Great garden party ideas start with thinking about how best to decorate your garden. Choose a garden party theme or colour – maybe echo the colours of any flowering shrubs or plants nearby – and add tablecloths, seat cushions and napkins to reflect your chosen colour palette. Draped fabric looks pretty for summer garden parties and will give extra protection from the sun if the weather is scorching.
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Extend your theme into other areas by stringing up large brightly coloured paper pompoms or other garden party decorations such as bunting. Flowers in the same shade add well thought out detail. A formal arrangement adds a sophisticated touch to a garden party, but less structured arrangements of simple blooms in containers such as jugs or jars will create an understated feel more in sympathy with the surroundings.
When it comes to the finer garden party details, fill new terracotta pots with napkins, cutlery and straws for guests to help themselves to. Add handmade name tags and pretty doilies for a personal touch. Think about your garden party food and drink: cakes and cocktails are must-haves. Serve cocktails in jam jars and add a jaunty striped straw, while home bakes look great stacked on a table reminiscent of a country fete. Finally, citronella candles are a garden party essential that will keep the bugs at bay and, as day stretches into evening, solar-powered lights and outdoor lanterns will enhance the setting of your party at dusk.
Garden party tea and cake station in dappled shade (pictured)
Design a garden party that caters for all ages. Not everyone is going to be pitching in at the pinata, getting physical with the garden Jenga or propping up the bar. Some of your guests will be seeking shade, gentle conversation and something rather nice from the sweet trolley. This wonderful paved bower is just the ticket for tea and tabnabs. Bring in cakestands, cushions, tealights and as many potted shrubs as you can muster.
Charm garden-party guests at the door with an all-singing, all-dancing display. This pretty porch features a vintage banner of heart shapes. Team with outdoor fairy lights for a warm greeting. This design features pretty wire and net butterflies in a myriad shades. Tie any colours into your general party theme so you are consistent with a single look or theme. This will keep your party looking smart and organised.
This tempting garden party cake display looks (almost) too good to eat, while the bold colours and mismatched prints create a fun, vintage feel. To add a competitive edge to your garden party, why not invite your guests to take part in your very own bake-off? Just ensure you get a list of entries in advance as you don’t want to end up with three Victoria sponges and no lemon roulade! And don’t forget the rosettes, which will look as pretty pinned to the wall as they will on the winners’ lapels.
Deck out your garden party with paper pom pom decorations if you’re bored of bunting? Hang them from trees, beams, washing lines and window frames to create an instant and fuss-free party vibe. You can get crafty and make your own party decorations or buy them if you’re pushed for time. And if you’re making your own, use patterned paper to add a vibrant touch, go monochromatic for serious sophistication, or all white or all black for a striking display.
Since you’re already in the garden, you might as well make use of the supplies at hand. Plant pots are a quirky but practical way to display garden party cutlery, napkins, straws and more – particularly when you choose dining accessories in complementary colours. Either use brand new ones or give your existing pots a good scrub and clean – you could even line them with a smaller drinking glass – then add chalkboard sticky labels with charming Alice in Wonderland-style directions.
Garden party games are a fantastic ice breaker and will be a huge hit with guests of all ages. Keep to the classics such as hoopla and skittles and invest in good-quality wooden sets (no-one likes to see bits of lurid plastic dotted about their garden!). Classic wooden garden party games will look more sophisticated, last longer and, if responsibly sourced, will have less of an environmental impact. Croquet is an absolute garden party must, though the giant tumble tower looks pretty inviting, too!
Installing a garden party gazebo means the celebrations can go on even if it starts to drizzle. Drawable curtains provide shade when needed and will also shelter you and your guests from any over-exhuberant summer breezes. When it comes to colour, matching the tones of nearby flowers with the tones of your fabrics and accessories will create a smart, unified look. Here, the abstract floral pattern on the curtains also neatly mirrors the foliage in the background.
Similar curtain fabric
Buy garden-party glasses or move glassware and drinks into the garden so guests don’t have to keep returning to the house to refresh their glasses. Include ‘drinks stations’ like this one and dot them around your garden. It will mean guests can help themselves, leaving the host free to mingle to her heart’s content. This garden storage trunk is pretty in pink table linen and has been used as a perch for champagne, an ice bucket and glassware. Choose stylish pink and clear polycarbonate over glass to avoid breakages on the terrace.
