Garden party decorations – big parties on small budgets

July 2nd, 2017
Posted In: Decorations/parties

Garden party decorations turn your party into an instant success.

Thrifty garden party decorating tips #garden

Filling vases of flowers for a marquee takes a lot of time, so ask friends for help. We mixed up bought flowers with some from the garden, just as we mixed mis-matched china, vases and tablecloths.

Flowers, bunting and lights all add a sense of expectation, drama or fun to your garden.

And almost any size of lawn or terrace can take a marquee or gazebo. You can turn even the smallest garden into an extra room for entertaining.

Marquee for garden party

We had to cut back some branches of the dark red tree on the right. It’s Cotinus coggyria ‘Grace’ or Smokebush, and the branches make beautiful garden party decorations.

How to decorate an outdoor party on a budget

  1. How much can you borrow from friends or share? Consider buying or making bunting between two or more families, because it can be re-used.
  2. You can often even share a gazebo or tent, provided someone has space to store it. Just don’t have parties on the same date!
  3. If you’re buying or hiring a gazebo, check how weather resistant it is. See  how to buy the best gazebo for your garden.
  4. Add as much colour as possible. Colours show up less outdoors, so you need more (tablecloths, coloured glasses etc) to create an impact.
  5. ‘Seasonal flowers’ are cheaper than having a particular colour theme. Mix it up!
  6. Combine bought flowers with garden greenery
  7. Use bottles and jam jars if you don’t have enough vases. Try charity shops for vases and tablecloths.
  8. Save money on the little choices – you can usually hire brown wood chairs more cheaply than white or gold
  9. Consider taking indoor furniture outside – this works well for smaller parties and means you hire or buy less
  10. For garden party lights use solar lights and lanterns, battery lights and/or jam jars with night lights

Garden party decorations from tree clippings

If you’re putting a marquee or gazebo up in a limited space, you may have to clip back some branches from a tree. So make sure your loppers, saw or chain saw are sharpened, charged and ready for action.

Place the newly cut branches or stems into a bucket of water and leave them there until you’re ready to decorate. Not all tree clippings make good decorations but many do.

We used the clippings from the Cotinus (Smokebush) to decorate the marquee. We tied it on the poles and strung it along the sides.

Tree clippings for party decorations

Fluffy flowers of Cotinus coggyria ‘Grace’ decorating the marquee

Cotinus and peonies

The cotinus clippings also looked great with some peonies for an arrangement inside.

Jam jar flowers for garden parties

A friend of mine got married last year. She had a pretty country wedding. The church was decorated with jam jar flowers, which she asked friends to carry onto the reception. The same jam jar flowers were then lined up on her garden tables for a lunch the following day at her home.

Jam jar flowers lined up in the centre of Charlotte’s table. She then invited guests to take a few jam jars home each – a lovely, generous extra touch.

You can buy jam jars if you haven’t collected enough.

More easy garden party ideas…

Use wine glasses for flowers.

Use wine glasses for flowers. Cut the stems very short to stop them falling out.

Use empty bottles for flower arranging

Use empty bottles – these are San Pellegrino lemonade bottles.

Buy seasonal flowers for outdoor garden parties

Flowers are the first thing to think about when you’re planning garden party decorations.

Even if you’re growing some flowers yourself, it’s difficult to make sure they’re at their peak at the right time.

So we went for ‘pick your own’ from local flower farmer, Anna’s Country Flowers, just a couple of miles away.

Locally grown flowers often last longer, because they don’t have to travel far. They’ll be appropriate to the season. But you won’t necessarily be able to specify a particular flower.

Buy flowers direct from flower farms

We went to talk to Anna about what flowers to choose. We have ordered 2 big buckets, but left the choice to her. This means she can pick the best on the day.

Flower farmer’s tip:

If you’re buying locally grown seasonal flowers, be flexible about colours and other themes. You’ll get the best results if you ask the flower farmer to put together whatever is looking best at the time. It’s very difficult to ensure that particular flowers or particular colours will be out for a certain date.

British Flowers Week takes place once a year. There has been a boom in flower farming here in Britain, for people who want their flowers ‘grown not flown.’ British Flowers Week champions the cause of using local, seasonal flowers for a natural, contemporary feel.

Buy flowers from local growers

We bought two ‘buckets’ of flowers at £60 each from Anna’s Country Flowers. We got 23 small and large vases out of that.

The British Flowers Week website list some flower farms where you can either pick your own or order directly from them. And you can find others on Flowers from the Farm. You can also find local flower growers on Instagram.

Many flower growers, such as Country Lane Flowers, will supply vases of flowers all ready to place on the table. Sue from Country Lane Flowers advises you to have at least one big splash of colour, such as big urns of colourful flowers at the entrance.

Find out more about why growing cut flowers is good for the environment in How to Make Money From Growing Cut Flowers.

Pick-your-own flowers for garden party decorations

In the field at Anna’s Country Flowers

Flower farmer’s garden party decorating tip:

Keep the flowers in a dark, cool place for as long as possible. We arranged them in vases on Friday and Saturday, but kept the vases in the basement until Sunday. It turned out to be a surprisingly hot weekend – if we’d put the flowers out in the marquee on Saturday, some of them would have wilted. If you don’t have a basement or cellar, put them in a shady room without heating and keep the curtains closed.

Mix it up garden party ideas

When we decorated a marquee for a party in our garden two years ago, we mixed up plain white hired tablecloths with three large round tablecloths we already had. It added a splash of colour to the marquee, and it didn’t matter that the cloths didn’t match.

