Want to impress your guests and throw a dazzling event to remember? These garden party ideas are just what you need. After all, with warmer weather well and truly here, your outdoor space makes the perfect backdrop to host a special occasion.
Styling things up for a big (or small) do is tons of fun, whether it's introducing a new feature such as a garden bar for alfresco cocktails, or simply getting creative with garden decor ideas and tea lights for a chilled-out vibe. There are the practicalities to think about too, such as the best furniture for easy socializing, ways to keep warm, or even a space to cook the food. And don't forget about the entertainment!
There's lots to bear in mind, but we're here to help you on your way to party planning success.
Garden party ideas: 33 fantastic ways to elevate your outdoor occasion
Whether you're after a low-key BBQ bash, a fun-filled afternoon with all the family, a picture-perfect tea party or an elegant soirée, these garden party ideas are sure to come in handy. You'll find plenty of practical advice from the experts, too.
1. Curate an elegant table
This exquisite table setting has got us head-over-heels, and if you recreate the look, we're sure your guests will feel the same way. The soft, pastel shades tie it all beautifully together. And we love the use of summer blooms (which will be in their prime right about now) – our guide on how to grow dahlias is full of practical tips.
It would be the ideal set-up for a special birthday, or even for backyard wedding ideas. However, why wait for a big occasion? 'One of the lessons we have learned during the past year is the importance of marking the moment, even when we have been unable to go out,' says Paul Thomas-Jeffreys, Founder and Creative Director of Paul Thomas. 'As the general uncertainty continues, there's every reason to elevate and celebrate the everyday.
'For additional drama for evening dining, place single candlesticks amongst the flowers along the length of the table and little nightlights spread randomly in between. Candlelight creates such a lovely atmosphere and the flickering flames look so beautiful amongst the flowers,' Paul continues. 'If you are dining outside regularly, perhaps invest in some small hurricane lanterns which protect the flame from blowing out and stop the candles burning down too quickly.'
2. Show off your home-grown blooms
If you're short on time or looking for outdoor dining ideas that are a little more low-key for a small gathering of guests, then take a cue from this set-up above. It demonstrates how simple can still be striking.
A pair of vintage vases filled with matching posies of blooms will always look lovely – but the pink of these dianthus looks especially stunning against white china. They make the perfect accompaniment to a classic Victoria sponge, elegantly propped on a glass stand, ready to be devoured alongside cups of hot tea.
3. Set up a lemonade stand
A lemonade stand is a fantastic addition for hot summer parties spent outdoors. And if you set up a pretty stand like this, your guests will happily serve themselves.
Pick a glass drinks dispenser and fill with lots of ice and freshly-sliced lemons (and maybe a sprig of mint or two if you're feeling fancy), before topping up with lemonade. Serve in glass milk bottles or masonry jars with pretty pastel straws for a throwback feel (go for paper not plastic to be kinder to the environment).
Surround with bright blooms in rustic containers to finish the scene. It's a great option for laid-back lunch parties or kids' birthdays. Speaking of which, if you're looking for more ways to keep little ones entertained, our garden activities for kids guide is sure to be of use.
4. Elevate a picnic party with a tipi
Picnics are full of summer charm and are a lovely way to spend a warm afternoon. But instead of trekking off to the local beach or park, how about throwing a picnic party right in your own backyard?
Lay down comfy rugs, picnic blankets, and plenty of cushions to instantly make your guests feel at ease. And, why not add a colorful tipi or two? It will evoke a whimsical vibe and stir a childlike sense of play, as well as providing a spot of shade for those who need it.
Serve up platters of finger food and sliced fresh fruit so everyone can dive in easily. Bunting strung up beneath trees or along fences will add to the joyous scene.
5. Bring your dining table outdoors
If your outdoor table is a little small for large-scale entertaining, then don't be afraid to put your indoor table and chairs to good use. Bringing them out onto the lawn or patio just for the day will instantly give your backyard a refreshed look and make it feel more special.
