How to dress your garden table for a party

With many of us looking to staycation in 2021 and lockdown restrictions starting to ease as we move towards summer, here at Lazy Susan we’re hoping mother nature is kind so we can have our close friends and family over for a garden party. However, if you want to make it truly special, then you need to know how to dress your garden table for a party!

I think it’s fair to say the last 12 months or so have been incredibly difficult for us all. Lockdown after lockdown, not seeing friends and family, it has taken a toll. For me personally, one of the hardest parts was not being able to have a weekend away. A trip to the coast. A city break.

Here at Lazy Susan, we’ve been extremely fortunate though. As an online retailer we were able to work remotely, put measures in place in our warehouse to keep staff safe, and it was a case of business as usual. Or should that be business as unusual? 

And whilst our gardens have always been important to us, during the pandemic they’ve taken on even greater significance. There’s still the possibility we could be allowed to travel abroad this summer but the general feeling at Lazy Susan HQ is that many of us will leave it for another year.

However, the one thing we are all talking about is seeing friends and family. But with Covid still a very real concern, meeting outdoors is still the safest and best (even after 17th May) option. So, we want summer 21 to be all about the garden party. Lazy Living style. Embrace being together with close friends and family with a spot of alfresco dining.

But… Just because you’re dining outside, it doesn’t have to mean paper plates and plastic forks. Not that there’s anything wrong with paper plates and plastic forks. There’s some great options on the market when it comes to disposable partyware. The point we were trying to make is you can make it formal or casual, a Lazy Susan garden table can be dressed for any occasion. Beer and a BBQ with next door or champagne brunch with the girls, we’ve got you covered.

Our Do Some Good Photo Gallery also has some great garden party photos that have been kindly shared by Lazy Susan customers. This article is the perfect opportunity for us to share some of our favourites, give you a little inspiration, but more of those later.

Any good host knows, the food and drinks are only the half the battle when it comes to throwing a good garden party. As the master chef mantra goes; “we eat with our eyes first”. It sounds odd but food definitely tastes better if it is well prepared and served on good quality plates and a well-dressed table. “Champagne from a plastic cup never tastes as good” is another. And there’s scientific research to back this up too. Charles Spence an Oxford professor in experimental psychology stated in an article in the Guardian on this subject that; “people's perception is typically dominated by what their eyes see”.

Trust Lazy Susan! ...Well presented, beautiful food served on a well presented, beautiful table will significantly enhance the overall enjoyment of your garden party. Your guests will appreciate the effort, you will make them feel special, and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. For us, the best garden parties are about presentation and the ambience this helps to create.

Make it special

Simply.Weekend's BBQ Garden Party 

Even if you’ve just got 6 friends over for a spot of brunch or afternoon tea, make it special. Nothing says garden party like some beautifully arranged decor such as bunting and a coordinating table cloth on your Lazy Susan garden table. 

We’re big fans of handmade vintage fabric bunting. Simply.Weekend has captured this look perfectly in the photos (above and below) that she tagged us in last summer on Instagram. And Phoebe’s table dressing looks wonderful too. If you’re in the market for bunting, handmade and vintage style, our advice would be to start with Etsy.

Simply.Weekend setting her Lazy Susan Garden Table for a party 

Our White Garden Furniture is also perfect for creating the relaxed boho look too. However, it can also be dressed up for a more formal dinner party.

And, if you are planning on going down the more formal route with an outdoor dinner party, then why not dress the table just as you would if hosting indoors?

Attention to detail is key. Dress the table. Placemats, napkins, cutlery, the 5 star treatment!

Set the table

Formal or informal, a well set table is still essential in our opinion. And by formal we’re not necessarily talking best china and crystal. We are in the garden. However, a well set table sets the tone of your party, presentation is important, and it says to your guests that they’re important too

Even if you’re going down the eclectic boho chic route, with mix n match china, vintage fabrics, etc, making sure your guests have what they need in the right place is always a good thing.

In terms of plates, they should always be positioned in the centre of each place setting, starting from the outside, and moving in with each course. Cutlery should be set in the order of use, forks to the left of the your plate and knives to the right with the blade facing in. If you’re serving soup, the spoon sits to the right of each knife

For dessert, the fork (if needed) and/or spoon should sit above the plate with the fork heading pointing to the right and the spoon head to the left. Side plates always sit to the left of your dinner plates, whilst all glassware/drinking cups (champagne in a teacup is a favourite with the Lazy Susan team and I) should sit above and to the right of each dinner plate.

As a general rule, we try and space each item around 3 to 4 cm apart, and when it comes to our garden party preference, at Lazy Susan we go for a casual table setting every time. Keep it simple and relaxed, inviting for your guests, everything they need to enjoy the meal, dress the table to make a statement, but nothing too fussy.

