One of the best things about the summer months is that they’re a great excuse to throw a laid-back party. And more to the point, an outdoor garden party. Summer is a time when family and friends look forward to kicking back and lounging around outside, usually with a drink (or two) in hand, feeling more relaxed and happier.
For this reason, there are not many better ideas than to throw an outdoor garden party, either just for the fun of it or themed around an occasion. If you have a summertime birthday, graduation, engagement or any general celebration, then there is literally no excuse – and it doesn’t have to be elaborate, either.
To make the most of the lighter evenings, the warmer weather and the great outdoors here are some tips and tricks below. They’ll make your planning minimal, your spread impressive, and the ambience and setting spot on!
1. Plan a good menu
Let’s not deny it: everyone is all about the food. When planning a garden party, make planning a thoughtful menu just as important as picking the perfect location. During the summer, people tend to enjoy lighter foods, which is a good thing as you’ll be preparing the food outdoors and don’t want to be slaving over a hot stove.
Think of grain and green salads, small tea sandwiches, fresh bread and crusty baguettes, dips and olives, cheese and meat platters, and of course, an array of sweet treats. Scones with cream and jam give a good idea to recreate that summer outdoors Afternoon Tea or a large fruit salad with cream may go down well with those looking for a more healthy (ish) theme.
2. Set the scene
Create a table set up and colour palette that matches your surroundings. So for example, if you’re hosting in your own garden, look at the colours of your flowers and plants and try to reflect this in the table décor theme. In general, for garden parties, you can’t go wrong with a couple shades of green, with white flowers pulled through a large loosely arranged garland to complete a bright and appropriate table.
Lay a large table out for adult guests, and perhaps spread out numerous picnic blankets for the children. This way, they can play together on the grass, leaving space for the adults to dine, drink and chat at the table.
3. Candles and decor
Garden parties have that sense of whimsical magic about them, so try to encourage this with the use of floating tea lights in mason jars, and practical summer decorations, like bunting wrapped around chairs.
You can also get creative and use different mixtures of essential oils, such as lavender, mint and lemon, which are frequently used as insect repellents. Just add a few drops into the jars, which will also leave a lovely scent surrounding your table setup. Another tip is to place some lemon and lime slices at the bottom of the jars, and by adding a sprig of rosemary to your luminaries will also give a fragrant and effective way to keep the bugs away.
4. Mood lighting
Unfortunately, even the warmer months can’t guarantee warmer and lighter evenings. But you don’t have to let your garden party end early just because of the dark and the cold. There are numerous ways of heating your outdoor party by adding mood lighting, which also creates a warm, cosy feeling too.
Fairy lights can brighten up your evening garden, and these can be entwined around the backs of chairs to give a romantic ambience. You can also place floor lamps in various corners of the garden – this is where the use of a good generator can come in handy. Diesel generators are handy to have for home and garden use, and you can find many diesel fuel generators on sale online.
If you want to avoid any electrics, why not set up seating around a small campfire or wood burner – perhaps the perfect end to your garden party? Or even line the garden path with lanterns or pillar candles.
You can be much cleverer than you think with decorations and accessories by simply recycling. Think about used but empty wine and beer bottles – why not mix and match these as vases around the table, and pop in some flowers?
If you’ve got a little extra time the night before your party, you can try spray painting your bottles with pretty paint colours, or even painting your guest’s names on them as using them as quirky place cards.
Curating a playlist for your party is one of the most important aspects to consider – no one wants a party to have no background beats. Music is a sure-fire way to help to set the mood for the evening – you just need to decide whether you would prefer to have low key background music or livelier popular songs.
If you’re planning a bit of a dinner party with the hope that your party will go on way into the night, (with a bit of dancing and games), then aim to have a playlist with songs that your guests will know and (most likely) sing along to.
You can bring a sound system outdoors, or connect a portable speaker system via Bluetooth. You can set up your Spotify so that guests can search and add songs to your playlist throughout the night. Either way, make sure you plan the music out way before the guests arrive to avoid any awkward silences.
Carefully planned out parties are the key to a successful way of entertaining friends. It’s the perfect chance to catch up properly, and people can arrive at lunchtime when the sun is strongest, and just stay right through into the evening. Plus, you’ll find a lot of guests will be generous with bringing food and drink themselves – hopefully meaning leftovers for you the next day!