When the weather is warm, it makes a lot of sense of have an outdoor party instead of keeping everyone cooped up indoors. Everyone has been to the average barbecue, which is nothing special. If you want to have your friends and family remember your party for years to come, you need to step it up a notch! Here are 40 tips to making an outdoor party so elegant, your friends will be seriously impressed.
40. Set Up a Buffet
No matter how health conscious someone may seem, everyone loves a buffet. As the host of the party, this also makes it a lot easier for everyone to serve themselves whenever they please. This can be accomplished easily with one long picnic table covered in a white plastic table cloth. Then, cover the table with all of the dishes that you have prepared for the occasion. If you are on a strict budget, ask your friends and family if they would be willing to bring a dish as part of a “pot luck” style buffet.
Before you start cooking all of your food, make sure you have all of the supplies ready for the plates, food containers, and serving spoons. If you have hot dishes that you want to keep warm, you will need to buy a buffet serving set. Once you have purchased the original kit with the holders, you can reuse it again and again with items from Dollar Tree like the aluminum food containers and cans of fuel for the heating lamps. Dollar Tree also has plenty of plastic serving spoons, tooth picks, and other items that you may need to make your buffet complete.
In the United Kingdom, plenty of people eat finger sandwiches with their afternoon tea. They are surprisingly cheap and easy to make. The key to creating a great finger sandwich is to buy high-quality bread and ingredients. One of the most popular finger sandwiches is cucumber and chive cream cheese on white bread. If you have never had this before, it might sound like a strange combination, but trust us- It’s life-changing, and perfect for a warm spring or summer day.
You can also use anything you have on-hand in your kitchen like tuna fish, egg salad, tomatoes, ham, cheese, and turkey. Even though this is a very simple dish, people will be impressed by how “fancy” it looks stacked on a plate. If you are looking for inspiration, look for videos on YouTube, and you will find tons of examples of various different finger sandwich recipes.
When most people think about going to a garden party, they expect to sit in your typical lawn or folding chair. If you want to make a big impression, consider getting creative with the seating. You could build benches, or use palettes to create a seating area with floor cushions. Just keep in mind that you will most likely have to keep and store anything new that you buy or build. So many sure you have space for all of this stuff, or consider renting from an event company.
One of the newest trends for garden parties are called “floor tables”. If you don’t know how to build a table like the one shown in the photo above, consider stacking wooden palettes instead. You can usually find them for free on Craigslist, and you may be able to contact your local hardware store to ask if you can use them. Blankets, pillows, and outdoor cushions can be used as seating.
Who doesn’t love lemonade at a garden party? Instead of serving pitchers, try to go for one or two of those big glass jugs with a spout. This means that you can have a large amount of iced tea, lemonade, and fruit flavored lemonade varieties. Or, you could do a sugar-free batch for friends on a diet. In the picture above, you can see that the host of this party also has a glass container with both peaches and lemons, so that guests immediately understand that the jug is full of peach lemonade.
For an added touch of cuteness, buy Mason jars with handles, and paper straws. The great thing about Mason jars is that you can get them at places like Walmart for less than $1 each, and they come in large cases. This way, all of your guests can have matching glasses, and it’s not a big deal if they accidentally break one.
There is something magical about having a huge family-style dinner with all of your friends. Unfortunately, not everyone has the space to accomidate everyone inside of their kitchen or dining room. This is why backyard parties are so great. If you have one long picnic table, or if you put several fold-out tables next to one another, you can all have a family style party outdoors.
By sitting around the same table, you and your friends can all participate in good conversations, and share some great food. The one and only downside is that wooden tables that are extra long are very expensive, and it is rare for anyone to actually have one of these at your disposal. If you plan to eat family-style, try to keep your party small and intimate, so that you can easily fit everyone.
If you were having a wedding or an upscale event, it would be a no-brainer to make sure every individual plate had an elegant table setting. Just because your party is outside, that doesn’t make it any different. Try to come up with cute and creative ideas that tie into the theme of the party.
