Here in the UK we’ve been experiencing some of the best summer weather for years. Who knows how long it will last so why not celebrate long days and warm weather while you can? Outdoor parties are fun – you also don’t have to be too strict on numbers either. When you’re outside you want everything to look as natural and effortless as possible so we’ve selected a few ideas to help you plan the perfect summer garden party.
Setting the scene
Once you’ve decided on a venue, whether it’s your back garden, terrace or any other setting, you just need to set the scene. Introduce a theme to focus on, such as tropical, vintage, beach or rustic. Or pick an accent color and use it throughout – from napkins and tableware to food and drink. Nautical stripes are another way to make a summer statement. Create different zones – a place for an aperitif, somewhere to eat and somewhere for the kids to hang out.
Create a playlist with your theme in mind as the right music will set the mood from the start. Don’t turn the volume up too high, you don’t want to annoy the neighbors! Try placing wireless speakers around the garden so that the music can be heard without drowning out the conversation.
If you don’t own a big enough table to accommodate your guests, borrow or buy a simple folding trestle table and cover it with a table cloth. You could place a rug underneath the table to create the ultimate outdoor room. Take advantage of the natural shade offered by trees, bushes and buildings when placing the table. Alternatively, strategically position parasols or a gazebo to cast some shade.
Decorating the table is half the fun; a table cloth or runner is an easy way to inject color and pattern. Don’t be afraid to pick flowers and foliage from your garden to use as centerpieces, natural-looking arrangements look relaxed and effortless.
Wherever possible match the tableware to the décor theme; for more formal events use your best plates, glasses and cutlery to create stunning place settings. For a more relaxed vibe you can mix and match everyday pieces with party ware. Get creative with disposables: improvise and use brown paper as a temporary table cloth. There’s also a wide variety of paper napkins, plates and glasses available in all kinds of designs – super easy to clean up when the party is over! Melamine plates and dishes, along with plastic glasses that can be re-used, are a great halfway house – more durable than paper and cardboard but less valuable/easily damaged than china and glass – and they’re perfect to use later for picnics!
If it’s a casual party then mix and match different types of chairs – an eclectic mix feels laid back. If you’ve got plenty of time to prepare you can liven up tired garden chairs and tables by painting them. Benches can also be a practical option as it’s easy for everyone to move around without causing too much disturbance. Ask guests to bring their own seating if you’re short or, alternatively, scatter blankets and cushions on the ground in true picnic style! Even tree stumps will do to perch on but remember to place cushions to make them more comfortable. If you’re feeling brave, you could move existing sofas, chairs and side tables out of the house to create an outside ‘room’ – but only if good weather is absolutely guaranteed!
Encourage guests to serve themselves and set up a ‘hydration station’ full of supplies. Alternatively, use a paddling pool filled with a mix of ice and water as an ad hoc drinks cooler.
You could keep it simple and just serve rosé wine – why not add an ice cube to every glass to make it a rosé piscine? There are plenty of recipes online for long cocktails that are easy to put together, or jugs of Pimms or Sangria can be prepared in advance and are classic summer drinks.
Don’t forget the soft drinks as too much sunshine and alcohol can be a bad combination, so jugs full of home-made cordial over ice are a welcome touch.
Less is more when eating outside and remember that al fresco dining doesn’t always have to mean barbecue. Prepare as much in advance as possible; greet guests with crudités, crisps and dips. For the main course make one thing the star, such as a piece of meat or fish, coupled with salads, fresh bread and a cheese-board. Fresh fruit or ice cream are great desserts.
Keep it simple and let people help themselves – that way you get to relax and enjoy it too. Make sure to keep cold foods cold and keep plenty of ice on hand to cool things down as the weather heats up.
The little guests
A picnic box place setting – personal packed lunches in cute boxes – can be a great option for kids to eat. They can sit on a picnic blanket and leave the adults in peace. Give kids something to do after they’ve eaten; – garden games such as croquet, giant jenga or even simple ball games will keep them occupied. Use balloons instead of balls if you don’t have much space.
When the summer sun goes down
Lights bring a magical quality to the garden and can make a small space seem bigger. There are plenty of options; candles, fairy lights and electric lights. For a day-into-night event, decorate with light up balloons that will shine long after the sun has gone down. Avoid the hassle of plugs and extension leads by hanging illooms light up balloon lanterns from trees or scatter illooms across the lawn to create a magical effect. A great child-friendly alternative to candles, they’ll create a great ambiance without being too bright.
One last thing – keep bugs away with citronella candles when night falls – your guests will thank you for it.
P.S. If you’re hosting a summer celebration, we would love to see your illooms pictures. Either let us know in the comments below or head on over to our ‘Upload Your Photos‘ page where you can share photos of your summer party ideas with all of the illooms community.