Creating the Perfect Summer Garden Party

By Abby Henthorn

by ELYSIAN Magazine

Summer is in full bloom, and now is the time to take advantage of the warm weather and long evenings by getting your friends and family together for a garden party. Whether you host during the daytime or once the sun goes down, follow these tips for throwing the event of the summer. 


Decorating your outdoor space will look different for everyone, as we all work with different arrangements, but it’s important to make the area work for you and your guests. The proper seating arrangements, table decorations, and lighting can create the perfect ambiance for your occasion. 

Comfort should be a priority at your gathering, especially when you and your guests will spend most of the day outdoors in the summer heat. Guests will appreciate plenty of shaded areas to cool off and multiple seating setups for eating, chatting, or when they just need a break. Bree Swartz, the founder and artistic director of Blossom Events, a “full-service boutique design and planning team” based in Brooklyn, New York, told ELYSIAN that setting up a lounge area at any outdoor party “creates different ‘spaces’ to enjoy,” and it provides “a built-in photo opportunity for guests.” She added: “Bring in pops of color with fun pillows and poufs!” 

When planning your garden party, the main attraction will most likely be the food, so why not make your table the centerpiece? While your food should serve as the focal point, the table should be an aesthetically pleasing and practical spot for your friends and family to grab a bite. Event planner Kristine Cooke suggests arranging your “platters and bowls on your table or buffet to ensure they fit” beforehand so that your table isn’t too cramped or too empty. Additionally, labeling food is a must for those with allergies or dietary restrictions, and it can be an added aesthetic element to your tablescape. Adding “petite bud vases with big, bold blooms are an easy “wow” factor for your table,” Swartz said, but make sure to weigh down the vases with marbles or pebbles so that your guests don’t find unexpected pedals on their plates. 

Guests will have a hard time eating their food or finding a seat if they can’t see, and as most garden parties will meander into the nighttime, remember to provide adequate and fashionable lighting to your backyard or garden space. String lights and candles are a great outdoor option and add a touch of magic to your space at night. Citronella candles can be a great way to keep mosquitos out of your party. 

The Menu

Choosing the right menu is an integral part of cultivating your garden party experience, and there’s no better time to incorporate ingredients from your garden than at a garden party. Summer is the perfect time to harvest all of your hard work or take advantage of fresh, local produce, as delicious and colorful fruits and veggies should be ripe for the taking. Plan a tasty, well-rounded menu using the following produce:

  • Avocado
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli 
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers 
  • Kale
  • Summer Squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Apples
  • Blackberries
  • Cherries
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Watermelon 

Once you’ve chosen your favorite summer ingredients, put them all together to create delicious and filling bites for your guests. In speaking to Gardening Etc, Robert Hunningher, founder of Humdingers Catering, suggests that “light bites and grazing platters are always best– less mess, less waste.” Your guests can taste a variety of different dishes, and it makes it easier for everyone to find something they’ll enjoy. Also, consider the heat and possibility of bug-attracting food when curating your menu. Opt for a crudité platter instead of charcuterie to avoid meats and cheeses sitting out in the sun for too long or bugs finding jams and jellies too enticing. 

Seasonal drinks can be a big hit and the perfect way to cool down. These Watermelon and Triple Berry Sparklers featured in our July Fourth newsletter are a great way to introduce fun fruits into your beverages. 

Finally, be sure to make an effort to have various options that will fit your guest’s dietary restrictions. This includes offering plant-based and dairy- and gluten-free options. 


Planning and executing a garden party for guests, whether it be a small or large number of people, can be daunting. As the host, you take on the task of ensuring everyone’s comfort and safety, creating a backup plan in case of inclement weather, and ensuring you are following all capacity and sound regulations in your area. Depending on your budget and the size of your party, Swartz suggests hiring a “planner or coordinator for the day of the event to handle all those last-minute, behind-the-scenes details, so you can be a ‘guest’ at your own event.”

Before your event, guests will appreciate as much information as possible in the form of an invitation, either mailed or digital. With an invitation, you can set a suggested dress code that matches any theme you’ve picked so that your guests aren’t guessing how formal or informal their attire should be, and everyone will be comfortable in their outfit choices. You can also outline the time frame you’re planning for so everyone knows how long you expect the event to last, which helps for arranging pet or child care. (This is also the opportunity to specify if your event is a child-free or child-friendly zone.)

To streamline the cleanup process after your event, set out plenty of garbage cans and pick up any trash you see as you go. Using paper or plastic plates and cutlery (bonus points if you can find biodegradable or environmentally friendly options) will save you and anyone helping you clean more dishes, as you’ll already have all of your platters and bowls to run through the dishwasher or clean by hand. 

Finally, always, always plan for rain. Unfortunately, the rain stops for no one, even when the forecast shows a beautiful sunny day, and summer is notorious for surprise showers. Make sure to have umbrellas, a tent, or an indoor location in case of inclement weather, and keep blankets and throws around for when it gets chilly at night or after the rain. 

Final Thoughts

Summer is such a beautiful time to get together with your loved ones and celebrate any occasion, or no occasion at all, and outdoor garden parties can offer all of the seasonal flavors, warm weather, and good conversation you’re searching for. Though these events can seem like a lot of work, they don’t have to be, as following this guide can help alleviate stress and make your planning and execution as efficient and enjoyable as possible. Remember, when you’re ending the night with a summery cocktail surrounded by your favorite people, it will all be worth it.

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