How to Host a Garden Party

Kenneth Wilson

Don’t you have days when you want to spend a nice afternoon or evening outdoors with friends and family? It can be as simple as a pool party or an impromptu barbecue night. But if you don't mind planning, you may want to throw a garden party - with decorations and all!

When we think of garden parties, it’s usually with invitations, maybe a dress code, or something similar to attending a wedding. But it doesn’t have to be formal, you can also make it more laid-back. As long as you have comfy chairs and good food, then you’re all set! But to make things even better, you can also add a few decorations and prepare some games to play when things start to slow down.

Whether you want to make it simple or go all out, here are some tips on how you can throw a great garden party. Watch out because after you host a successful party, they may want you to do it every time.

Think of the color palette

If you plan on decorating, it’s not just the decorations you want to focus on. Even if you don’t use extravagant ones, as long as you utilize the colors properly, then you’ll be able to pull off a nicely-decorated party without too much effort.

Having the right color sets the mood of your party. It can be difficult to decide on what color palette to use, but you shouldn’t stress about it. There are a lot of guides online so you won’t go wrong with your color scheme. Try to find colors that would complement your yard’s overall theme and your furniture, plants, and other landscaping features. You can also try these color scheme recommendations I use as a guide:

Nature Palette

Since you’ll be outdoors, you can use nature’s colors. Use white and greens, then add some grey colors for accents. A few white candles will also help the greenery pop out. I prefer adding a bit of blue, just because it reflects the color of the sky.

Sunshine Palette

The vibrant color of yellow would look great in outdoor parties. It’s such a happy color, but don’t use it as a base. It’s better to use neutral colors such as grey and ivory, then have yellow accents. 

Peach and Light Yellow Palette

If you prefer a less vibrant color scheme, this peachy palette would work as well. You will still use yellow, but the paler ones. If you’re not a fan of the usual pastel colors, but like the neutrality of it, then try this. 

Find good lighting

For those who want to have their garden parties during the evening, or maybe start in the afternoon and continue until sundown, it’s important that you have proper lighting.

If you’re worried it’s going to cost you a lot, I have good news for you. You don’t have to buy new ones since you can make use of your existing lighting such as setting up the dining area near your exterior home’s lights. But if they’re not strong enough, you can try adding other lights by doing some DIY patio light projects. Not only will you illuminate your yard, but these lights can also be used as decorations.

You’ll also be able to recycle old materials, unused items, and empty containers - from mason jars to tuna cans. There are different decorative lighting that you can DIY, and I’ll share with you one of my favorites:

I like this cupcake liner lighting because it’s easy, and you get to recycle an item that is commonly just thrown away. Of course, you can also use new ones if you don’t have any old ones or just prefer a clean batch. You’ll need some clear hanging lights and spend some time placing the liner around the bulbs, then you have beautiful and soft lighting.

You’ll also need shade

Most homes already have outdoor shade structures, making it easier to find a shady spot for their garden parties. Those who love to spend time outdoors will probably have a pergola, gazebo, or pavilion, which also doubles as a comfortable outdoor living space.

These structures can be DIY-ed, bought as a kit, or installed by a professional. Any of these options can be expensive, so it’s not worth it to install for the sake of a garden party. Fortunately, there are more budget-friendly options you could try.

I recommend either using a shade sail or a patio umbrella for your garden party. Both are less expensive and can easily be stored after the party is over. A shade sail or canopy is a piece of cloth hanged over an area to provide shade. Aside from shading us from the sun, this can also effectively block UV rays.  

On the other hand, you can also use a patio umbrella. It’s easier to store and to move around wherever you need it. You also won’t have a hard time setting it up, but it covers a smaller area compared to shade sails. You may need to get several patio umbrellas to provide shade for a longer table or larger area. Besides shade, it’s also important to have some form of protection from a sudden downpour.

Provide comfortable seating

It’s important to make your patio chairs comfortable so that your guests can relax and sit for a longer time. If you don’t have some yet, there are different kinds of patio chairs you can choose from. Make sure to get chairs that you would want to sit on during lazy afternoons and not just for the sake of the party or aesthetics. 

For some garden parties, you can just have several seats and a table for the food. Not everyone needs to have a spot on the table, especially if you will be serving finger foods. But if you will prepare meals, then I suggest that you get furniture sets instead of just chairs.