String up festoons overhead from nearby trees or fences for an atmospheric glow once the sun begins to set. A jumble of different sized vases filled with both fresh and dried flowers and foliage; wooden boards; mix and match table linens and cut glass tumblers will form an eclectic and relaxing vibe. Add blankets and cushions too, to keep everyone toasty should a breeze pick up.
If you like this look, then our bohemian garden ideas feature is well worthing checking out.
6. Opt for rustic tableware
For a slightly more sophisticated event, take inspiration from this gorgeous table above. We adore the delicate floral arrangements in their row of pared-back ceramic vases. Combined with amber-colored glassware, vintage plates, and rustic wooden furniture, it's a scene that's ready for an unforgettable evening.
'Just as important as the dishes you serve, is what you plan to serve them in,' says Rebecca Stanton, Creative Stylist of Dobbies Garden Centres. 'This can totally change the feeling of the occasion, from recycled glasses and rustic wooden serving boards to brightly-colored plates and bowls for a touch of tropical.
'Think about the style of food you are serving, as this could inspire an overarching styling theme,' she adds. For instance, try Santorini-inspired brilliant blues and gleaming whites for Mediterranean meals, or, if you're whipping up a storm with lots of local produce, a casual country-kitchen garden theme would work. Or, go the other way around, and use a favored look to inform the dishes you serve, she adds.
Looking for more styling inspiration? Our rustic garden ideas feature has plenty.
7. Decorate your chairs
If you're looking to decorate your garden party ideas on a budget, then how about this pretty idea? It's ideal for giving a lift to foldaway chairs and is oh-so-simple to recreate.
All you need is a handful of brightly-colored ribbons. They will look gorgeous as they flutter in the breeze and will add an instant summery feel to any space. Finish the look with tie-on cushions for an extra dose of vibrancy and to up the comfy factor.
Our outdoor seating ideas feature has more stunning designs.
8. Create a photo zone
From selfies to group shots – you can be sure that they'll be a camera or two floating around at your next garden bash. So why not embrace it and help those memories last forever with a dedicated photo zone?
You could hang thrifted frames from tree branches, or create a stylish backdrop with an old decorated sheet (or even go for flowerwall ideas if you're looking for something a little fancier). And how about setting up a dress-up trunk nearby, full of hats, sunglasses, and other fun props? Position a handful of disposable cameras on a small table ready to be used. Then, you can enjoy the element of surprise when you develop them at a later date – the pictures will be priceless.
9. Accent place settings with fragrant lavender
If you already have lavender growing in your garden, you'll know that summer is the time where it really comes into its prime. Its gorgeous fragrance and purple hue will enchant any visitor. So why not bring it into your place settings when planning your garden party ideas?
Just a simple sprig on each plate, perhaps along with a stem or two of aromatic rosemary and tied with jute, is a small but charming touch. Continue the theme by a potted version as a centerpiece, then dot tea lights around for a romantic glow.
Our guide on how to grow lavender has tons of tips to help yours flourish this season.
10. Set up garden games
No matter your age, the best garden games are always a fun way to pass the time at parties. This is especially the case if there are teams and score boards involved (and perhaps a beer or two for the grown-ups!).
Piñatas, giant Jenga blocks, boules – there are plenty to choose from. And if you don't want to splash the cash, you can get creative making your own. A game of ring toss is simple to set up yet can provide hours of fun – all you need is some old glass bottles, a crate, and some hoops (you can make these out of rope secured with tape). Decorate them with durable spray or chalk paint for an extra dose of pizzazz.
11. Make party favors for your guests with printed paper bags
Fabulous garden party ideas are all good and well, but to really make a lasting impression, consider putting together party favors for your guests to take home.
Get creative by printing colorful designs onto paper bags – it's a cheap and cheerful approach but will still be well-received. Then, fill with a small selection of goodies: crayons, sweets, jewellery, lip balms, or even mini bottles of toiletries or cocktails for adults.