You can also make name tags for each person, if you wanted to arrange the seating. This may be a good opportunity for you to put your party favors on the place settings too, if you felt that it was appropriate.
If you party is going to be thrown at night, it would be a good idea to make sure your guests have some sort of outdoor lighting. Strings of lights are a no-brainer, but you can get really creative with all of your options. There are battery powered stars and other shapes, lanterns, flame-free candles, and more.
If you plan to order your lights online, just be sure to plan ahead of time. Make sure you have enough lights to make your vision come to life. You may also decide that you changed your mind about the lighting, and you will need to test them at night to see just how well everything is illuminated, first.
Instead of having an outdoor bar, it is usually a lot cheaper to offer one or two signature cocktails. This way, you are only offering one or two different types of alcohol and mixers, instead of trying to buy a huge variety to make everyone happy.
A cute idea is to make cocktails that match the theme of the party. Pinterest is fully of amazing ideas, but you could also just make up something that you already know that your friends will enjoy.
A popular trend in the past ten years is to have a chalk board sign at your outdoor parties. This is great for welcome signs, menus, and so much more. If you want to get elaborate with drawings and calligraphy text, you can buy liquid chalk markers. These allow you to get far more detailed than your average stick of chalk. When you are done, it will dry just like regular chalk, and your guests will never know the difference.
Don’t have a chalk board at your disposal? You can actually make your own with a picture frame and some chalk board paint. Once you have the initial supplies ready, could could buy multiple frames from Dollar Tree and do the project over, and over again if you wanted to. Best of all, you can erase the text or images, and save the boards in storage for your next party.
White tents aren’t just for weddings. If you are planning to have an outdoor party in the spring or summer, you never know if it might rain. It is possible to rent tents from an event company, but there are also a variety of styles online under $100.
If you choose to buy your own tent, you could put it in storage and save it for your next party, or lend it to friends whenever they want it. Also keep in mind that if you buy your own, you won’t have the benefit of having someone set the tent up for you. Make sure you have several people handy to help you set up the tent.
If you are having a party at night, it’s a no-brainer to hang fairy lights. They look romantic, and they provide light for your guests at after dark. White lights also match pretty much any decor that you choose. You can save money by buying them in bulk online.
Or, if you know that you are going to have a lot of outdoor parties in the future, a great time to stock up is right after Christmas time. String lights go on clearance, and they are incredibly cheap.
28. Set Up a Fire Pit (With Marshmallows, of Course!)
Everyone loves a good fire pit. There are all different kinds of fire pits for any budget, but they are typically around $100. After dark, your guests would love sitting around a fire, drinking, talking, and making s’mores.
Just keep in mind that you may have to check with your local fire codes before building a fire pit. It may be necessary for a fire inspector to show up to your home if you plan to make a pit or fireplace, and you may need a permit. Typically, it’s fine to buy a store-bought fire pit, but you should always double-check.
If kids are coming to your party, you may want to consider buying a tee pee. This is a really fun place for kids to hang out, and it is perfect if your friends are only bringing a couple kids. It is also great for helping kids to stay out of the harsh sunlight.
You can either make your own teepees, or buy them online. Some people even make multiple teepees in various colors if they are having a kid’s party.
For some people, this tip might be obvious, but you really need to set the dinner table! Pretend like you are giving a beautiful fancy dinner in your own house, but it’s outside. Everyone should have a full place setting, and maybe even a name tag. Bonus points if you get cloth napkins, too.
As soon as your friends see a fully set table, they are guaranteed to get excited for the meal. If you are looking for inspiration, check out Pinterest.
Even if you are having dinner in a garden that is surrounded by flowers, that’s not enough for an elegant garden party. The table where everyone is sitting should have a vase with fresh flowers sitting in the center.
If you happen to grow flowers in your garden already, this is perfect. There is no need to go to the store and buy more flowers when you already have them in your back yard! Making a bouquet out of what you already have at your disposal will only match the surrounding landscape, and it saves a lot of money, too.
