Organizing a party

How to Plan a Garden Party

Jane Bertin
By Jane Bertin. Updated: August 31, 2020
How to Plan a Garden Party

As the weather gets warmer and your garden blooms, you'll want to gather your friends and family for a garden party. After all, spring and summer are seasons for weddings, graduations, and leaving and returning parties.

Be it a potluck dinner, an informal jam session or a thematic birthday party, with this OneHowTo article you'll learn how to plan a garden party that you will want to repeat.

How to organize a garden party

First of all, take a moment to consider who are you planning your garden party for. Depending on the occasion, the guests will be different and thus have different needs: planning a children's party, for instance, takes more time.

  • Send invites two weeks in advance at the very least. Evites are very useful, but mailing paper invitations is what will make your guests feel more excited. Plus, they can be kept as souvenirs!
  • Decide on a level of formality. If it's an important event, like a wedding or so, you might want to clarify the dress code.
  • Make sure you know your guests' possible allergies or dietary requirements.
  • Once you know the number of guests, consider asking your neighbors for spare furniture to borrow.
  • If you want, choose a theme. Literary themes can be an excellent choice: For children, consider The Secret Garden, Alice in Wonderland or Peter Pan. For adults, try a Jane Austen garden tea party, a fancy Agatha Christie mystery event, or, if you have a pool, party like they do in The Great Gatsby.
  • Regional themes are also a good idea: Plan a Mexican, Italian or Thai-inspired garden party and choose the decoration, music and menu accordingly. You can go for a particular time and place, as we show you in this article on how to throw a 1950s themed party.
  • If you really want to polish your event, consider party favors. It can take extra work, but personalized candy tins, small potted plans or decorated glass jars can make all the difference. If you don't have time to personalize everything, use tags and tie them with parcel string.
How to Plan a Garden Party - How to organize a garden party

What food to serve at a garden party

Go for finger foods or platters so that you don't have to spend your own party serving dishes. Since the weather is warm, choose cold or room-temperature food, or at least food that doesn't spoil easily, and cover it with cloths or nets. Let each guest season their own food by keeping salt, pepper and exotic spices at hand. You can serve:

  • Hand pies, tarts or bruschettas: Veggies and cheese make fresh, light combinations.
  • Skewers and rolls: You can set almost all kinds of food this way, and it's fun and easy to eat.
  • Snacks: Substitute chips for popcorn.
  • Dips: Guacamole or hummus will be sure hits.
  • Tea sandwiches: While the crust is usually cut out, you can keep it and experiment with different types of bread.
  • Charcuterie and cheese platters.
  • Chilled soups and creams.
  • Marinated meats or fish: Fragrant and fancy. Look up different herbs and recipes and prepare beforehand.

If you're serving sweets at a brunch or tea party, or you want to have some dessert, you can try:

  • Cupcakes: Colorful, delicious and adaptable to your theme.
  • Scones: For some classic English country style. Set jars with different kinds of jam.
  • Fruit tartlets and pastries.
  • Jello shots.

What drinks to serve at a garden party:

Instead of having a full open bar, set a small table aside for a signature cocktail and a non-alcoholic option. Whatever you choose, make it floral and fruity! Serve in big pitchers or dispensers, and always have cool water with slices of cucumber or citrus and ice at the ready. Here are some more ideas:

  • Iced tea.
  • Pink lemonade: homemade is always best!
  • Herbal sodas.
  • Fragrant vodka, gin, or martini cocktails.
  • Sangria: Experiment with tropical fruits.
  • Craft beer.
How to Plan a Garden Party - What food to serve at a garden party

How to set up a garden party

You already know how to plan a garden party - once you've settled on a theme, a party size and the food you will serve, you only have to arrange your garden accordingly. Make sure the floor is even and that there are no cables or roots your guests could trip on.

Set up floral arrangements. Use your own or, at least, use seasonal flowers. You can mix them with fake flowers - silk is a good material. If flowers are not your thing, you can decorate with potted plants, fragrant herbs, moss or even stones, as long as there aren't any children around. There are many ways to place them:

  • Traditional centerpieces.
  • Floating in water-filled bowls.
  • In bowls hanging from branches.
  • Bouquets in pitchers, jars or bottles: Choose glass instead of china for extra sparkle.

Traditional party decorations such as balloons (they are not only for children's parties), bunting or paper pom poms can be a good way to dress up your garden party. However, stick to a two or three-color scheme. Hang up starry, floral, or plain white fairy lights, or use paper lanterns. Candles in jars or bottles are a more sophisticated choice.

Set up chairs, pillows, throws and cushions in informal arrangements that can be moved around. It is a good idea to have a canopy - some canvas will do - to create shade or protect your guests from a surprise shower.

Don't fret about cutlery: Mix and match, and it will look bohemian. Plan an informal garden party by placing the cutlery in containers instead of setting a table as you would usually do. It is a good idea to personalize straw holders and to protect napkins from being flown away by the wind.

How to Plan a Garden Party - How to set up a garden party

What activities to plan for a garden party:

Arrange your furniture in different areas to separate activities from the food and conversation. You can set up the decoration with your guests as part of the entertainment: do your own tissue paper flowers or origami animals, or make your own costumes and makeup if you're having a thematic party. It is also very important to have a party playlist! Contact your friends beforehand for their favorites.

Children usually make up their own entertainment, but you could also have some chalk to draw on the floor, board games, a tumbling tower or a frisbee. Ball games, on the other hand, are better for parks.

You can set up some games for your adult guests as well, or you could plan an outdoor film screening - choose the film beforehand or have only a couple of options, because otherwise it could take hours to choose. If your guests are artsy, you could have poetry readings or jam sessions - as long as someone knows how to play Oasis's "Wonderwall", you're all set. If it's a birthday or a wedding, you can use a projector to show pictures of the protagonists. If the occasion is the biggest event of the year, we have another article at hand.

These have been some ideas on how to plan a garden party. Remember to take pictures, and if it's a formal occasion, set up a guest book!

How to Plan a Garden Party - What activities to plan for a garden party:

If you want to read similar articles to How to Plan a Garden Party, we recommend you visit our Weddings & Parties category.

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How to Plan a Garden Party