Fun and easy to achieve, festival party ideas are all the rage when it comes to hosting a backyard celebration with a difference.
After all the cancellations of the last couple of years festivals are back, and bigger and better than ever. What's more, it's easy to recreate the best bits in your own backyard – minus the mud and questionable toilet facilities, of course.
Setting the tone will be important for creating that essential festival spirit. Aim for a mix of Glastonbury and Coachella and it should keep everyone happy. Why not kick off the event by sending guests wristbands or lanyards as invitations ahead of the event?
Ask guests to wear festival clothing, like wellies, floaty dresses and ponchos. When it comes to easy decorations it’s amazing what you can do with some bunting, mirrors, throws and blankets. This will transform the most ordinary of backyards into a boho heaven. If music festivals are not your thing, how about a circus or fairground-themed festival party instead?
Whatever option you choose, we think festival-style celebrations are one of the most fun garden party ideas and pretty easy to achieve too.
10 festival party ideas for a celebration with a difference
It's summer and the desire to party is strong. What could be better than a mix of music, food, drinks and fun with friends?
Whether you're looking for original backyard wedding ideas or a fun theme for a birthday celebration, these festival-themed party suggestions are just the ticket.
1. Bring out the festival bunting
When it comes to festival party ideas, how do you want yours to look? Is it going to be countryside chic with hay bales, Stetsons and acoustic guitars? Or maybe you’re going for a different vibe with a festival-style pool party?
Whatever party theme you choose, you’ll need the garden décor to match. Getting the vibes right is important so a good choice of decorations is essential for first impressions. Use an eclectic mix of colorful flag bunting, balloons and string lights for a chilled look.
‘If you want to add some festival vibes to your garden party, bunting is the way to go,' says Rebecca Dudley, seasonal buyer for Lakeland (opens in new tab). 'Simple, effective and easy to put up, fabric bunting in all the colors of the rainbow will help bring a carnival mood to your garden.'
Colorful hanging lanterns will add a magical feel as the sun starts to go down, as well as adding color to your garden throughout the day as a cute decoration.
2. Create a fairground vibe everyone will love
Festival parties are super easy to host and they work for kids and grown-ups alike. Just include a mix of music, outdoor crafts (mini stone circles anyone?), garden games, snacks, a sprinkle of glitter, face paint and a lot of magic. All you need is a little imagination and some outdoor space for these ideas to fly.
Include a mini teepee and hang up some dream catchers. Set up a table with bowls of glitter, stick on face gems, face paint, beads and braiding kits, as well as a box of fancy dress props for photo ops. Have a go at making wild flower crowns too.
'Have someone acting as a ringmaster to welcome guests, inviting them to try fairground garden games, hoopla, a high striker and tin-can alley,' suggests party planner Liz Taylor of award-winning global luxury event management company the Taylor Lynn Corporation (opens in new tab). 'Providing everyone with individual picnic baskets filled with delicious treats is a nice touch too.'
To keep kids entertained later in the evening, a backyard movie night with an outdoor screening of their favorite film is a fun option. You don't have to spend a fortune to pick up one of the best outdoor projectors and it's a brilliant way to keep the festival vibe going after dark.
3. Lay on some ambient music
What’s a festival without music? The good news is there are plenty of ways to get into the festival spirit. If your friends are a talented bunch why not ask them to bring along their instruments for a jam?
'Music is a key element to any party,' says Jess Martin from Ginger Ray (opens in new tab). 'However, if you're hosting your festival party outside, keep in mind your neighbors unless you want a noise complaint. Believe it or not, people are usually pretty thankful for the music being turned down a notch, as it allows us to have conversations with friends.'
Have a festival-themed playlist on standby too. Remember, always use waterproof speakers if you're outside or you run the risk of damaging your equipment should it start raining. Or, if you have a safe covered area like a marquee, ensure they are safely positioned.
If you like the idea of live music there are plenty of options. 'Cover bands can be an affordable choice,' says Liz Taylor, 'as close to the real thing as possible to give that Glastonbury feel to your party.'