I & JL Brown
Here’s a neat garden party idea If you’re low on garden chairs, make sure you provide plenty of comfy blankets and cushions for your guests to sit on. They’ll add a guaranteed quaint and picnicky feel to your party. Blankets will also do double duty by keeping you cosy when the temperature drops after dark. Sticking to a single accent colour – such as the red shown here – works to eye-catching effect but you could also mix and match patterns and tones for a more homely feel.
If your summer garden party stretches to overnight stays, pitch up a few tents in the garden and dress them for sleepovers. This colourful hideaway has been made beautiful with sheer curtains, bunting, cosy rugs and camp beds dressed with bright retro-print bed linen. It’s a brilliant way to end a day of sunny fun and frolicks – and your friends and family will be talking about it for years.
Add a splash of colour to your garden party table by day and a warm and exotic glow at night with a Far-East influenced centrepiece. You can even make your own paper candle holders – minus the mini lanterns – giving you total control over your colour scheme. One more canny tip: use citronella candles instead of regular tealights to keep mosquitoes and other unwanted beasties from spoiling the party mood – and never leave burning candles unattended.
Similar floating lanterns
Outdoor lanterns are a must if you want to keep the garden party going once the sun goes down. Combining a selection of different styles creates a magical atmosphere reminiscent of the entrance to CS Lewis’s Narnia. If you don’t have a lawn for your lanterns, you can produce a similar effect by ‘planting’ them in large and sturdy pots on your patio or balcony. Go for solar-powered lights so you won’t have to scrabble around for extension cables or batteries.
Selection of outdoor lanterns
Children – not to mention adults – love to play this fun garden party game. Fill the pinata with sweets and hang from a branch for all ages to take part and enjoy. Assign different areas of your outdoor space to different activities. Create lounging areas for grown ups interspersed with games-themed points for younger party goers and everyone will be happy.
Make a garden party display using home-grown wildflowers – they can have just as much of a decorative impact on your party table as a professional arrangement. Lots of garden centres and online suppliers sell inexpensive wildflower seed mixes and you don’t need a garden or even a back yard to grow them in. Sprinkle into indoor windowsill pots or an outdoor windowbox to grow your own mini cutting garden. And what better way to show off your wildflower bouquets than via a selection of vintage vessels – creamer jugs and empty bath essence bottles will give you the perfect unfussy and rustic look.
Similar apothecary bottle vase
A boxy tray with deep sides is a good idea when carrying tall glasses. Hand round nibbles in colourful lightweight bamboo bowls. A set of trays like this will make circulating drinks and food around your guests super efficient – and will held with clearing up afterwards too!
Brighten up a cosy, covered corner with statement lighting. Rather than hanging a single lantern, group a few together in colourful ‘bunches’ so they look like party balloons. Continue will tabletop lanterns in glorious red. This fabulous space features an open fire for chillier evenings. British outdoor parties will always benefit from a stash of warming throws or blankets – put them somewhere guests can easily get their hands on them.
Jam jars are an affordable and quirky way to serve cocktails at you garden party. Opt for a matching set, as shown here, or save up jars of different shapes and sizes for a more eclectic look. Stripy straws and mini doilies add a retro touch, while the homemade name tags will help guests to keep tabs on their drinks.
Provide seating in shady areas so there is always somewhere for guests to sit back. Choose spots with pretty views out across the garden and use matching slip covers and co-ordinating cushions on mismatching chairs. Pretty garlands are a quick and easy way to get your garden in the party spirit – they also make a feature of a seating area. This is a lovely spot for people-watching.
Keep tables smart and organised by giving out charms that will help guests keep track of their drinks – fix the charms around glass stems. Or send out invites that can double up as pretty drinks coasters on the night – ask your guests to bring them along to use at the party.
If you are lucky enough to have a large garden, it pays to signpost walkways so you can guide guests to different areas. Lines of paper-bag lanterns will help illuminate any uneven surfaces or steps and look pretty as a picture into the bargain. Use battery-powered lights rather than tealights inside the bags so you can leave them unattended. Pop a weight, such as a stone, inside each bag if conditions get breezy.
UK Paper Candle Bag Lanterns