Garden party ideas – inspiration for outdoor gatherings, from family barbecues to dinner with friends

Alfresco gatherings are the perfect way to celebrate warm weather. Whether you’re simply taking the family outside for dinner, or hosting a big group of friends, bringing things outside creates a new and fresh dynamic.

In the middle of summer, you’ll want to spend every moment outside, while in the autumn sometimes nothing can be better than cozying up around a fire with friends to enjoy the crisp air. There are ways to make a garden party work for (nearly!) any time of year or space available.

So, from intimate moments to family extravaganzas, here are some favorite garden party ideas for you. 

HOW DO YOU THROW A GARDEN PARTY?

Throw a garden party in any style you desire, but one of the most special things about gatherings outside is the joy of eating alfresco.  
 
Take a traditional dinner party and move the fun outdoors. Menu-wise, why not choose something that could be cooked on the fire or in the oven, depending on how the mood takes you. Plus, it’s a lovely, family-style way of entertaining.

For decorating your table outside, complement the season with your color choices. Dress with simple linens, terracotta, and recycled glassware for an earthy, eco-moment. If you have kids running around, swap in hardy melamine platters and plastic glassware that look like the real deal.

HOW CAN I DECORATE MY BACKYARD FOR A PARTY?

Dependent on who’s coming over or if you have a theme, the backyard really is your oyster! 

Stringing up warm festoon lights to switch on when the light fades adds a lovely touch, as are tealights in bright glass holders dotted all around the backyard, although remember to keep them away from foliage and not placed directly on the grass. Additionally, if you have a large garden, you could have several different stations for drinks and nibbles. 

HOW DO I SET UP AN OUTDOOR PARTY?

Demarcating zones is a great way to add intrigue and intimacy to a garden party.

If designing your garden for entertaining, then consider using flowers and shrubs to define various sections. Planting beds can add a sense of privacy to smaller seating areas; add in some herb pots here, too, for a natural way to scent a cozy area.

Create hidden areas to escape the madding crowd -  create simple wooden brackets and attach them to walls and fences to use as hanging structures for textiles (large bull clips are perfect for a non-permanent attachment).

Alternatively, invest in a tent or marquee for an opulent feel. This is an especially lovely idea at a birthday, to create a focal point for gathering.

HOW DO YOU ILLUMINATE A GARDEN? 

Effective illumination allows you to use the garden longer. Solar lights have become incredibly popular in the past few years as an eco-friendly option, and then come in nearly any shape and size imaginable, meaning there will be something suitable for your needs.

In the same way you plan indoor lighting, aim for a variety of sources for extra ambiance. When you bring pieces that you’re used to seeing indoors out into garden areas, it completely shifts how room-like they feel. 

HOW DO I KEEP MY GUESTS COMFORTABLE AT A GARDEN PARTY?

Comfort is everything for your guests, especially when you’re outside, and will be lingering until the last rays of sun have faded away. While seat and bench pads are of course useful, few of us will have the right number of chairs when throwing bigger garden parties. Instead, make use of your square footage and make the ground a new comfort zone. 

Use lots of lovely outdoor scatter cushions, floor cushions, and outdoor rugs to take the hard edges off. Make sure your textiles are outdoor proof and quick drying then they can be left outdoors with no ill effect.

ADD A FIRE PIT

Fire pits are a wonderful way to add warmth and ambiance to your garden party. Unlike barbecue, their main purpose is not to cook food, but to warm things up and create a radiant and inviting focal point to a gathering. 

Place at the bottom of the garden for a destination zone, or on your patio to create a convenient relaxation area close to the house. Adorn trees with fairy lights, provide occasional tables for drinks and plates, and comfortable chairs to lounge in.

HOW DO I KEEP MY GUESTS WARM AT AN OUTDOOR PARTY? 

In addition to fire pits, add chic, modern country charm to your garden party, use unusual ways of displaying practical necessities. A foraged branch strung up with rope, or perhaps across where a hammock would usually hang, is the perfect place to display blankets. Attach stylish leather loops for throws in complementary colors to hand. They’ll look pretty during the day, and when evening rolls around, your guests will know exactly where to head to for an extra layer.

BARBECUING? 

BBQs and garden parties go together like peanut butter and jelly. Getting the grill going sets the occasion, and the scent of charcoal heating up and food cooking never fails to perk your guests up.

However, hosting a barbecue is more than just health and safety. To throw the perfect grilling party requires a few more considerations. It’s useful to take into account other factors – how many people will you be cooking for? Do you want to go beyond the realms of traditional outdoor cooking, moving away from hot dogs and burgers, and maybe cook something a bit different? This way, you can accommodate far more tastes and welcome more people to your outdoor space.

SHOULD I INVEST IN AN OUTDOOR KITCHEN?

If garden parties are one of your favorite ways to host, or you live in an area where you might be taking dinner alfresco more often than not, then you might consider installing an outdoor kitchen.

For a sensible budget, you can create a good area of worktop, fit a robust sink and have a BBQ that is proportionate to how you will use it. The sink can also be filled with ice and used as a drinks cooler when needed.

If you’re going the DIY route, remember to include sufficient storage for all your utensils and maybe even extra gas canisters or bags of charcoal or wood. To make sure your garden party can go off without a hitch, integrate a serving area where you can place plates and platters. Include pots of herbs, too, as a thoughtful touch so guests can garnish their own drinks. 

Chris Cortazzo is a real estate agent affiliated with Compass. Compass is a licensed real estate broker licensed by the state of California and abides by equal housing opportunity laws. All material presented herein is intended for informational purposes only. Information is compiled from sources deemed reliable but is subject to errors, omissions, changes in price, condition, sale, or withdrawal without notice. No statement is made as to accuracy of any description. All measurements and square footages are approximate. This is not intended to solicit property already listed. Nothing herein shall be construed as legal, accounting or other professional advice outside the realm of real estate brokerage.

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