4. Light up your backyard festival-style
Backyard party lighting ideas are essential for setting the scene for your festival. 'To create the perfect festival-style lighting, adorn trees with connectable string lights,' says Claire Bassett of Lights4Fun (opens in new tab). 'Daisy-chain multiple sets together from a singular power source for a fuss-free set up that will give your garden a soft afterglow. Our rule of thumb for any outdoor tree is 32ft (10m) of lights for every 3ft (1m) of height. For deciduous trees, this is ideal. For fir trees, double it up.'
For a tranquil, boho aesthetic decorate tree branches with hanging solar lanterns, mixing and matching different patterns, colors and sizes. Secure the lanterns in place with fishing wire to create a vibrant overhead display.
'Enhance your festival-inspired garden party by dotting a variety of flameless candles around your set up, placing on side tables for a cozy ambience as the sun begins to set,' suggests Claire. 'Choose colorful glass jar candles to decorate around your seating area so guests can enjoy your festival after dark.'
5. Put up a teepee – and decorate it
Depending on the size of your garden, go full-on festival mode by inviting friends to have a camp out and getting them to bring their own teepees and tents. If your budget allows, hire a festival-style teepee or alternatively look at pop-up boho gazebo ideas. Mosquito nets can also be used to create create stylish teepees on a budget if you're looking for cheap garden shelter ideas.
'If you have the space, a gazebo or teepee can act as another room or bar area, as well as offering protection from the weather,' says Jess Martin. 'It's also a great blank canvas to decorate with garlands, bunting, balloons... the possibilities are endless.'
Get creative too with some bohemian garden ideas like balloon installations, including off-the-shelf arches or garlands that will add real party wow. For a statement focal point in your festival party space, a stunning flower wall never fails to disappoint.
6. Include some festival-themed surprises
From the bigger picture to the finer details, consider everything to get that full festival effect. You’ve got to think about what's going to amaze people, where they're going to sit down and chill, and keeping their glasses filled.
Sometimes it's the little details that people remember most, however. 'Why not unleash some childhood nostalgia with some sparklers. Not only do they add a touch of fun to any outdoor event but spelling out letters with them also makes a gorgeous photo opportunity,' says Jess Martin.
Boho chic festival-themed weddings are a definite thing too. Customized festival signs, flags and bunting, glam yurts and personalized wrist bands for invitations are all in the mix when it comes to garden wedding decorations that are on trend right now.
7. Style up some festival-inspired dining options
Food and drink are key to any festival party. 'Regardless of how much effort you put into your theme and decoration, if the food is a let-down, the whole party is likely to be a let-down,' says Lakeland's Rebecca Dudley. 'On the other hand, if you don’t feel you’ve nailed the decorations and things aren’t quite going to plan, then serving great food can make all the difference.'
So, what kind of food should you serve? If you’ve got a decent budget for your event, how about getting a street food vendor on site. If not, fire up your best BBQ and go for some classic BBQ party ideas, such as burgers, burritos, pizzas or picnic food instead. Add decorations to your food station too, such as fairy lights, bunting and the like, to elevate it for a special occasion.
Don't forget about doing something fun with your drink station ideas too. To take it to the next level, hire a mixologist or Prosecco van for the night, or create a bespoke cocktail for the occasion.
8. Include a swing seat for that laidback festival vibe
Relax in dreamy style with a hanging chair (or two!) as part of your outdoor seating. A major décor trend for a few summers now, this iconic design just keeps getting more and more popular, and is exactly what you need for a laidback festival vibe.
Include one as part of your patio furniture ideas to create that perfect chilled out, blue skies and sunny day feeling. Meanwhile in the evening you can dress them up with faux fur throws and sparkly fairy lights to create some night-time festival-style magic.
9. Set up a light show with special effects
Finding cool lighting is key to creating the right ambience in the evening for your festival party ideas. So try taking your outdoor lighting up a notch with some statement pieces.