Since your party is going to be outdoors, why not incorporate edible flowers into your dishes? They can be incorporated into a salad, or put on top of pretty much anything with icing, guacamole, or anything else where they will stick.
Keep in mind that not all flowers are edible! The most popular option is pansies, but there is a whole list of flowers that you could add to your meals, and you may even have some in your own back yard.
If your guests are going to be at your party for several hours during the day, you might want to plan some activities. Sports and games are great, but there might be some people that don’t actually enjoy physical activity. And if there are kids at the party, they may not want to play together with all of the adults. So it would probably be a good idea to plan an activity.
Adults could have a lot of fun making flower crowns, wreaths, friendship bracelets, and so much more. It’s always a good idea to try to create an activity that has something to do with the theme of your party. If you are choosing to do a craft, this could replace giving someone a a party favor.
One of the biggest trends on Pinterest for the longest time was fairy lights inside of mason jars. This is still classic and timeless, whether you do it at a wedding, or if you are indulging in the beautiful decorations for your outdoor party. These also double as light sources either on your tables as centerpieces, or hanging above your guests.
The way this works is that there is a little battery pack on the end of each string of lights. So they don’t need to be plugged in, and they should last all night long. You can buy them in bulk, and keep them for every other party in the future.
When most people think of a backyard party, they automatically assume everyone is going to eat off of paper plates and drink from plastic cups. Remember that you are not planning a barbecue! This is supposed to be a classy event, which means that you should be using real plates, glasses, and cutlery.
It is important for all of your plates to match one another, just like if you were having a fancy dinner party. If you have more guests than plates in your cabinet, you can get plates at Dollar Tree for just $1 each.
Most people assume that party favors are strictly for kid’s parties and weddings. Even if you are having a grownup garden party, it can still be a lot of fun to give your friends something to remember the occasion by..
It would be a good idea to try to pick a favor that has something to do with the party’s theme. Check out your local Dollar Tree, as well as DollarTree.com, where you can order items in bulk to be delivered. You should also look at the Oriental Trading Company, where they have party favors in bulk as well.
If you want your party to be really fancy, you may want to consider hanging an outdoor chandelier if you are setting up a white tent. To save money, you can search your local thrift store to see if there are any affordable vintage chandeliers that you could buy.
Be careful not to hang a chandelier that is incredibly expensive, since it will be going up and down outside. If it falls, that would be truly tragic. Just to be safe, you could find a plastic chandelier online that is affordable. This way, if anything were to happen during the party, it won’t be a big deal.
In the United Kingdom, “high tea” is the practice of drinking tea and eating snacks together while dressed up in your finest clothes. It’s great for girlfriends to get together to gossip during the afternoon on a weekend. This would be a perfect time to find a multi-tiered cake tray.
If you have multiple tables, you will need multiple tea sets. Luckily, these can be found in nearly every thrift store. You could buy a few cheap sets, or borrow one from your family and friends. Just make sure to be careful of precious antiques. You do not want to accidentally break a family heirloom.
If you are already planning to buy white string lights in bulk, you may want to consider wrapping some around a tree trunk. This looks really beautiful at night, and it also acts as a great light source after dark.
Just keep in mind that if you want to pull this off, you will need to stand on a ladder. Ask a friend to help you with this project, so that they will hold on to the ladder and make sure you do not fall. Or, hire a local company who has experience doing something like this safely.
Not many people in the United States have every played croquet, or maybe they only recognize it from the Disney film Alice in Wonderland. But croquet was being played at fancy garden parties since the 1850’s.
If you buy a croquet set and teach your friends how to play, they will probably be excited to learn a new game. You never know- it could really be a lot of fun!
If you are having an outdoor party, it’s probably because you are celebrating something big. Maybe it’s a birthday, anniversary, graduation, or house warming party. So, why not have a champagne toast? Everyone gets excited when you pull out a bottle of bubbly and pop the cork. It automatically makes a party feel more expensive and exciting.
Giving a champagne toast doesn’t have to cost a fortune, either. You can buy a 100 pack of plastic champagne flutes for under $20, and find the cheapest $6 bottles of champagne that your liquor store offers. Save the excess flutes for your next party, and you will only have to buy the bottles whenever you feel like breaking out the bubbly.
