Take an umbrella and even a plastic mac if you have one because, if it rains, there is no hiding place and no-one is going to look very chic!
We missed the line-up to watch the Queen arrive. I think we went in at 3.00 and she arrives at 4.00. We had walked round the gardens and arrived back right at the tea tents and, somehow got shepherded into the queue there. Keep an eye open for stewards ushering people into the snaking queue that goes from the wide steps over to the Royal tea tent. Very naughty of me but watch the Clergy. They were at the front of everything and, being robed in many colours, they stand out. We tried to join the queue but it was a bit of a scrum and we could see nothing. As I said in my first page, our turn came later when everyone queued up in the wrong place to see the Queen leave and we actually came face to face with her and the rest of the party.
The tea is High Tea. Delicate little sandwiches with the crusts cut off, delightful little cakes and scones with tea or iced coffee. Ice cream was brought round later but I don't know if everyone knew it was available. There are not enough tables for everyone to sit down but everyone is constantly moving really. On a nice day you could sit on the lawn or on seats in the gardens.
Although invitations are only sent once, you will find many people who seem to go regularly. (You hear them talking..."Get in the queue quick before the tea runs out", "Is that old so and so we met last year?") These people may be Civil Servants, Councillors, Charity Workers, Military and Church as they are given blocks of tickets to be distributed through their offices and they seem to land up in the same offices!
They do ask you not to take a camera and to turn off mobiles. There were people with cameras and with their phones on but the gardens are PRIVATE and it is a priviledge to be allowed in so why abuse it? As we left, we went through the front of the Palace and we came out into a small courtyard. There, everyone was posing and taking photos, but, as we then passed through the arch into the large parade ground in front of the Palace, the Police were reminding people not to take photos. We did not see an official photographer although they were probably there. You can also order a video but the chances of you being on it are remote and my neighbour's video was not even of her day.
I hope this helps anyone who has unexpectedly found an invitation on their mat. Go and enjoy it. It is a wonderful experience, it is a reward for whatever it is you do and it is a unique experience. Despite the thousands of people who will be there, the crowds are dealt with quickly and efficiently. One thing I did see that I felt was very tasteless and that was a few "Gawpers". They just stood near the dignatories tent and stared across the lawn at them. At least one lady was standing on a chair. When the Royal Party came through the opening next to us, this lady jumped on a chair again despite having a totally clear view. The scrum conditions of the arrival queue felt a little voyeuristic, which was why we walked away. Obviously we all want to see and I know we felt a bit cheated at missing the arrival.
Anyway, go and enjoy it as I said before and I am happy to answer questions if you want to e-mail me.
Have a lovely time.