Garden Party Ideas for Celebrating the Season in Style

Kentucky Derby Party at Zero George in Charleston, SC Mint Juleps
Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Rachael Burrow

Whether we're planning an al fresco Easter luncheon, May Day gathering, Kentucky Derby watch party, or a summer soirée, the garden party is the epitome of elegant outdoor entertaining. Bring on the Derby attire, beautiful blooming centerpieces, and host of delicious party fare that'll have all your guests raving. These garden party ideas include everything from simple floral centerpieces to recipes for salads, sides, and plenty of cocktails to keep everyone refreshed. We also suggest easy touches that go a long way, like monogramed napkins and paperweight place cards, which double as party favors should your occasion require it. Pour yourself an Elderflower Champagne Cocktail, set out the Egg Salad Sandwiches, and get to celebrating the spring and summer season in style.

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Garden Party Veggie Pots

Individual Veggie Pots for Easter Themed Garden Party
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Katie Jacobs

Stuff sliced cucumbers, small broccoli florets, and tiny tomatoes into terracotta pots so that guests can grab their own individual serving of veggies for the dip station.

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Signature Cocktail Station

Set up a drink station with a signature cocktail—in batch form.
Laurey W. Glenn

Avoid playing bartender with a big-batch cocktail station. Mix up a simple signature cocktail that's easy enough to recreate when the pitcher or decanter starts to get low.

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Spring Salad with Berries and Bacon

Spring Salad with Berries and Bacon
Johnny Autry; Food and Prop Styling: Charlotte L. Autry

Recipe: Spring Salad with Berries and Bacon

Serve this light, colorful salad as a starter at your garden party. Pass the bowl family style or make individual plates for each guest.

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Monogramed Napkins

Garden Party Table Setting with Pink Peonies
Robbie Caponetto

If you're hosting a super-special garden party (perhaps a bridal shower), monogramed napkins are an elegant tabletop accessory and perfect party favor.

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Elderflower Champagne Cocktail

Elderflower-Champagne Cocktail with flower ice cubes
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Katie Jacobs

Recipe: Elderflower Champagne Cocktail

Make it a garden cocktail party with this fun, fizzy Elderflower Champagne Cocktail. Substitute for Prosecco if you don't love rosé, but don't skip on the floral ice cubes.

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Egg Salad Sandwiches

Egg Salad Sandwiches
Jen Causey

Recipe: Egg Salad Sandwiches

The texture of this egg salad is perfect for sandwiching between two thin slices of white bread. The recipe makes 44 finger sandwiches, which is plenty for a your al fresco affair.

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Dress for the Occasion

Kentucky Derby Party at Zero George in Charleston, SC Mint Juleps
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Rachael Burrow

We all love a casual gathering, but sometimes, dressing up is just the thing we need to lift the mood.

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Spring Butter Bar

Spring Compound Butters
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Ginny Branch; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Spring Compound Butters

Bring out a loaf of crusty bread and these butters need no other companion. Orange-Tarragon, Honey-Mustard-Chive, and Herbed Chèvre Butters are offered here, but feel free to mix in your own preferred herbs and condiments.

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Down the Rabbit Hole

Alice In Wonderland Tea Party
Nicole Jansma Photography

If you want to do a themed garden party, there's no better example than Alice in Wonderland. Pick up different dish ware that feature illustrations of Lewis Carroll's beloved book—and perhaps take a page or two from the sets of the movies, Tim Burton, cartoon, and otherwise.

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Raspberry White Chocolate Meringue Cookies

Raspberry-White Chocolate Meringue Sandwich Cookies
Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Recipe: Raspberry White Chocolate Meringue Cookies

Throwing a springtime garden party? You need to serve these rose-shaped cookies, which double as a decorative and tasty addition to your table.

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Stock the Bar

4th of July Outdoor Party Bar Cart
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

When it comes to decorating, don't forget your bar. A few color coordinated serving pieces, garnishes, and bubbles can go a long way.

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Floral Place Cards

Pink Petal Place Cards
Eric & Jamie Photography

Keep in with the floral theme and find cute, watercolor place cards that display the blooms of the season. It'll be a cute memento for guests to take home.

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Garlic Butter Shrimp Cocktail

Garlic Butter-Roasted Shrimp Cocktail
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Prop Styling: Karin Olsen; Food Styling: William Smith

Recipe: Garlic Butter Shrimp Cocktail

Now this is a fancy pass-around that couldn't be easier. Set it out on the buffet spread and watch it disappear—Garlic Butter gives the shrimp a boost of flavor, and the homemade cocktail sauce takes it over the top.

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Olive Cheese Sandwiches

Olive-Cheese Sandwiches
Southern Living

Recipe: Olive Cheese Sandwiches

This is a grown-up version of a beloved childhood treat, the grilled cheese sandwich. Cut into dainty squares, they make great finger food.

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Herb Centerpieces

Basil, Lemon Grass, Rosemary, and Plumbago Container Garden
Robbie Caponetto; Styling: Mark Thompson

Who said flowers must be the centerpiece of a garden party? Try herbs instead—they'll lend a delicate perfume to the tablescape.

