‘Tis the season for garden parties.

Michelle Cousins shares easy tips for throwing a stylish soiree.

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Take It Outside

“Just because a dinner party is outside doesn’t mean you should sacrifice style or comfort,” says Michelle Cousins, owner of Michelle Leo Events.  She staged this soirée around a chic farm table paired with wood chairs. “Don’t limit yourself to outdoor furniture,” she says. Cousins dressed the table with a runner, explaining that “a linen tablecloth would be too formal.”

This pro also suggests you dine later in the evening to avoid the heat, provide lighting for after-dark entertaining, include bite-sized foods on the menu and consider on-site grilling. “The smell of grilled food adds to any outdoor dining experience.”

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Perfect the Palette

Vintage bread-and-butter plates purchased on Etsy inspired Cousins’ color palette. Multiple shades of blush, coral and fuchsia adorn the place settings and flowers.

“I look at a color as a guide and then branch out to shades and tones of the color to add depth and dimension. People get stuck on one color and one color family. Various shades and tones offers more opportunity,” says Cousins who also loves to add and mix metallics. “From silver to rose gold, metallics add depth and sparkle.”

Mix It Up

Cousin’s layered place settings include folded pink napkins, vintage patterned plates purchased online, wicker chargers from Cost Plus World Market and printed menus. Cousins hired a local artist to hand-paint the custom menu to complement the plates. “Regardless of the size of the party, a printed menu finishes a place setting and is a great conversation piece.”

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Finesse the Flowers

What’s a dinner table with out flowers? “Naked,” responds Cousins. “That is, except when a meal is served family style and plates of food become the centerpiece.” When setting a table with flowers, she suggests avoiding fragrant blooms that detract from the food aromas.

She also favors arrangements that allow guests to converse freely without having to look through or around the flowers. While this table’s centerpiece is large, the flowers are kept low and the candles are spread out to foster unobstructed conversations.


Michelle Cousins

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