Eating al-fresco is one of summer’s pleasures. We recently wrote an article on hosting a garden party (link to previous blog) but today we want to talk about decorating your tables perfect for any such event you are planning on hosting.
Formal or informal?
What sort of an event are you planning on having? Are you just having a few friends around to lunch or a large evening barbecue for about 20? Or maybe you’re having morning coffee or a traditional afternoon tea party. Try and use the influence of your environment, whether your basing your garden party in an urban area or the countryside, make sure you use the surroundings to help put a unique twist on the theme.
The party you are hosting, whether large or small, is going to inform how you decorate your tables.
Let’s talk barbecue parties first
These are probably the outdoor parties we’re all most frequently invited to.
First off, you’re almost certainly going to serve the food buffet style. Our advice would be to actually have two tables - or even three if you can run to the space.
The area you’re going to be seated at can be laid very simply. Long refectory style tables work well here - with a shady umbrella if the weather is hot. Just lay out a simple cloth - plain white is always acceptable although you could go for something a bit more Provencal style if that’s your thing. Add flowers along the centre - a long line of flowers in a variety of vases looks fantastic.
Then at one end of the table arrange piles of plates, napkins wrapped around cutlery and water glasses. Guests can then help themselves to food and drinks and sit wherever they wish. (You don’t need to sort a seating plan here.)
On another table lay out salads, breads, cheeses (keeping them covered up until the last minute) (link to a food article on cooking at barbecues here on another site, BBC maybe), not forgetting knives and serving spoons.
It’s also a good idea to have a table dedicated to drinks. A large cool box filled with ice can hold wine, cans of fizzy drinks and bottles of water so people can help themselves. You can also put chilled glasses of iced water on the table and cordials. If the event is on a terrace with a hard floor then it’s certainly worth investing in acrylic glasses (in a variety of different jewel shades) so that you don’t stress out over breakages.
And if you’re hosting something a bit more formal
Sometimes it’s just glorious to eat outside, especially when summer is in full flow here in the UK. It doesn’t mean that you have to cook outside - you can just bring dishes out from the kitchen.
So if you’re hosting a small number to a dinner event - say a maximum of eight - then eating on a terrace in the evening can be very stylish.
Lay the table as formally as you would if you were eating in a dining room. Choose crystal glasses, proper cutlery and have flowers on the table (nothing too high that cuts into people’s eyelines as this will interrupt the conversation). White flowers look particularly good in the evening.
Metallics always work well out of doors, particularly if your garden is more modernist with architectural style ferns and bamboo.
It’s not very chic putting a plate directly onto a table - far better to add a cloth or mat. But rather than laying a table with a cloth (which can be awkward if you have a circular table) this is where stylish table mats and coasters from the Posh Trading Company (internal link to product here!) would look absolutely perfect.
Use coasters for pre-dinner drinks and then complete the look with metallic mats and coasters on the dining table itself. Use transparent glasses or smoky effect glasses depending on the colour scheme you’re working with. White napkins never look wrong (especially at a smart or formal event)but you might want to mix it up with napkins that match the table mats.
Keep everyone warm
Eating out of doors is fun, but it’s less enjoyable if the weather is chilly. Think about keeping your guests warm - there are a variety of options depending on your space. You could have a fire pit, a chimina or a patio heater. Rugs and blankets for bare knees are always welcome. Any kind of garden event will always need to be planned with a close eye on the weather forecast.
If you’re trouble with midges or mosquitoes, use citronella candles (but not too near the table) or have a fan nearby as insects don’t tend to like moving air.
Make sure to tag us in any photos (social links below!) you take of your neatly laid tables at your next event!