'To create a festival-themed garden party, consider your lighting first,' says Natalie Mann of Iconic Lights (opens in new tab). 'Festivals are synonymous with bright and beautiful color, so opt for outdoor lighting in an abundance of shades. Festoon lights are a great place to start, as they can be easily placed around the space to provide the perfect backdrop.
'For a real party glow use color-changing outdoor ball lights placed at different heights to allow the light to illuminate your garden. For the final touch hang warm white stars on surrounding trees. These twinkly lights will perfectly complement the boho festival theme, providing the ideal setting to entertain guests all night long.'
10. Pile on the print for a country festival look
A mix and match selection of folk art print designs will add the feel of relaxed bohemian living to your festival party ideas. Choose vibrant prints in contrasting colors of red and blue, pastel pink and mint green, and layer up on cushions, stools, deckchairs and tablecloths for the ultimate in bohemian style.
'We shouldn’t have to compromise when using fabrics outside,' says David Harris, design director for Andrew Martin (opens in new tab). 'Now there's a whole host of luxurious and well-designed fabrics available. Outdoor weaves and eco digital prints all perform well against light and fading, and they can withstand a shower or two as well.'
If you’re looking for something a bit more rustic and chic, get hold of some hay bales and cover them in patterned throws for a barn yard feel.
How do you throw a festival at home?
If you want to throw a festival at home, it's a good idea to draw up a garden party planning checklist, making sure you include a selection of the following elements in the mix:
- Design themed invitations to get guests in the festival spirit and include info about the dress code.
- Make sure you have enough seats, garden benches and floor cushions for comfy chilling and lounging.
- Sort out waterproof Bluetooth speakers and a cool playlist that fits your festival party theme, so make sure you choose the music in advance.
- Source or make decorations and accessories to create a festival party mood such as bunting and balloons.
- Hire a teepee or buy a pop-up one to act as a chill-out tent.
- Provide a good selection of drinks and ice on tap.
- Serve a variety of easy-to-eat snacks and nibbles – keep them coming so make sure you have enough to go round – as well as a plan for the food for the main event.
- Have enough sun umbrellas, canopies and garden parasols on hand so everyone is covered when they need to be if there's a heatwave.
- Supply sunscreen – ideally set up a sunscreen station so no one forgets.
- Include a mix of mood lighting if your party is going to stretch into the evening.
What is a Coachella-themed party?
A Coachella-themed party always has a laidback mix of boho and rock star elements, as you would expect from a Californian music festival. Think flower crowns, tattoos, music, teepees, dream catchers, feathers, ribbons, beads, glitter and street food and you won't go wrong.
It’s the perfect theme for a mid-summer outdoor party, and there’s so much room for creativity. If budget isn’t an issue go for live music, super-sized teepees and firework displays. Otherwise there are plenty of ways to create a festival atmosphere in your own backyard that doesn't mean splashing out.
Create little chill-out zones with plenty of floor cushions, outdoor bean bags or hay bales. Teepees and wigwams are perfect for festival-style garden parties, but can be expensive to hire or buy. Make your own DIY teepee using poles and gauzy material like mosquito nets.
Choose super-size decorations to make a big impact, go for paper lanterns and big colorful decorations like pom poms and floaty balls. Hang dream catchers and ribbons from the branches of trees. Use wild flowers and foliage to add a rustic feel to your outdoor table decorating ideas.
Combine plenty of outdoor fairy lights and festoon lights, as well as hanging lanterns and candles in old jam jars and hurricane lanterns. Have a fire pit, brazier or chiminea on standby so you can start a fire as soon as it starts to cool down.
Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines. Her first job on glossy magazines was at Elle, during which time a visit to the legendary La Colombe d'Or in St-Paul-de-Vence led to an interest in all things gardening. Later as lifestyle editor at Country Homes & Interiors magazine the real pull was the run of captivating country gardens that were featured. Having studied introductory garden and landscape design as well as a course in floristry she is currently putting the skills learned to good use in her own space where the dream is establishing a cutting garden.
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