Tutorial: Garden Party


I said in jest a few weeks ago I was going to put together a tutorial for putting together a fun (and thrifty) garden party; I had such a sweet response, I decided to do just that, while a bit tongue-in-cheek.

I mostly got inspiration from the fact that a good friend of mine had a garden party of her own a couple of weeks ago and it was truly magnificent. With all of the visions that I had of having a dream garden party of my own, I think hers has definitely topped what I have in mind. Not only had she decided to look for a company that specialized in marquee hire in london as a temporary venue for her party, but all of the decorations that she decided to incorporate just complimented the ambiance of the marquee too, making her garden party the best one that I think I’ve ever been to.

If anything, I learned that a lot of planning would have gone into this, which is why I’m going to do my best here to try and explain how to pull off the garden party of your dreams (just like my friend did).

One month from your selected date:

Find invitations that make you want to throw a party. These did it for me. Then figure out how many folks you can invite. For my small home, 20 is about my capacity. (We did have to do the plate/fork wash and shuffle a couple times with some 23 friends and one little one in attendance.) I made my list, realizing there were far more I’d love to invite and will have to do this again. Then I headed off to the craft store with a coupon in hand to buy supplies. {I’ve blogged about these invites.}


I mailed 20 of these to girlfriends, for a grand total of $28, including the cost of the stamp and new ink. A garden party with champagne to be served. The only request was they bring a hat. I knew we’d be sitting outside on the “veranda” — as the African puts it so eloquently.

Three weeks from party date:

First tomatoes

Time to prep the earth to make sure you actually have a garden to be celebrating. I capitalized on a $1 sale at the local nursery on marigolds. {Blogged}


Some 60 were planted. I also encouraged the tomatoes to grow in leaps and bounds by deep watering and sweet talking. I’m not kidding about the talking. (Who cares what these guys say?) Plants do better and are more fruitful when you whisper sweet words to them. Call me the tomato whisperer. I’m okay with it. It’s also a good idea to make any necessary home repairs at this time, including a new garden gate. I’ve spent about $100 on the garden this year in supplies. Matty made the gate on his own dime. Also, we are so lucky that we decided to buy brand new garden furniture last year from a company similar to Remarkable Furniture, it just adds that special bit of glamour and relaxation that every party needs!

Two weeks from party time:


pile of new-to-me linens

If you’re ordering fresh produce for the day, now is the time to place your order, beverages too. You can also order wine online so no need to go to a supermarket. It can take a weight off your shoulders having supplies, like wine, delivered right to your front door. You can order at any time of the day and spend however long you want browsing the online selections and you don’t have to worry about transporting it from the shop to your home.

Take a bit of time to make sure you’ve got enough of the basics: glasses, napkins, table cloths, plates, chairs. I did not. So, I hit up the local thrift store and scored some vintage finds. And then I went to friends and asked to borrow cake plates, chairs and tables. This worked out nicely. I spent $61 buying household goods for the party, including new silverware and two platters from Ikea. I thought about getting myself a few sun loungers, so my guests can relax and enjoy their surroundings, I checked out some really nice sun loungers for sale to see which ones best suited the theme of my garden party without having to spend too much. It’s nearly time!

One week from party time:


Menu time! This is by far my favorite planning piece of the puzzle. I put together a menu mainly from the current issue of Cooking Light Magazine. This included:

Blackberry lime punch
White wine
Diet coke

Roasted fingerling potatoes and artichokes
Green chile egg casserole
Smoked salmon deviled eggs
Parmesan rolls

Ginger chocolate banana bread
Coconut cake
Chocolate chip cookies
Fruit salad
Let them eat cake

Double check with friends who’ve offered to bring items to the party. Meg brought the green chile egg casseroles, which were nothing short of amazing. Amanda and Juliann brought mimosa supplies. Tina brought cake plates and gifted me that amazing Easter centerpiece. (LOVE!) Shanlee and Rebecca brought tables and chairs. Also, send a reminder email to friends who you haven’t heard from.

Go to the market with a detailed list. Consider asking a friend to call that morning to see what else you need. (I did a 6 am run to the store, still in my jammies, for ice, fruit and a few other spices I needed and had forgotten.)

Day before:

Prep as much as possible, including getting the veranda, bathrooms and floors cleaned. Water the garden. Get the cake, cookies and bread in the oven. Bring out all the linens and dishes. Make sure everything is clean and as ironed as you fancy. Freeze fruit and water in a bundt pan to make a pretty ice cube for your punch bowl.

Fruit to freeze for bundt ice cube

Frozen fruit for punch

Have a glass of wine before calling it a night and remind yourself it doesn’t really matter if everything falls apart overnight. Your friends like pizza. They are awesome that way.

Day of:


Deviled Eggs




Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs

Parm herb bread

Parm herb bread

Banana ginger choco bread

Choco/oatmeal cookies

Choco/oatmeal cookies

The table is nearly set

Don’t do as I did and sleep in. Yes, I was at the grocery by 6, but I could have been up by 5 and not gotten everything done. I raced like a maniac to get the final cooking done and then juggled when two friends called that morning to say they were bringing guests. I’ve always operated with a “the more the merrier” attitude, but I did need to find more seats, plates, etc. Coincidentally, two friends who’d RSVP’d didn’t show. So everything jived.




Set an alarm for 1 hour before you expect your first guest. Make a commitment to get out of the kitchen at this point and go take care of yourself. I often give myself too little time to curl, prep and primp and then feel miserable even though everything else looks great. I was relieved I’d had the time to put on jewelry and a dress by the time the first guests arrived.

A few things I was very happy about:

  • I was able to cut fresh flowers from the garden for the party.
  • Matt helped cook the bacon and cut the pineapple for the fruit salad. He was such great help!
  • There was enough food, with cookies and cake going home to husbands and boyfriends.
  • New friends and old friends mixed and mingled and having this many people I love in my home made me giddy with delight.