For an off-the-cuff buffet or barbecue, help make your own bunting using pages from magazines, newspapers or patterned wrapping paper – the greater mismatched and eclectic the better. Simply eliminate symmetrical diamonds of paper and fold them in two to create double-sided triangles. Loop them over a long ribbon or piece of colored string and glue the 2 triangles together.
A traditional picnic blanket is fantastic for relaxed dining, but a sizable tablecloth will also do the trick. Tie up bundles of person cutlery sets for each guest with raffia or colored ribbons and employ plastic glasses and crockery to avoid breakages.
For a child-friendly family gathering why don’t you go for a Mad Hatter’s tea party theme with a lot of mismatched cups, plenty of chintzy teapots and multi-coloured iced cupcakes? Thread a pack of cheap handmade cards together with string and attach these to branches for the full Alice-in-Wonderland experience.
Elegant al fresco entertaining
For additional grown-up and sophisticated garden entertaining, stylish table dressing can give your party the edge. It could be a posh afternoon tea or perhaps a balmy summer evening supper, a centrepiece of freshly cut flowers and candles can create a sense of occasion. Wind long flower stems and vines right into a wide glass vase or globe-shaped goldfish bowl or else use floating candles and flower heads inside a basin of water. Scattering petals, skeleton leaves or coloured paper butterflies within the table will work well using the natural outdoor surroundings.
For any more exotic look, combine dark wood furnishings with brightly coloured table linen in magenta, violet and turquoise. Adorn the table with tropical pot plants like a centrepiece. A table runner in paper or fabric can create cohesion. For place settings that be used as napkin rings, use alphabet beads threaded onto a bit of coloured wire to spell out guests’ names. Take a look at our al fresco dining suggestions for more inspiration.
Atmospheric lighting can give your summer garden party theme or evening barbecue the wow factor. Use garden flares, lanterns or fairy lights to produce a lit pathway for your guests so that they do not stumble in the dark. Tea lights in jars or candle holders really are a practical way to mark out an outdoor staircase as well as creating a stunning tiered light display. Decorate your trees with mini lanterns that come with wire loops. Have a look at our garden lighting design gallery.
Mini sparklers and edible flowers really are a beautiful way to garnish a cocktail. Pansies are perfect because they come in many colour combinations. It is best to grow your own so you can make sure they haven’t been sprayed with any chemicals or purchase them from a specialist food shop not really a florist. Chop citrus fruits into wedges and freeze them for any fruity alternative to ice cubes. Create a backyard fridge to store the beer and wine in by sealing a backyard metal bin with bathroom sealant and filling up with ice and water.