Tablecloth

Nothing says garden party to us more than a freshly laundered summery tablecloth on a Lazy Susan Garden Table. Of course you don’t need one to protect the table, they’re metal, so not an issues, but it does make them look fab. A good tablecloth should fall at least 30 cm from the top of the table and no lower than 20 cm above your patio/lawn.

At Lazy Susan we’re big fans of the Jolee range of tablecloths. They offer a wide range of fabrics, they can be purchased in different shapes and sizes (so regardless of whether you have a round or rectangular Lazy Susan Garden Table, they’ll have one to fit), and you can specify if you want a parasol hole included or not. 

But most importantly they have a stunning range of different fabrics, prints and colours to choose from such as the Modern Leaves Oilcloth tablecloth pictured below. It features a beautiful taupe, ochre and duck egg colourway, and is made from a wipe clean oil cloth with a matte finish. Most importantly, it is perfect for outdoor use:

Jolee Tablecloth

Placemats

The placemat is another critical element. They not only look beautiful but they frame each setting and provide a stable area for plates, etc. Position them in front of each Garden Chair and try to leave around 30 - 40 cm between each guest to provide a little elbow room. 

With our tables, we always feel a combination of a soft cloth placemat with a charger functions (and looks) the best. At Lazy Susan we are big fans of the Danish company Hay, and their Contour Placemats (pictured below in Lemon) are a winner for us. It is just a simple rectangular cotton with sewn edges in a contrast colour. Sold as a set of four and available in various colour options, it will frame each setting but compliment your tablecloth/tableware without trying to clash/steal the show.

Hay Placemats

Napkins

A good napkin is also essential, regardless of the type of napkin, it’s just polite to offer them. If you’re folding, then pop it to the left of that plate under the forks. If you want to make a feature of them, then sit them in the centre of the plate/charger. 

And as we’re talking Garden Party, for us a good quality paper napkin is the perfect choice. If you want to go a little more formal, then by all means go for cotton or linen. If you’re hosting more of a buffet style meal or BBQ, then by all means get that cutlery wrapped up in a napkin. 

Tableware

At the moment, many of us at Lazy Susan HQ are obsessed with the Ferm Living range of tableware. It is simply stunning. However, you don’t need to spend a fortune on tableware, and an eclectic mix of retro charity shop china can look just as good.

Bunting & Barrow Palm Garden Party Tableware

However, if you want Garden Party specific tableware, then our advice would be to click over to (but make sure you come back to Lazy Susan) Bunting & Barrow. Personally speaking, I’m not usually a fan of paper plates, but many of the Lazy Susan team had recommended them. And I have to admit, these are paper plates with a difference.

Their party packs help you dress your Garden Table with some fab themes, be it an Alice in Wonderland style tea party or our go to the boho. Their palm leaf wood sets are great if you’d like a tropical theme (pictured above). 

The big advantages if you go down the disposable tableware route is you’re not risking losing an expensive plate or glass,  it can be simply disposed of after, so no cleaning too. I guess it depends on the type of party, me personally, I like to make it special so the Ferm Living plates will take a trip outside.

Accessorise, Accessorise, Accessorise…

For us, it is the accessories that can make or break a Garden Party. And by that we mean you can take inexpensive items such as disposable plates and cups and dress them up to look truly special. This is what will pull a theme together, make the presentation special, and let’s be honest, this is the fun part. The bit where you can get creative.

Be it bunting, candles, place cards, napkin rings, etc, this is where you can really dress things up and work the theme. For us, the most important element in any Garden Party is the flowers though. Lots of them. Of course our gardens are full of them but that table centre piece needs to be a show stopper.

We feel the best way to accessorise your Garden Table and the wider garden/patio is to select a colour scheme and repeat it. 3 or 4 colours. Take inspiration from what’s already there, the planting in your garden, the table cloth. Build it up from there and focus on the details such as napkins, etc, tying them together by design or colour.

A warm welcome for your guests

We’ve resisted numbering these or putting them in any kind of ranked order. I guess by that we mean that all these elements are important, tailor them to your party, interpret them in your own way. This is one of those things that is just as important as a well set place or decor but is often overlooked. As with all in this post, do it your own way, get creative.

This is the first opportunity to impress your guests as they arrive, it could be something as simple as a personalised sign or gift, to a more elaborate all singing and dancing welcome. Obviously under current COVID restrictions we are limited, so you might have to get even more creative for your 6 until things ease.

