Garden party decorations – big parties on small budgets
Garden party decorations turn your party into an instant success.
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.
How to decorate an outdoor party on a budget
- 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.
- 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!
- If you’re buying or hiring a gazebo, check how weather resistant it is. See how to buy the best gazebo for your garden.
- Add as much colour as possible. Colours show up less outdoors, so you need more (tablecloths, coloured glasses etc) to create an impact.
- ‘Seasonal flowers’ are cheaper than having a particular colour theme. Mix it up!
- Combine bought flowers with garden greenery
- Use bottles and jam jars if you don’t have enough vases. Try charity shops for vases and tablecloths.
- Save money on the little choices – you can usually hire brown wood chairs more cheaply than white or gold
- Consider taking indoor furniture outside – this works well for smaller parties and means you hire or buy less
- 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.
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.
You can buy jam jars if you haven’t collected enough.
More easy garden party ideas…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Find out more garden party decorations here
And there is some very good advice from the Frustrated Gardener blog on how to create a garden for entertaining.
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