Great garden party ideas start with thinking about how best to decorate your garden

Choose a garden party theme or color, maybe echo the colors of surrounding flowering shrubs and plants. Add tablecloths, seat cushions and napkins to reflect your chosen color palette. Draped fabric looks pretty for summer garden parties and will give extra protection from the sun if the weather is scorching.

Extend your theme into other areas by stringing up large brightly colored paper pompoms or other garden party decorations such as bunting. Flowers in the same shade add well thought out detail. A formal arrangement adds a sophisticated touch to a garden party, but less structured arrangements of simple blooms in containers such as jugs or jars will create an understated feel more in sympathy with the surroundings.


1. Create an instant party vibe

Nothing says there’s a party quite like simple balloons and bunting! Add a splash of color to your garden party table by decorating with striking colors. Hang bold bunting and balloons to instantly brightening the occasion. You can even make your own paper bunting, giving you total control over the color scheme.


2. Decorate with paper pompoms

Deck out your garden party with paper pompom decorations if you’re bored of bunting. Hang them from trees, beams, washing lines and window frames to create an instant and fuss-free party vibe. You can get crafty and make your own party decorations or buy them if you’re pushed for time. And if you’re making your own, use patterned paper to add a vibrant touch, go monochromatic for serious sophistication, or all white or all black for a striking display.


3. Set the table

If you’re looking to create a more formal garden party feel set the table as if you were hosting indoors. No need to be sparing on the attention to detail, dress the table with all the trimmings. Lay individual place settings with napkins and cutlery. Add a statement floral centerpiece or dot jam jars filled with flowers down the length of the table to add a more boho vibe.


4. Extend a warm welcome

Charm garden-party guests at the door with an all-singing, all-dancing display. Make them feel instantly welcomed and ready to party with a jolly greeting on arrival. More than just a great way to say welcome, a message board is ideal to highlight if you’re celebrating an occasion. Write a happy birthday message or anniversary dedication for all to see, to set the tone for the garden party. You can transform any surface into a message board with a simple coat of chalkboard paint.


5. Play lawn games

Garden party games are a fantastic ice breaker and will be a huge hit with guests of all ages. Stick to the classics such as hoopla and skittles and invest in good-quality wooden sets (no-one likes to see bits of lurid plastic dotted about the garden!). Classic wooden garden party games will look more sophisticated and will last for years to come. Croquet is an absolute garden party must, though the giant tumble tower looks pretty inviting too. Set out comfy deckchairs for spectators.


6. Get the party started with a pinata

Children – not to mention adults – love to play this fun garden party game. Fill the pinata with sweets and hang from a branch for all ages to take part and enjoy. Assign different areas of your outdoor space to different activities. Create lounging areas for grown ups interspersed with games-themed points for younger party goers and everyone will be happy.


7. Make plant pot party servers

Since you’re already in the garden, you might as well make use of the supplies at hand. Plant pots are a quirky but practical way to display garden party cutlery, napkins, straws and more – particularly when you choose dining accessories in complementary colors. Either use brand new ones or give your existing pots a good scrub and clean – you could even line them with a smaller drinking glass – then add chalkboard sticky labels with charming Alice in Wonderland-style directions.


8. Set out a Bake Off-style cake table

Set up a table of sweet treats. This tempting garden party cake display looks (almost) too good to eat, while the bold colors and mismatched prints create a fun, vintage feel. To add a competitive edge to your garden party, why not invite your guests to take part in your very own bake-off? Just ensure you get a list of entries in advance as you don’t want to end up with three Victoria sponges and no lemon roulade! And don’t forget the rosettes, which will look as pretty pinned to the wall as they will on the winners’ lapels.


9. Create a photo booth

No party is complete without a photo booth! Capture the fun times perfectly but a homemade booth, leave a camera out and some fun props to encourage guests to snap away. The garden provides the ideal backdrop to ensure beautiful photos.


10. Seek shade

Provide seating in shady areas so there is always somewhere for guests to sit back and people watch. Choose spots with pretty views out across the garden and use matching slip covers and coordinating cushions on mismatching chairs. Plus a garden party gazebo means the celebrations can go on even if it starts to drizzle.


11. Set up a bar

Buy garden-party glasses or move glassware and drinks into the garden so guests don’t have to keep returning to the house to refresh their glasses. Include ‘drinks stations’ like this one and dot them around your garden. It will mean guests can help themselves, leaving the host free to mingle to her heart’s content. This trunk is pretty in pink table linen and has been used as a perch for champagne, an ice bucket and glassware. Choose stylish pink and clear plastic over glass to avoid breakages on the terrace.


12. Make it personal

Keep tables smart and organized by giving out charms that will help guests keep track of their drinks – fix the charms around glass stems. Or send out invites that can double up as pretty drinks coasters on the night – ask your guests to bring them along to use at the party.


13. Light up the garden

Outdoor lanterns and lights are a must if you want to keep the garden party going once the sun goes down. Combining a selection of different styles creates a magical atmosphere reminiscent of the entrance to CS Lewis’s Narnia. If you don’t have a lawn for your lanterns, you can produce a similar effect by ‘planting’ them in large and sturdy pots on your patio or balcony. Go for solar-powered lights so you won’t have to scrabble around for extension cables or batteries.


14. Illuminate pathways

If you are lucky enough to have a large garden, it pays to signpost walkways so you can guide guests to different areas. Lines of paper-bag lanterns will help illuminate any uneven surfaces or steps and look pretty as a picture into the bargain. Use battery-powered lights rather than tealights inside the bags so you can leave them unattended. Pop a weight, such as a stone, inside each bag if conditions get breezy.


All your garden party needs now is a hearty dose of summer sunshine.