If you get a table with chairs set, not only will you be getting the important furniture you need for the party, but you also won’t have to worry whether the chairs you bought will match the table. It will also save you time since you can buy the different furniture you need in one go. Don’t buy the set based on how many people are going to your party. It should be suitable for the space of your outdoor area and for the members of your family or friends that you usually hang out with. You can always get extra chairs for your garden party, instead of reducing the chairs on regular days.

You should also note that ‘comfortable’ doesn’t only apply to the chair, but also the location. Make sure to arrange them near the table filled with food and under the shade and good lighting.

Set a nice tablescape

When I hear the word tablescape, I always thought about fine dining. There should be different types of spoons and forks, as well as an extravagant decoration. Setting a tablescape may seem difficult, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. With a few adjustments from your regular plate-utensil table setting, you can have a nice tablescape for your garden party. Here’s how:


A single theme

You should already have a theme if you have decided on the color palette of your garden party, which I mentioned in the first part of the article. To not be overwhelmed, write down the colors you will use and then proceed to the next part.


Gather the materials

After listing the colors, think of the materials you want to use to decorate your table. You don’t have to buy new decorations - try to find things you already have in your home that match the color palette. To help you with your list, some items you may need are:

  • Tablecloth (such as a scarf or towel, or with runner) or placemats
  • Decorative elements (candles, candleholders, plants)
  • Centerpiece (more about this later)
  • Dishes, glasses, utensils, napkins

Place the base

The first thing on your table should be your base - the tablecloth - or just placemats if you like the table as is. For the tablecloth, decide whether you want it to be smooth, angled, or rumpled. If you’re going to add a runner, place it as well.



After the base, you may want to add other decorative elements to provide more color, texture, and depth to your landscape. These are usually the larger accessories or materials that should be placed between the base and everything else. For example, you may want to add extra tablecloths, flat greenery, or wood. You can also place the trays, platters, and large plates so you know the rest of the space you need to decorate. Just make sure to leave the center or the focal area for your centerpiece. 


Creating your centerpiece

The centerpiece will be the focal point of your tablescape. Fortunately, the centerpiece doesn’t have to be huge. As long as you’re creative with it, it doesn’t matter if it’s an extravagant arrangement of flowers or just a single flower in a vase. For example, if you plan on using one flower, make sure that the vase pops out. Maybe use unusual colors that still fit the theme or unique containers instead of the usual plain vase. 

You can also add a little extra by placing some candles, plants, fruit bowls, pine cones, and other decorative elements. Candles will serve as extra lighting, especially if the party continues until evening. 


Place settings

After the base, large accessories, and centerpiece, you can finally add your place settings, which are the dishes, glasses, utensils, and napkins. Don’t crowd the table by placing every element; only add the silverware you will need.  


Add other decorative elements

If you still have space after placing the dishes and other flatware, you can add extra things for decoration and fun. Maybe you want to assign seats? Put place cards. You can also add more candles, or place a gravy boat, salt and pepper shakers, butter plates, extra bowls, condiments, and more. Just make sure it still goes with the overall theme and won’t be distracting nor overcrowding the table. 


Decorate your seating

Even if it’s not part of the tablescape, you may also want to decorate your seating based on your tablescape. You can tie bows, scarves, or wreaths to the chairs, or simply, add more pillows for both decoration and comfort.

Don’t forget about the mosquitoes

Let’s not forget, aside from a sudden rain shower, another problem would be mosquitoes. We should be prepared since we already know how much these pests love our climate. A garden party also won’t be fun if there are annoying pests swarming while you eat or chat.

To prevent them from taking over the party, you can get mosquito control devices such as mosquito repellent coils or plug-in mosquito repellents. If you want to be on a safe side, you and your guests can also use bug sprays. Your guests may already have applied their own, but it wouldn’t hurt to have some for them to use.

Make it fun

After everyone’s done eating, you may want to do other things besides talking. You can haul out a board game, or if you have extra yard space, play some large-sized games and do other activities you can’t do indoors or on the table.

There are dozens of games and activities you can do that both adults and children can enjoy. You could try bucket ball, which is like a bigger version of beer pong, or if the sun’s down, you could do glow in the dark bowling. Try to be creative and find games and activities that you think everyone will be able to enjoy.

It’s another thing to set up, but you can also continue the party with an outdoor movie night. This requires more time and effort on your part, but wouldn’t it be nice to watch films under the stars after a nice garden party?

Kenneth Wilson
March 2, 2020
Yard & Garden

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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