But this should also be more than just a way of saying welcome and come in to your guests, this is a way to sell the day/evening, direct people to where the party is, offer a drink on arrival, introduce any themes and announce if the party is a special occasion such as birthday or baby shower

Say it with flowers

We touched on this above under accessories but we feel that flowers are such a key component in a garden party, that we all agreed to add this section in too. They are what make a garden party truly feel like a party in the garden. The spot you are hosting and any tables, etc should in our opinion be bursting with them. A floral centrepiece on your table or smaller bunches of flowers dotted up and down the table are essential in our opinion.

Provide shade and shelter

This post is about how to dress your garden table for a party. In the UK we can easily see 4 seasons in one day. So, it is best to be prepared for all eventualities. Even moving inside if need be.

Garden Parasol 

Make sure there is shade for those that want it. A Lazy Susan Garden Parasol (pictured above) is a must. If you want to stay outside and your garden has no shelter from the rain, then a large waterproof gazebo is also a good idea. You can pick them up from the likes of Amazon (see picture below) for around the £100/£150 mark and trust us they can save a party. Easy to put up, easy to store and easy to secure in place.

Garden Gazebo 

If on the other hand we get a warm sunny day, then we think it best to set up a range of seating options. In shade, around tables, etc. Lots of Garden Cushions to ensure guests are comfortable too.

Set the mood

This section follows on from the above. We’d also advise that, even in the summer months, there’s ambient lighting and a heat source. Outdoor lanterns, candles, blankets, fire pit, patio heater, etc for when the sun goes down. It can get chilly and good lighting cannot only keep the party going but create a great atmosphere/set the mood.

When it comes to lighting there’s some great options on the market, from solar powered to tiki torches. As for warmth, you can’t beat cosy blankets and a fire pit.

And just as important as heat and light to creating a party vibe is of course the music. No blaring drum and bass or techno but something that’ll fit with the theme and tastes of your guests? Some nice Ibiza patio style Balearic downtempo or Northern Soul is the consensus vote at Lazy Susan HQ.

How to dress your garden table for a party videos

If you want a little further inspiration, then the following videos are sure to get you in the garden party mood…  

Set the table for agarden dinner party with Ashlyn Carter

This video from Ashlyn Carter kicked off her new Set The Table series. In it she shares inspiration and ideas for throwing a party or dinner party. This is a great place to start planning your next garden party.

Garden Picnic Party Setup with Sarlea Mah

If you do want to setup a casual but beautiful picnic style garden party for your friends, then this video from Sarlea Mah will start you off down the right path. Our old favourite the wooden pallet even gets an invite.

Affordable Backyard Decor, Fire Pit, and Fun! by Ohana House Co.

We love this video from the Ohana House Co. It has some fab backyard party ideas, whether you're celebrating a birthday or just having a family bbq, there’s some great decor ideas for those on a budget.

Outdoor Entertaining 101 by Style Me Pretty

If you want to host a more formal style outdoor dinner party, then this video from Style Me Pretty has some fantastic tips to help show you how to dress your garden table for a party.

Afternoon tea Party by MelissasPinkWorld

Us Brits love a spot of afternoon tea, and this great video by MelissasPinkWorld shows how she set up a garden party for two during lockdown.

30 Ways Garden Party Design Decorations Ideas by Front Yard Landscaping Ideas

And last up we have this great video from Front Yard Landscaping Ideas showing us how garden party design decor can help take your party to the next level. There’s some great DIY tips and some fab garden party menu ideas, along with some great inspiration on how to dress your garden table for a party.

Lazy Susan Customers’ Garden Party Photos

As for the Lazy Susan Customer Photographs promised in the intro, here's a selection of our favourites for inspiration. Theres some great inspiration here that shows you how to dress your garden table for a party. You can view more in our Gallery

Garden Party Customer PhotosGarden Party Customer PhotosGarden Party Customer PhotosGarden Party Customer PhotosGarden Party Customer Photos
Garden Party Customer Photos
Garden Party Customer Photos
Garden Party Customer Photos
Garden Party Customer Photos
Garden Party Customer Photos

The important thing to remember when it comes to dressing your garden table for a party is that you’re the host. Do what you want. Rules are there to be broken we say. Whatever you do, just make sure your guests feel special. Effort will be appreciated. Good presentation, whichever route you go down, be it formal  or super casual picnic style, will always win people over.

…And remember, it needs to be fun for you too!

If you do have a Garden Party on your Lazy Susan Garden Table this summer, then we’d love to see some pictures. Simply send us your snaps to [email protected] or share on Instagram or Facebook and tag us @lazysusanfurniture. For every photo you send us showing our furniture dressed for a party, we’ll make a donation to one of our Do Some Good charity partners.