Make them part of your party's decorations by hanging them up enticingly with string and pegs. It's an easy way to pep up your garden wall ideas, and you can then hand them out easily as your guests leave.
12. Try a blue and yellow palette
If you've seen our garden color schemes guide then you'll know how a well-considered palette can totally transform a space. Well, this doesn't just apply to your everyday plants and outdoor furniture. Picking a few complementary tones is a great way to theme your garden party ideas.
Take this blue and yellow duo for instance – a wonderful combination for a summery bash. We especially love the combination of yellow roses and blue delphiniums alongside the traditional china.
Don't forget about napkins too. They're an easy yet elegant way to help dress the table, especially if you opt for fabric types with napkin rings. 'The prettiest silver rings can easily be found in antique shops or on online auction sites. Alternatively, tie the napkins with a ribbon and finish off the look with a little flower head slotted in,' says Paul Thomas-Jeffreys, Founder and Creative Director of Paul Thomas.
13. Get creative with cocktails
Extra special drinks are a must-have for garden party ideas. And you can never go far wrong with an interesting menu of cocktails.
For a summer soirée, take inspiration from your surroundings and opt for a botanical theme. 'Why not decorate and flavor your cocktails using everything local and in season?' says Hannah Clegg, Founder of The Natural Hire Company for Kocktail. 'Edible flowers from the garden make a beautiful garnish for any drink, adding extra color and fun to the styling of your party.'
Fresh mint or even basil, both picked from your herb garden, also make well-loved additions to refreshing tipples. Our guide on how to create a herb garden will help you get started growing your own.
14. Throw a classic tea party
Love the romantic charm of cottage garden ideas? Then consider throwing a quintessentially-English garden tea party.
Have a rummage through local thrift stores for vintage tableware – think teapots, sugar bowls, and tiered cake stands. Add a linen table cloth in a pastel hue (or opt for a delicate lace design), serve up a classic sponge and sandwiches, and don't forget plenty of sweetly-scented roses as a centerpiece.
15. Recreate a holiday vibe
Singapore Sling anyone? Bring a touch of Raffles-style glamour to your patio ideas with a stylish plantation-style wicker bar set. That way, you can truly relax over chilled pre-dinner drinks as it will feel like being on holiday.
This set above is made of maintenance-free wicker and comes with four bar stools and a table. Plus, it has a removable ice bucket in the center for keeping your bottle of bubbly within arm's reach.
16. Add a swing seat
Perfect for parties, one of the best garden swing seats is just the thing for catching up with a friend over a glass of something chilled. This one is made of on-trend macramé and we love the tassel trim, which adds just the right touch of boho.
Style it up with some cushions and a throw in case it gets chilly later.
17. Serve drinks in style
You can never have enough glasses at a party. Try mix and matching styles to give your set-up a more eclectic vibe.
This selection includes highball glasses and champagne saucers. Plus, there's a cocktail shaker for mixing up the mojitos, a gin cocktail jug with stirrer for summer's essential drink, and a cool art-deco-style ice bucket.
If you're doing cocktails and canapés, you'll need a big table to prep everything on, too. The weathered grey finish of this design adds a contemporary touch.
18. Opt for music and lights in one
Great if space is tight on a terrace or balcony, this combi speaker, light and powerbank for phone charging is a great multi-tasking gadget for the garden. It works via Bluetooth and plays up to 20 hours of music before it needs recharging.
What's more, the lantern has a dimming function for creating the right mood. Make sure you check out our best bluetooth speakers for our pick of the top ways to enjoy music outdoors.
19. Cool drinks fast
Great for chilling down beers, a galvanized steel trough always looks good. It's also super-practical, as you can carry it to your preferred spot and relax rather than trekking to the fridge.
Instead of sticking it in the shed at the end of summer, why not turn it into a stylish herb garden for the windowsill? It would make a great addition to your container gardening ideas.
