The beauty of the barbecue or the afternoon garden party is that the luxury and rarity of eating and drinking in the sunshine in between bouts of gloomy weather does most of the heavy lifting when it comes raising spirits. However, here are 14 fun and relatively easy tips to add that extra bit of charm and flair to any garden party.
Get creative by crafting your own piñata and filling it with plastic miniatures of spirits and liqueurs, along with individually wrapped chocolates and small packets of sweets – a particularly winning combination includes minis of Baileys Irish Cream and Lindt Lindor Caramel Truffles.
If weather permits, create your own outdoor cinema by turning a white wall (or draping a light-coloured sheet over a tall fence or brick wall) into an impromptu film screen. All you need is a projector, extension cord, a couple of strategically placed portable speakers, and your laptop with your movie selection ready to go.
Went a bit overboard at the garden centre this spring? Transform terracotta plant saucers into handsome serving trays with a few sprightly napkins. Turn lanterns into flowerpots and planters into beverage stations by filling them with ice and temptingly chilled bottles of bubbly.
Bring an air of the seashore to your garden party by using seashells to hold pepper and sea salt. Hark back to a bit of childhood fun by folding thick, brightly coloured paper into several of the classic fortune-teller origami formations; place them upside down on the table and fill the pockets with dry condiments, seasonings, or toppings.
Keep pesky garden party bugs at bay with a few crafty tricks. Glass covered or domed cake stands offer lovely protection for particularly tempting dishes. Paint a few unused flowerpots and pull a knotted ribbon through the drain hole to create cute handles for your plate toppers. Poke straws through the centres of festive muffin or cupcake cases to act as decorative cocktail covers.
Create infused ice cubes that are as delicious as they are lovely by placing slices of citrus, triangles of mango, circles of kiwi or cucumber, basil leaves, sprigs of rosemary, or bright raspberries in the centre of each ice cube before freezing. Add a touch of romance to drinks, wine coolers, and ice buckets by filling them with floral ice cubes – lovely edible flower buds suspended in sparkling ice.
Add rosemary, hickory chips, or chips made from whisky oak barrels to the coals while barbecuing to impart an extra delicious aroma to the proceedings and the food.
If the day promises to be a scorcher, decorate white paper hand fans with stamps to offer a bit of respite, as well as a charming garden party decoration. Brand wooden flatware and lolly sticks with stamps to extend your theme and to label dishes. Plate freshly grilled meat on parchment paper stamped with its temperature to let your guests choose their rare, medium, or well-done pieces.
Set up a whimsical drink station by placing a cake stand filled with mismatched cups and glasses next to a Mason jar beverage dispenser filled with refreshing lemonade – or use a beehive dispenser filled with iced tea.
For décor that doubles as warmth when the evening turns chilly, drape soft shawls in your selected colourway on the backs of chairs to bring even a mishmash of seating together and offer something cosy to keep off the chill. Bring in some country charm by using hay bales as benches – topped with plush cushions for a splash of colour and comfort.
Skip the tablecloths and use swaths of brown kraft paper for a homey, playful effect that has the added benefit of being easy to clean up. Plus, you can scatter a few pencils or markers around to invite the creation of amusing artwork and literature to admire later.
Using dark extension cords and outdoor cabling, entwine fairy lights amidst foliage, hang vivid paper lanterns from trees, and carefully place miniature hanging lanterns on low branches.
Fashion a stunning outdoor light centrepiece by draping a chandelier in fairy lights or stacking it with strategically (and securely) placed tea lights.
If you want the ambience of candles without having to deal with the messy wax afterwards, opt for battery-operated candles scattered charmingly throughout your garden party. Create a bit of magic with a few solar lights that begin to glow luminously as the evening settles in. Decorate glasses with glow-in-the-dark paint or stickers to cue a nostalgic moment of surprise as night falls.