Popular in France, Pétanque, also known as Bocce Ball is an outdoor game that was invented in 1907. Even though it is not as common in the United States it is still popular, even to this day. Usually, it is played a lot among retirees, because it’s easy for anyone to do. But don’t assume that means it’s boring! It can actually be a lot of fun, especially if you are playing with competitive friends.
If you and your friends have never played before, they would probably be excited to learn a new game. If you’re not sure where to get it, you can but a set online, or check out your local Target.
If you have a shed or a barn in your back yard, it just might be a perfect place to have part of your outdoor party. As long as you can transfer your items somewhere else temporarily, you could clean it up and make it the place where you set up the buffet or dinner table.
If you are throwing a Halloween party, your shed could even be decorated as a haunted house. For kids, this would become a party that they would remember for years to come.
A party for grown-ups would not be complete without alcohol. We have all been to a party with a beer keg or coolers full of ice, but those are really only appropriate for a barbecue. If you want to impress your friends, consider setting up an outdoor bar. Some people go above and beyond to create their own bar from scratch, while others just dress up a fold-out table with a table cloth, and put signature cocktails out for their friends.
If you don’t have the time or space to make an actual outdoor bar, you could just opt for buckets of ice, and bottles of wine. If you have multiple tables where people are sitting, it might be a good idea to get the imitation silver wine buckets at Dollar Tree. This way, you can get multiples that match one another that are cheap, and they still look elegant.
Seeing indoor furniture outside will surprise people. It seems so luxurious to use a high-quality piece of furniture outdoors, and really does immediately make a party feel more elegant. Aside from looking fancy, it also serves multiple purposes beyond your standard picnic table. You can use the drawers to display party favors, and create multiple levels, too. It’s great for the snack buffet, crafts, and so much more.
If you like the idea, but you don’t want to run the risk of ruining one of your good pieces of furniture, it may be best to buy a piece that you only use for outdoor parties. Check out your local thrift stores, yard sales, Facebook groups, and the Craigslist “free” page. Another added benefit of buying a piece specifically for your party is that you could paint it a fun color that you normally would never have inside of your house.
If you want to have a truly elegant party, you will need to pick a color story. Think about designing a party kind of like designing an apartment. If you pick objects that all go in the same cohesive color story, it ends up looking so much better than a mix. In the photo above, you can see how the hostess uses pink and gold to create a magical, elegant princess party for girls.
If you are throwing a patriotic party, the obvious color choices would be red, white, and blue. But instead of going over-the-top with items from Walmart, try to think outside of the box. Mason jars come in red and blue tint in the summer, and you can find table cloths and napkins in every color at Dollar Tree.
If you plan on having a pool party, you should provide pool floats, toys, and games for your guests. It’s possible to find some really cute items at the Dollar Tree. But if you want to have an extravagant and fancy party, don’t stop at the cheap items. Consider buying at least one or two large pool floats. This will stick out in your guest’s memories, and they will most likely want to take pictures on it for Instagram.
If you choose to go with the large pool float, you might want an extra large flamingo or unicorn. Even though those are some of the most popular choices right now, there are almost every sort of shape and color you can think of- even a giant pizza. Consider the theme of your party, and try to see if a pool float exists that will match. For example, did you know there is a Pikachu pool float? Perfect for a Pokemon themed kids party.
Whether you are throwing an all-kid party or not, the odds are that someone in your circle of friends has children they are going to bring over. Some hosts never bother to think about the kids, if they are only focused on pleasing the adults. In a lot of cases, the parents might be prepared a Nintendo Switch or other activities. But some kids might feel bored out left out of the loop if they are stuck at an adult party with nothing to do.
If you know kids are coming, make sure to have activity stations ready for them. Also keep in mind the age and interest of the group. For example, you wouldn’t want to create a clown coloring station for 12-year olds! Consider setting up a game or crafts. Check out Pinterest for kid’s party activity ideas.