20. Pick a table with an integrated ice bucket
Want to go one step further? Opt for stylish furniture that has an ice bucket built in. That way, you'll never have to break away from the party to grab a fresh bottle from indoors.
This sleek design makes a great addition to a relaxed evening with friends on the patio. And, for every-day use, the cover can be slotted back in to make more space.
Our garden table ideas feature has more great designs.
21. Create a party vibe with balloons
Decorating your garden with some balloons adds an instant celebratory touch whatever the occasion. Choose clear ones that have been pre-filled with sparkly confetti for a stylish look.
Sticking to one design makes more of a statement and is a great way of dressing up an outdoor table.
22. Build atmosphere with lighting
Choose a selection of ambient lighting to add that all-important glow at dusk – the evening garden needs lots of lights to get the right effect.
For the best results add layers of lighting at different heights. Start with tea lights in glass jars and hurricane lights at table height, then add festoon lights looped through the branches of shrubs, around pergola ideas or along fences.
23. Go for a laid-back look
Create some magic with candles grouped together on the table to throw out some ambient light. Garden mirror ideas will pick up and enhance the flickering glow.
Add textured floor cushions or some of the best outdoor bean bags and faux-fur throws for a chill-out vibe that will instantly transport you to your favorite holiday destination. Rooftop terrace in Morocco anyone?
24. Make serving drinks a breeze
Create a dedicated space to prepare and serve drinks where you have everything you need without running back to the house.
Choose a design that's made of robust yet lightweight powder-coated aluminium. Not only is it shower-resistant but you can also move it around the patio if you need to. This outdoor kitchen bar above is designed to position alongside the BBQ and has plenty of space for drinks and accessories.
25. Party plan your space
If you're expecting a crowd you'll need plenty of occasional tables and butlers trays dotted here and there. After all, nothing's worse than having to nurse warm drinks as there's nowhere safe to put them down.
This foldaway ash wood table is ideal and – even better – it comes with all the glasses and dishes you'll need, plus an ice bucket. And, you can use the removable tray top to circulate drinks to your guests.
26. Throw a pizza party
It's easy to recreate that authentic wood-fired taste with one of the best pizza ovens. This smart design above can also be used for grilling steaks and smoking food.
But, if you don't fancy doing it yourself, take a look at hiring a pizza oven for the weekend – you could even hire a chef for the evening, too.
27. Add a cozy cocoon to your garden party ideas
Daybeds are good for evening get-togethers as they provide a snug retreat if things get chilly or if there's a sudden shower. Just add some lanterns to make it even cozier as you snuggle up.
This handwoven rattan one is fully waterproof and even has wine-proof cushions. Bliss!
28. Set the scene with spotlights
These glass blown outdoor lamps add a sophisticated touch to any outdoor space. Whether you choose to arrange them individually or grouped together they will add drama to the night time garden that's perfect for parties.
Our gallery has plenty more inspiring garden lighting ideas.
29. Warm things up with a patio heater
Patio heaters often get bad press due to their energy rating but this design above has zero emissions plus covers an area up to five meters. It can also be left outside all year round as it's made from stainless steel and aluminium.
So, you can carry on partying in the garden however chilly the evening gets. There is also the option of waterproof Bluetooth speakers that fit neatly into the base.
30. Go luxe
The weather can have a habit of getting in the way of even the best laid party plans. But you can weatherproof your outdoor space to add protection from both showers and intense sunlight thanks to the latest patio cover ideas.
While a pop-up gazebo is a great budget option for infrequent use, if you want something more permanent, something like this design above is a great investment. It has tilting blades that let you decide exactly how much protection you need and can be installed free-standing or wall mounted onto the back of your house.
31. Dress up a wall with ornate screens
These screens add a decorative note to enhance the party mood. You can also use them to divide up your garden according to your party needs.
Use them to create a chill-out zone, adding Moroccan themed cushions, some of the best outdoor rugs, and lanterns.
