We may not live in a fantasy land, but it is possible to throw a whimsical, unforgettable garden party experience that will flow like magic. A few tips can go a long way, and it doesn’t take much to ensure a party that guests will boast about later.
As the summer dips towards its final days, use some of these tips to help you bid farewell.
1. For a formal to-do, invite your guests with style.
Despite our electronically-connected world, sending snail mail invitations will kick off your event with a classy start. Print them on card stock, wrap them in twine and add some baby’s breath or lavender for a delicate and old-country touch.
These are easy to do at home, but Etsy has some lovely options that will make the process a little easier.
2. Use your yard as inspiration for the decor.
Place a small bouquet of handpicked flowers on each place setting or strategically display larger bouquets in eclectic holders, like gardening pails. Hold tablecloths in place with colorful rocks and shells or flower buckets suspended from clips and fishing line.
And regardless whether you own a large yard or small patio, maximize the space and spend less by working with what you have.
3. Mix and match styles for stylish place settings.
Paper plates and plastic cutlery are easier to clean, but for an amazing garden party consider incorporating china dish sets and glass drink containers. Oprah suggests layering colors and textures for added personality.
Mix and match styles for the centerpieces, tablecloths and chairs.
4. Dedicate one table for refreshing and decorative drinks.
Every party needs a drink station, especially when you’re out in the hot summer sun. Line up beverage dispensers complete with taps for lemonade, flavored water and cocktail mixes, being sure that each is appropriately labeled.
Place both plastic cups and stemware behind specific dispensers, so each drink is paired with the right receptacle.
5. Get comfortable with cushions and tulle for a bohemian, romantic and/or artistic vibe.
Who says you must sit at common picnic tables and on plastic chairs? Throw cushions and rugs on the grass for a boho feel and incorporate a hammock or two for the children. Decorate with gauzy tulle around the tables and chairs for an added romantic ambiance.
6. Decorate with fairy lights and candle lanterns for a soft, subtle glow.
Fairy lights, also known as Christmas lights, are not only used for interior decorating during the holidays. There are a plethora of ways these little bulbs can be enjoyed year-round.
The easiest include wrapping them around trees or dangling them over the tables in your outdoor sitting area.
7. Place sliced and diced veggies on platters for easy-to-eat finger foods.
Platters with sliced bell peppers, carrots, celery, tomatoes and broccoli heads are delicious and easy to create. Insert a dip or two in the middle of each platter and you have an easy dish that guests can snack on while milling about.
And don’t be afraid to throw in a few dairy products, like cheese, to the mix.
8. Steer away from mayonnaise and keep your pasta salad oil-based.
Since food will be sitting outside for a few hours, reduce the items that can spoil quickly. Pasta salads are popular dishes that top many picnic menus. Instead of a mayonnaise-based recipe, opt for one flavored with olive oil and vinegar. It will stay fresh and flavorful, longer.
9. Create new twists on old BBQ classics.
Everyone likes hot dogs and hamburgers, but shall we get creative? In place of regular burgers, make pulled pork sliders (pulled pork can cook easily overnight in a crockpot, too).
Also, alternate meat, fish and veggie shish kabobs with fresh fruit sticks. Here is the world-reknowned Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for Ka-Bam Kabobs.
10. Why not use dishes you can eat?
Waffle and regular ice cream cones make wonderful dessert cups. Fill them with a spiced fruit salad that was scooped out of a watermelon bowl. Fill hollowed bell peppers with dipping sauce. Use bread crust to house cheese fondue.
11. Keep your guests privy to the menu with a restaurant-style chalkboard.
We have all seen coffee shops and restaurants display specials and messages on chalkboard stands. Why not mimic their brilliance?
Hang your board from a tree limb or display it on a stand near the food table.
12. Rustic mason jars filled with nature’s bounty make some of the best decorations.
Mason jars are now used by practically everyone, country-at-heart or not. In addition to their rustic charm, their uses are versatile.
Mason jars can be used as fruit bowls, lemonade cups and vases filled with fresh citrus for decorative purposes.
13. Scatter dishes with lemon water to rinse fingers between different finger foods.
While snacking, our fingers may get a little sticky. Place small bowls filled with water and sliced lemons around the tables so people can easily rinse their fingers without continuously trekking inside the house.
14. Get inspired by ladybugs, muddy gardens and flowers for decorated desserts.
There are a number of desserts that can be inspired by the yard. Flower-shaped lollipops and bug designs in frosting on cupcakes. Why not make a “mud pie” with chocolate pudding and Oreos? You can even stick a few gummy worms on top.
15. Prevent bugs from drowning in your drinks with nifty cup covers.
A few simple fixes will keep flies from drowning in your drinks. One of the easier solutions involve cupcake liners. Simply poke a hole with a straw and use the liner to shield your glass like a cover.
16. Games and music will keep the party going once the food begins to disappear.
At first, the food and decor will keep everyone’s interest but after a few hours it’s time to bring out the heavy hitters. Do you play guitar or another instrument? Bring it out!
And according to Better Homes and Gardens, jenga, scavenger hunts and water gun games are a few outdoor birthday party favorites.
17. Old-fashioned swings can serve as extra seating or a place for cutlery (just be careful of tipping them off).
Not only are they practical, but convenient. Swings also add a little rustic charm that can transport you back in time.
18. Prepare against a temperamental Mother Nature with easy DIY canopy ideas.
Shower curtains secured with thin PVC pipes and sheets fastened with string or fishing line are a few ways to keep soft rain and the sun at bay. Here is Martha Stewart’s advice for easily creating a “slice of shade”.
Time to Get Your Garden Party Started
Selecting a theme for your garden party will help keep you focused as you put each plan into motion. This will simplify the process of choosing color schemes, decor and menu. Feel free to try each of these tips for an unforgettable outside picnic, or take the few ideas that you love best.
This list can also serve as inspiration as you work to make your party truly unique. Begin planning a couple weeks early to ensure the I’s are dotted and T’s crossed, and last but not least, don’t let your role as hostess prevent you from enjoying the day, too.