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Cherry Blossom Cocktail

Cherry Blossom Cocktail
Antonis Achilleos, Prop Stylist: Christine Kelly, Food Stylist: Ali Ramee

Recipe: Cherry Blossom Cocktail

Spring always announces its arrival with an explosion of cherry blossoms. Make this the signature cocktail of your event and have some cherry blossoms on hand as a garnish.

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Tomato Tea Sandwiches

Tomato Tea Sandwiches
Greg DuPree; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Cat Steele

Recipe: Tomato Tea Sandwiches

Our Test Kitchen declares that the classic tomato sandwich belongs at every gathering, and the garden party is no exception. Crunchy toasted bread, punchy red onions, and cream cheese make these super-simple sandwiches something special.

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Dainty Place Cards

The Linens
Photo: Erica George Dines

Don't have your guests scrambling for a seat. With a dainty place card, they'll know exactly where to sit.

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Floating Arrangements

Modern Garden Party Touches
Eric & Jamie Photography

Garden party floral arrangements don't need to be elaborate to wow. Here, we used orange tulips and a large pink peony to add a modern feel to an arrangement that is otherwise quite simple.

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Spring Vegetable Frittata

Vegetable and Goat Cheese Frittata
Photo: Jennifer Causey  

Recipe: Spring Vegetable Frittata

If you're worried about juggling one too many dishes at the garden party, let the Spring Vegetable Frittata swoop in and save the day. It's so pretty it practically plates itself, and you can serve it in the baking dish.

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Heirloom Linens

Use Heirloom Linens
Photo: Jennifer Davick

There's nothing like a personal touch at a party, and heirloom linens are hard to beat. The older, the better. Bonus points if you have the family crest or monogram on the napkins.

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Mini Tomato Sandwiches with Bacon Mayonnaise

Mini Tomato Sandwiches With Bacon Mayonnaise
Victor Protasio

Recipe: Mini Tomato Sandwiches with Bacon Mayonnaise

The BLT gets gussied up to become a barely-recognizable, fanciful finger food. Be sure to choose top-notch tomatoes, because if you don't, even the Bacon Mayonnaise won't save them.

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Strawberry Fields Cocktail

Strawberry Fields Cocktail
Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Styling: Christine Keely

Recipe: Strawberry Fields Cocktail

Gin and tonic plus fresh strawberry syrup make for a summery cocktail your guests can't get enough of.

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Grilled Shrimp-and-Squash Pasta with Summer Herbs

Grilled Shrimp and Squash Skewers with Herbed Couscous
Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Recipe: Grilled Shrimp-and-Squash Pasta with Summer Herbs

This elegant dish will wow at a summer dinner party. It features two types of summer squash, succulent shrimp, and plenty of fresh herbs that ring in the start of the season.

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Summer Cobbler Cocktail

Summer Cobbler Cocktail
Helen Norman; Prop Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller; Food Styling: Marian Cooper Cairns

Recipe: Summer Cobbler Cocktail

If you're sitting on a pile of fresh blackberries, this cocktail will be a no-brainer. Grand Marnier, white whiskey, and fresh lime juice pair with blackberry preserves for a sweet drink reminiscent of Grandma's cobbler.

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Double Duty Place Cards

Use Double-Duty Place Cards
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Looking for a party favor? Turn place cards into personalized paper weights.

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French 75

French 75
Southern Living

Recipe: French 75

Your garden party can be the soirée of the season if you serve the classy French 75. For the newcomers, it's gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and just a dash of champagne. Santé!

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Summer Tortellini Salad

Summer Tortellini Salad Recipe
Photo: Ralph Anderson

Recipe: Summer Tortellini Salad

If you plan on devoting most of your energy to beautiful desserts, cocktails, and décor, plan on serving this Summer Tortellini Salad as the main dish. Pre-made pasta ensures that everything's a breeze: You only need 10 minutes of active time.

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Lemonade Bar

Lemonade Iced Tea
Jennifer Davick

For the non-cocktail crowd, set up a lemonade bar with tea and lemonade, plus garnishes, for guests to mix and match.

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Kale-Citrus Salad with Bacony Pecans

Ann’s Kale-Citrus Salad with Bacony Pecans
Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Margaret Monroe Dickey; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Recipe: Kale-Citrus Salad with Bacony Pecans

Say what you want, but kale is delicious, and with the addition of pecans, which we toasted in bacon drippings, we might elevate its status to divine.

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Grapefruit Gin Slush Cocktail

Grapefruit Gin Slush
Caroline Rogers

Recipe: Grapefruit Gin Slush Cocktail

On the hottest summer days, nothing sounds better (to the grown-ups, at least) than a slush. Puckering grapefruit meets gin in this rendition.

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An Egg-Cellent Touch

An Egg-cellent Idea
Photo: Helen Norman, Styling: Matthew Mead

An Easter garden party wouldn't be complete without the ubiquitous egg. Fill cleaned shells with candy and flowers before nesting them on antique silver for an elegant (but easy!) touch.

