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There’s just something so picture perfect about a garden party…but they don’t come together on their own (unfortunately). To elevate your outdoor entertaining efforts this season (and beyond), we turned to our inspiring pal, Abby Capalbo, editorial stylist and master of the casually elegant fete, for ten simple tricks that make a world of difference. (And for more of the best hosting ideas, head to our Pinterest entertaining board.)

RELATED: 16 Lovely Little Hostess Tricks That Will Make Guests Adore You

multiple beverage stations garden party ideas

Set Up Multiple Beverage Stations

Never, we repeat never, slave away as bartender at your own party. Instead, let your guests do the work for you. Roll your bar cart outside, arrange ice buckets on the potting bench and set trays of drinks across your tables—do whatever you need to do to make sure guests have easy access to DIY drinks (think: easy-grab wine and beer options or pitchers of a pretty, pre-made signature cocktail).

Styling: Abby Capalbo; Photography: Erin McGinn

water stations garden party ideas

But Don’t Forget About Water

Steamy summer days mean easy dehydration. So be sure to encourage your guests to keep hydrated. Display bottles of sparkling water for mocktails thoughtfully (hello there, galvanized metal milk crate) and place drink dispensers filled with fragrant spa water throughout the party.

Styling: Abby Capalbo; Photography: Erin McGinn

have food from the start garden party ideas

Feed Your Guests from the Get-Go

A bonkers-amazing appetizer spread to greet guests upon arrival (see: a heaping cheese plate descended from heaven) will forgive any number of other party shortcomings. Plus, ample nourishment right away will keep guests from, erm, over-imbibing too early. But the best, best, best part? Finger food makes for the easiest outdoor assembly.

Styling: Abby Capalbo; Photography: Erin McGinn

supply sunscreen bug repellant garden party ideas

Put Sunscreen and Bug Spray Out in the Open

It may not be a glamorous part of al fresco party planning, but placing outdoor essentials like sunscreen, citronella candles and bug spray in view will help avoid uncomfortable guests. Tuck these essentials somewhere accessible (like just below your drinks station) and save your guests the trouble of snooping through your medicine cabinet for something they need.

Styling: Abby Capalbo; Photography: Erin McGinn

wild flowers garden party idea

Forage Your Own Florals

An outdoor fete should never be too precious—and that includes floral arrangements. The beauty of a summertime soiree is there is so much at the ready. Simply scour your own yard for flowering branches, a few choice blooms or greenery to keep costs down (and make your guests think it was all effortless).

Styling: Abby Capalbo; Photography: Erin McGinn

consistent color palette garden party ideas

Keep a Consistent Color Palette

A party always feels more like a special occasion when there is a recognizable color scheme from start to finish. No need to pull out all the stops, though—you can easily achieve this with linens alone (using a blue printed napkin to tie in a blue tablecloth, etc.). It’s the little things.

Styling: Abby Capalbo; Photography: Erin McGinn

ambiance garden party ideas

Add Ambiance with String Lights

Do you spend the months between January and October mourning the absence of holiday twinkle lights? This is the perfect opportunity to pull them out of storage and string them on a tree or fence. Ditto curating a festive playlist. Elevated outdoor lighting and some good tunes whisk the party from cocktail hour to late night seamlessly.

Styling: Abby Capalbo; Photography: Erin McGinn

extra comfy garden party ideas

Keep Your Guests Warm with Blankets

If it tends to get chilly at night, take your thoughtful hostessing to the next level by having blankets and heat lamps (or best of all, a nice toasty fire pit) at the ready. Alternatively, if you’re in an extra warm climate, make sure your gathering areas are amply shaded, or schedule your party for when the sun starts setting to avoid any unpleasant sweatiness.

Styling: Abby Capalbo; Photography: Erin McGinn

simple seasonal dinner garden party ideas

Make Dinner Simple, Seasonal and Shareable

A simple menu is essential so you can actually enjoy yourself, your company and the weather (without carrying a zillion trays of food outside). A foolproof al fresco spread? A few family-style fresh and simple salads, and a main course that’s easily steamed or cooked outside on the grill. (Hello, clambake).

Styling: Abby Capalbo; Photography: Erin McGinn

special dessert garden party ideas

Send Guests Off With Something Special

A simple, sweet treat for the ride home always leaves an impression (and inspires guests to up their own garden party game). And besides, no one will ever say no to a homemade chocolate chip cookie or miniature cupcake to go. You nailed this thing, sister.

Styling: Abby Capalbo; Photography: Erin McGinn

RELATED: 30 Things You Need To Do Before Houseguests Arrive

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