Marquee and table settings

Although some garden parties look good with a theme, you can also create impact by mixing everything up.

Even though we didn’t have ten coloured tablecloths, and the none of the tablecloths matched, having just three really added a pop of colour to the party decorations.

Add mis-matched tablecloths, china and vases to the plain white hired cloths. Garden party decorations #garden

Mis-matched tablecloths, china and vases added a pop of colour to the marquee. We borrowed the bunting from a friend, too.

Use the smart china and glass outdoors too

A friend of mine has a fantasy of having a picnic on a mountainside, complete with family silver, ironed damask napkins, chandeliers and the finest bone china. I know what he means, though my china and candlesticks mainly come from charity shops and car boot fairs.

There’s no reason why things should get broken or damaged just because they’re being used outside. I love the contrast of using anything smart in the garden – I think our wedding present wine glasses are probably the smartest thing we have. It’s a pleasure to use them in the garden.

Cut-glass crystal looks just as good outside as it does inside.

Our cut-glass crystal ‘wedding glasses’ from over 25 years ago. We don’t use them very often, but I thought they would make an outdoor barbecue feel a bit more special.

At the other end of the spectrum, you could buy disposable plates and glasses to cut down on the washing up. These are now much better quality. I plan to buy these disposable ‘palm leaf plates‘ for my next outdoor party.

You can also hire garden party decorations. If you’re only going to use something once, it’s cheaper to hire than buy.

Coloured glasses really add atmosphere

Over the past two decades, I’ve bought three different sets of red glasses. I use them at Christmas, for autumn and winter table decorations, and I like them just as much outside in the summer, too.

Coloured glasses

It’s the night before the big party. We strung four different sizes of table together on the terrace to have a curry supper for 23.

I’ve bought red drinking glasses from Amazon in the past and like the look of these Duralex ones. (Links to Amazon are affiliate links, which means I may get a small fee if you buy by clicking on them.)

I also have some blue glasses – these are great at Easter and for adding to summer garden party ideas. Duralex have a nice Cobalt Blue version, that is worth checking out.

Think about where to place your table or tables

We had friends to stay recently. It was a hot night. So, instead of eating on the terrace as usual, we decided to put a table up on the lawn, near the flower beds.

It was a really, quick easy way to make the atmosphere feel special.  Everyone commented on how nice it was to be eating surrounded by flowers. And you get a different view of the garden, too.

Red and orange are good colours for a garden party

My Christmas tablecloth out in the garden surrounded by flowers.

I have a big orange tablecloth that I often use for Christmas decorating. In a summer garden, it looks completely different.

Garden party marquee and gazebo ideas

Hiring a marquee is a big investment, but it means you don’t have to worry about the weather.

There are now many different kinds of marquees, and this will affect the cost. You can hire traditional marquees, tipis, glamping tents and sailcloth tents.

You can also buy, hire or borrow smaller gazebos. These won’t be as good in very bad weather.

Pergolas are useful for parties

A small easy-to-put up pergola is a huge asset, but don’t put it up if you are expecting strong winds. A pergola at a barbecue for a family wedding in Spain.

A friend has a gazebo which she regularly lends to friends.  If someone has space to store one, then it could be worth sharing one between two or three families. This gazebo has lasted several years and lots of use. Of course, you can hire them, too, but if you’re sharing, it’s cheaper to buy.

Create an extra room with a gazebo

In fact, we borrowed this from a friend, but have fallen in love with it. It makes the terrace into ‘an outside room’. It was quick and easy to put up, although you do need three or four people to put up these slightly larger sizes.

After borrowing this gazebo, we did some research and bought one ourselves. See how to buy the best gazebo for your garden.  It lasted for four summer’s of frequent use, and when the top eventually ripped, we were able to order another one rather than buy a whole new gazebo. It only ripped because we left it up in heavy winds, which you are advised not to do.

If the marquee almost completely fills your garden…

Leave the sides up. It’s a lovely view of the borders and walls. We kept 2 sides on, to hide the messy vegetable patch, and also to protect it a bit from wind. But as the sides of the marquee go almost up to the borders’ edges, it’s going to be quite well protected even in bad weather.

Marquee party decorating

You can see the border and the garden wall instead of a marquee side.

Save money on the little choices…or not…

You can order various chair colours. Brown wood are the least expensive, but white is the next one up. We originally ordered brown, but were upgraded to white as they’d run out. I think the white is definitely a fresher, prettier look, so it may be worth spending the extra to get them.

Marquee decoration tips

The marquee is ready for guests, complete with all its garden party decorations….

Vintage china with white cloths

Mismatched vintage blue plates and blue country flowers with white hired tablecloths

Find out more garden party decorations here

Read my post on easy garden party ideas. Or if you’re giving a Christmas party, there are some useful thrifty tips in Zero Waste Christmas Decorations.

And there is some very good advice from the Frustrated Gardener blog on how to create a garden for entertaining.

Pin to remember these garden party ideas

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Garden party decoration ideas on a budget #gardenparty #garden


4 comments on "Garden party decorations – big parties on small budgets"

  1. Helen Illsley says:

    All so interesting thank you.

  2. JANICE CANDER says:

    Excellent,detailed, piece. On the ‘jam jar’ front, I’d just like to add that I have found Branston pickle jars, large and small, to be really good vases as there shape holds flower very successfully. I’ve even left the labels on sometimes, they take a while to wash off, the colours look funky with cut garden blooms!

    1. Great tips, and they’re lovely shaped jars too.

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