If you live in the United States, some of the most popular times to have an outdoor party in the summer are Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day. Most of the time, this is when people throw their parties. Since these are federal holidays, everyone has off of work, and they are eager to go do something fun. So if you are planning to throw a party for one of these holidays, it only makes sense to make them American themed!
There are so many ways to make a patriotic party feel elegant, rather than tacky. Consider going for the vintage style window buntings on your front porch windows. Hang the American flag, and give out smaller flags to the kids. Pinterest has tons of ideas on how you can throw a patriotic party, too. Just remember not to go too far into the realm of tacky.
If you are looking to have an elegant party, you might be a bit scared to decorate too much for a holiday. Holiday decorates can turn from elegant to tacky really quickly. Keep in mind that no matter what the holiday may be, there are classy ways to decorate, and over-the-top silly ways. Try to ask yourself, “What would Martha Stewart Do?” In fact, you can always look for inspiration in her previous magazines, books, and website to see examples of class holiday decor.
For example, if you plan to have a Halloween party, consider focusing on natural foliage and pumpkins. You can occasionally have spooky props like skulls, “potion” bottles, and witchy vintage items. Those are a lot more elegant than plastic lanterns and blow-up toys of dragons and vampires.
Sometimes, a party is better with a theme. This is especially true with kid’s parties. Most parents go to Party City or Walmart and buy every single item that is geared towards their child’s favorite cartoon hero, and call it a day. But there are so many other options beyond that. You can get seriously creative, and turn some relatively normal things into a one-of-a-kind theme party. Pinterest is full of amazing ideas on kid’s themes. So, whatever your child loves, try to search for those keywords online to get inspired.
Themes can work for adult parties, too! Of course, it’s best to jazz is up a bit. Time periods are always a popular choice. How about a 1920’s Great Gatsby theme, or a 1960’s Hippie party? If you and your friends love a certain TV show, like Game of Thrones, you could also have an entire party themed around that, too. The possibilities are endless, and so is the potential for fun.
Nowadays, everyone wants to take pictures of their lives and post it on Instagram. This is especially true if they are going to a big party. This is why you should consider setting up either a photo booth, or a backdrop where people can easily take pictures in front of something that looks beautiful. Some parties will even provide photo booth props, if you want your guests to pose with silly mustaches, glasses, and more.
If you want to, you could encourage your guests to use the same hashtag on Instagram so that all of the guests can search and find more pictures from the party. That way, if they missed something, they could easily go back and find photos someone else took. This is also amazing for you, because you can scroll through all of the images of your own party that everyone catalogued under the hashtag.
Tiered cake plates are very common in England to use during tea time, but it’s not as common in the United States. The reason why they are so popular over in the UK is that you can stack several different kinds of snacks on it, and easily carry it outside to the garden.
As you can see in the photos, this is amazing for an outdoor party setting. If you only have a certain number of food to feed each guest, or if you want to put out the desserts, this is a perfect way to give each table proportions. It also helps save space at a buffet.
Lanterns can be a beautiful addition to almost any occasion. As you can see in the photo above, the white paper lanterns with lights inside are truly elegant. Just be careful if you are thinking about buying rainbow colored lanterns from the dollar store. In some cases, those can look like they belong hanging in a a kid’s party, rather than an upscale event for adults.
When in doubt, go with white lanterns. It will match any color palette, and they are guaranteed to look elegant. Just make sure you are not throwing the party on a day when it might rain, because you would not be able to reuse the lanterns at a later date.
When we think of table centerpieces, you probably only plan to make them for a wedding or a huge party. Even if you are only having a garden get-together with a few friends, you could put in a little effort to buy or create a centerpiece for your outdoor party as well. This will completely transform a table, and seriously impress your friends. You should try to make a centerpiece that matches the theme of your party.
If you have a lot of plants and flowers in your garden, you may be able to get free natural foliage from around the yard to make your centerpiece. Check out the Dollar Tree blog on how to make table centerpieces with affordable items for just $1 each. You can also check out Pinterest for an endless amount of ideas.