Part of the appeal of the summer months is that they’re a great excuse to throw a laid back party. It’s a time when family and friends look forward to kicking back and lounging around outside, drink in hand, confident that no one will make a fuss about formalities. For this reason, throwing an outdoor garden party doesn’t have to be elaborate to be a good time. Below are some tips and tricks to make your planning minimal and your spread impressive.
1. Keep it simple
A roll of butcher paper or burlap can be laid out as a table runner, and is a quick and easy way to clean up. By keeping the table in neutral colors like brown and beige, you can look to plates, silverware and napkins to provide a pop of color for your setting.
2. Go bold
Summer’s best represented with bright colors, so why not use that to your advantage? It’s a prime chance to play with hues and setting combinations that you might typically shy away from. There are countless options to try out: from cobalt blue main dishes with pastel green salad plates, to water glasses of all shapes and sizes at each placemat. Don’t be afraid to combine primary-colored plates and bowls, or mix and match silverware; doing so creates a casual setting that will remind your guests to relax and enjoy themselves.
Floating tea lights in mason jars are a pretty addition to an outdoor table and are also a practical summer decoration. Different mixtures of essential oils such as lavender and lemon eucalyptus are frequently used as insect repellants as an alternative to harsh chemicals. Add drops (about 40 of each) into the jars, and places some lemon and lime slices at the bottom. Add a sprig of rosemary to your luminaries for a fragrant and effective way to keep the bugs away.
4. Mood lighting
Keep the party going into the evening by illuminating the the night in elegant lighting. String white Christmas lights around the yard, or hang mini lanterns over the table and throughout the trees. Tiki torches and additional mason jar luminaries can also be scattered on the outskirts of your party for extra lighting.
5. Keep it fresh
A homemade bouquet often has much more character than anything you can pick up from the florist. Create your own flower arrangements with basic fresh cut summer blooms like daisies, black-eyed Susans and roses. Add some citronella sprigs in glass bottles for extra mosquito protection and a finished look.
Save wine and beer bottles to mix and match vases around the table. If you’ve got a little extra time the night or two before your party, try spray painting your bottles with two layers of a matte finish color. Your guests will have no idea that your home accessories were collected after a relaxing evening at home.
7. Ice cubes
Add some color to your guests’ water glasses by making rose petal ice cubes. Place one or two (untreated) rose petals in each cube mold of a silicone ice cube tray, fill with distilled water and freeze for at least two hours. Make sure to use a silicone tray versus plain plastic, so that the cubes can be easily popped out and aren’t scratched in the process. You can also try adding other extras in the ice cubes such as sliced cucumbers, violets and rosemary.
Curating a playlist for your party will help to set the mood for the evening. Decide whether or not you’d prefer to have low key background music or songs that your guests will know and (most likely) sing along to, and go from there. Plan ahead and start making your playlist a week or two before, so that you can gradually add songs leading up to the event. Add enough songs to play over the duration of the night, so that your guests don’t end up hearing the same songs on loop.
9. Save drinks
Spare drinks and top them with cupcake liners to prevent bugs from flying into glasses. Straws can be stuck directly through each liner for a quick and easy solution to bug juice—but not the good kind.
10. Stay cool
Freeze water balloons to keep canned and bottled drinks cold. Fill them only to about the size of a baseball and spread them in a tin bucket. It’s a decorative way to keep drinks stocked outside, and no one will have to delve into a bucket of melting ice water to find refreshments.