When the weather warms, and the flowers bloom—when the grass becomes as green as the leaves overhead, it seems as though we all inhale and gear up for a season spent outdoors. Some of us will gather on the lawns of public parks, or in the stands of a baseball game. Others will bask in the sunlight on a river, or take in the scene of crashing waves on a beach.
But for the hostess with the mostest, might we suggest spending warm afternoons hosting a chic garden party. This event, which can either take place in a backyard or at your local park, boasts the intimacy of a chilly night in but with the exuberance of a blue sky above. Guests can mingle under the trees with a cold drink in hand, chase one another during a relay race, recount stories by a bonfire, or share seconds at a buffet.
If you're eagerly awaiting long days soaking up the sun, plan to take it outside with these 25 garden party ideas that'll bring your loved ones together to stop and smell the roses. No matter how you choose to let loose, do it in the fresh air, under a warm sun, with your favorite people. You'll wonder why you haven't done this all along.
Insist on cocktail attire. A garden party can be as casual or formal as you choose. However, we can't think of a better time to bust out those long floral dresses and linen suits—plus, the like will make the night feel like a special event.
Set up a bar outside. Whether this is a bar cart or an impressive spread of drinks that spans an extra-long table, this will encourage guests to mingle al fresco. Make sure there are enough choices for every taste, or even designate a friend as a bartender.
Present various water options. Fill pitchers with different types of flavored water, ranging from cucumber to lemon and raspberry to lavender. Add ice, and this display will be as delicious as it is beautiful.
Get the grill going. A small party can reap the benefits of a steak dinner, while larger guests lists can chow down on burgers and hot dogs. Prep as much as you can the night before, so you're not stuck in the kitchen the entire evening.
Make bird feeders for the trees. And the sounds of birds chirping nearby to contribute to the soundtrack of your party. Just make sure to add this to your pre-party to-do list, too.
Decorate the trees with streamers. If you want to add even more color to your party, hang streamers from tree branches or wrap the branches themselves. The more colors there are, the easier it will be for guests to notice them.
Rely on a caterer. Some hostesses are just not cut out to cook for crowds. If this sounds like you, there's no shame in hiring a caterer for the main meal. When guests come, the pressure will be off, and you'll be free to mingle with the rest of them.
Create a playlist specifically for the party. Pick songs that boost the mood or keep a theme. Use Bluetooth speakers to make sure the sound is just right outside.
Build a makeshift seating area. Skip the chairs altogether and lay pretty rugs, cozy blankets, poufs, and oversized pillows on the grass. You'll be surprised how willing guests are to kick off their heels and lounge all evening long. Just don't forget to add a place where they can put down their drinks, too.
Go for a Gatsby theme. Can't think of a theme? Consider The Great Gatsby, since all of his parties took place mostly in his sprawling backyard. Ask guests to show up in their best roaring twenties attire, and get ready to dance the Charleston.
Make room for a dance floor. Even if you start the night off with moody jazz music, doesn't mean you can't have a dance floor ready to end the night with modern hits. String lights over the area, and it'll be irresistible with the right tunes.
Play a personalized Pictionary. For those who prefer to play games, encourage guests to break into teams, and challenge each other to a game of Pictionary. Take turns drawing scenes based on inside jokes, the location of the party, or common warm-weather items.
Light up the trees. If your garden has trees with thick branches, see about hanging lanterns on them for a beautiful arrangement. Fill the lanterns with battery-powered candles for a warm ambiance.
Design a photo booth. Yes, it's possible to create a photo booth with little time and effort—but the photos will capture memories for years to come. Using PVC pipe for the frame, cardboard for the backdrop, and zip-ties to hold it all together, fill the backdrop with a colorful arrangement of faux flowers, then use an app to take photos.
Repurpose leaves for name cards. If you're planning a sit-down dinner, write guests' names on large leaves to designate their seats at the table. A gold marker will look best.
Bring fresh flowers and greenery in by the truckload. It goes without saying that a garden party should have fresh flowers, but you can't have too many. Keep flowers or greenery in well-trafficked areas of the party, like the bar, the buffet, the dinner table, and even the bathroom.
Create a signature cocktail. Cocktail attire must come with drinks, naturally, and we think you should have one served explicitly for the occasion. Sangria is always a favorite, but you could also try a twist on a classic, like this orange pineapple Moscow mule from Half Baked Harvest.
Play a movie when it gets dark. Project a beloved film on a wall after dinner, and pass out bowls of popcorn, too.
Pass out sparklers. These will always be fun, no matter how old you are.
Have a few yard games ready. If your party is taking place in the afternoon, surprise guests with some throwback entertainment. Plan to play a few classic yard games, like a three-legged relay, croquet, or even a potato sack race. The winner gets a ribbon.
Hire a florist to teach a class. A small gathering can benefit from a hands-on lesson in creating a beautiful floral arrangement from a professional. Their bouquets can then be party favors.
Play Prosecco pong. Upgrade your favorite college game by creating pyramids out of coupe cocktail glasses and filling them with bottles of this bubbly Italian wine.
Light a fire pit. After the sunset, gather everyone around a fire pit complete with chairs and a few blankets. Refresh drinks, and the festivities will get a second wind.
Serve classic summertime desserts. Instead of fussing over a delicate dessert, harken back to childhood treats like popsicles, ice cream sandwiches, and s'mores.
Set up a scavenger hunt. Ask guests to try and find items around the outdoor space, ranging from a yellow leaf to a small rock, to a white flower, to even more challenging finds. The person who finds every item first wins.