32. Gather round a fire pit
Stylish fire pits are perfect for extending alfresco get-togethers late into the night. It also means you can carry on entertaining in the garden right into autumn.
The neat dimensions of this style make it a snug addition to small spaces.
33. Fire up the BBQ as part of your garden party ideas
If you're feeding a crowd, the best BBQs will make easy work of it. This style shown above has a large fire pit at the center and a tempered steel top plate for fast cooking Teppanyaki style food. And, it has a side table for easy prepping and a storage shelf below for barbecue tools and marinades, so you can keep everything you need on hand.
Another plus is that less smoke is produced as the base has been designed to direct airflow. Keep the fire stoked once the barbecue's over and everyone can keep partying till late.
How do you make a garden party special?
Want to create the perfect atmosphere for your garden party for an unforgettable event? The experts share their top tips on making it feel extra special:
- 'Keep it warm and cozy,' says Hannah Clegg, Founder of The Natural Hire Company, for Kocktail. Even though weather can be changeable, it doesn't have to affect how much fun you can have outdoors. 'Create snugs and lounge areas using cozy throws, parasols, soft candles and fire pits,' she suggests. 'Some of our best memories have been spent chatting long into the night over a flickering flame, under a canopy of stars.'
- Martin Waller, Founder of design brand Andrew Martin also shares some advice. 'It's all about adding the finer details to create a memorable atmosphere,' he says. 'Adding texture to your outdoor space adds comfort as well as creating an inviting seating area. With the addition of textile accessories, it brings softness to all those hard surfaces. Cushions can be placed on bar stools and banquette seating. As well as bringing much needed comfort to your garden seating, the addition of outdoor cushions allows you to blur the lines between interior and exterior,' he adds. This helps to make a space feel like a carefully considered living area.
- Don't forget the music, says Hannah. 'Having a long uninterrupted playlist is very important. Have your music source fully charged and a pre-made playlist. Pick songs that will appeal to all tastes, not just your own. We sometimes start the day with low key beach vibes then a livelier section once the cocktails go down!'
- 'To give your alfresco party more of a sense of grandeur, upsize your table by two place settings,' suggests Jonny Brierley, CEO of luxury garden furniture company Moda Furnishings. 'For example, if you have an 8-seater table, seat six people around it to give your table a more generous feel. This way, each guest will have more room for their glassware and crockery, and won't be knocking elbows with their tablemates.'
How can I decorate my backyard for a party?
Jonny Brierley, CEO of Moda Furnishings shares his advice for decorating a show-stopping party.
'Decorating your outdoor space should require much the same level of consideration as indoor styling,' Jonny says. 'Think about layering pattern, colors and materials to create a setting that is personal to you and your style.'
'Rattan outdoor furniture can have both a modern feel if styled with monochrome accessories or a more traditional feel if styled with rustic throws and cushions. As with your interior scheme, this styling should express your individuality.'
Dobbies Garden Centres' Creative Stylist Rebecca Stanton also suggests the importance of fresh blooms for decorating your garden party ideas. 'Think of your outdoor dining experience just as you would when laying up a table inside your house,' she says. 'A vase of freshly cut flowers from the garden will instantly make it feel extra special.' Take a look at our guide to the best cutting garden flowers for ideas.
'If you’re planning a picnic date for a loved one, fill jam jars with daffodils, tulips or roses for an extra special touch. On a larger outdoor dining table, a row of glass bottles filled with single stems can add just as much impact as a vase full of blooms.'
Sarah Wilson has been a lifestyle journalist for many years, writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, as well as Country Homes & Interiors and Modern Gardens magazines.
Her own (small urban) garden is a work in progress - so many ideas, not enough space to cram them in. Hero plants include her ever growing collection of ornamental grasses, black bamboo and ferns, and the perennials like salvias and penstemons that come back reliably year after year. All very restrained though when in fact she'd love to pack her garden with gaudy dahlias and giant cannas, so these are top of her wish list for what to grow next.
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