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Honeysuckle Lemonade Cocktail

Walden Bar Honeysuckle Lemonade Cocktail

Recipe: Honeysuckle Lemonade Cocktail

This summer sipper featuring honeysuckle vodka absolutely belongs at a garden party. Plus, it's easy to make a double or triple batch to serve a crowd.

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Sunflower Cupcakes

Sunflower Cupcakes
Photographer: Alison Miksch Food Stylist: Erin Merhar Prop Stylist: Prissy Lee

Recipe: Sunflower Cupcakes

Few flowers elicit the same joy and reaction as the sunflower. These cupcakes are guaranteed to light up the party.

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Lemon-Tarragon Potato Salad

Lemon-Tarragon Potato Salad
Greg DuPree; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Christine Keely

Recipe: Lemon-Tarragon Potato Salad

Is it really a Southern gathering without some form of potato salad? No, it's not. And this one is bright and zesty, perfect for warmer weather.

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Pineapple Flowers

Carrot-Pineapple Mini Bundt Cakes with Buttermilk-Vanilla Glaze
Cedric Angeles; Prop Styling: Claire Spollen; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Pineapple Flowers

These edible flowers will dress up everything from the Bundt cake to your table setting, and add a little sunshine while they're at it.

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Hang String Lights

Outdoor String Lights Above Picnic Table
Jennifer Davick; Styling: Elizabeth Demos

If you're planning an all-day affair that will last into the evening, string lights are the back-pocket trick to adding a touch of romance to warm summer evening.

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Lemon Naked Cake with Flower Crown

Naked Lemon Cake with Flower Crown
Photo: Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Torie Cox; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke

Recipe: Lemon Naked Cake with Flower Crown

Impress your guests with a seasonal cake that looks too pretty to eat. Don't be intimidated, the impressive results are all owed to a lemon cake mix and simple lemon buttercream.

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Summer Orzo Salad

Summer Orzo Salad
Jennifer Causey; Food Stylist: Melissa Gray

Recipe: Summer Orzo Salad

This summery pasta salad is packed with the season's best tomatoes, crunchy pistachios, and topped off with a zesty basil pesto and creamy feta. It feels fancy but will only take 20 minutes of active time.

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Apple Rose Tart

Apple Rose Tart
Photographer: Jennifer Causey Food Stylist: Melissa Gray Prop Stylist: Christina Daley

Recipe: Apple Rose Tart

Sure, apples may be a year-round pantry staple, but they form beautiful flowers only worthy of spring.

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Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad

Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad
Jennifer Causey; Food Styling: Melissa Gray

Recipe: Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad

Sun-dried tomatoes are a summer staple, so what better way to enjoy it than in a pasta salad? It's a fun addition to the table and a refresher from the usual (but still loved) sides.

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Grapefruit Rosemary Mimosas

Grapefruit-Rosemary Mimosa
Jennifer Causey, Prop Stylist Lindsey Lower, Food Stylist Torie Cox

Recipe: Grapefruit Rosemary Mimosas

This pretty pink drink sure is a stunner. Make the rosemary simple syrup ahead of time so you have it on hand for the garden party.

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Sunflower Centerpieces

Picnic-Perfect Centerpiece
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

The great thing about sunflowers is that even each individual bloom has a wow factor. Create simple centerpieces by choosing cute, disposable paper cups and topping each one with a sunflower head.

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Strawberry Rosé Snack Cake

Strawberry-Rosé Snack Cake
Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke

Recipe: Strawberry Rosé Snack Cake

Summer called, and it wants this cake. The rosé flavor comes through in a pleasant way that compliments the strawberries, which give the cake its dashingly pink hue.

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Cucumber-Chickpea Salad with Feta-Mint Vinaigrette

Cucumber-Chickpea Salad with Feta-Mint Vinaigrette
Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Recipe: Cucumber-Chickpea Salad with Feta-Mint Vinaigrette

Cool, light, refreshing—meet the ultimate garden party salad. While plating the salad will make for a stunning presentation, don't be afraid to serve it family style, either.

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Build a Charcuterie Board

Sara and Billy Jack Brawner's Waco, TX Home
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Paige Mullins

Consider this the appetizer that will please everyone of all ages. Load it with the season's best fruit and an array of specialty cheeses and preserves to create something your guests won't stop raving about.

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Monogramed Cocktail Bar

Cocktail Bar
Photo: Erica George Dines

Celebrating a special someone at your garden party? Give them a nod with a monogramed cocktail bar.

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White Cupcakes with Rose Petals

Rose Petal Cupcakes
Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Torie Cox; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke

Recipe: White Cupcakes with Rose Petals

Ultimate elegance comes in the form of these petal-laden cupcakes. If you want a dessert that will impress without taking loads of effort, this is the one. All it takes is a little swirl of frosting and a petal on top.

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Make It Pop With Poppies

Emily Copus Flower Arrangement Step by Step Inserting Poppies
Erin Adams

Poppies are a harbinger of summer, so be sure to add a few to your floral centerpieces. They add a cheerful pop of color that endear them to all.

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Fire Pit
Alison Miksch

If you party will extend into the evening, finish it off with a bonfire, some chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers. The adults might also appreciate a nightcap.

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