Lessons learned from a fabulous outdoor fete


Prepare the yard ahead of time. Cut the lawn the day before the party and avoid watering it. Turn off the automatic sprinklers to avoid soaking guests. Deadhead existing flowering plants and add new annuals for color where needed. Stow hoses, tools and excess patio furniture out of sight.


String party lights to illuminate the table and gathering areas to create a festive vibe. Simple white lights are ideal for dressy and casual dinners alike. Adjust outdoor house lights so they don’t bully your party or shine directly on your guests. Make certain decorative garden lights operate and are timed to shine during the party.


Choose a long table rather than multiple round tables to establish a more intimate gathering. For a sit-down meal, get guests to mingle and move around by placing drinks and starters at separate tables where everyone helps themselves. Encourage guests to get up from the table and visit between servings of multi-course meals. Position place cards to pre-arrange seating and prevent confusion among guests.


Create a runner of foliage like ivy to anchor a table-long centerpiece. Add low glass votives holders and vases of summer blooms. Place a few elegant tapers for height and drama. Avoid scented candles, as guests may be allergic and the smell can clash with the food. Be careful not to clutter or overcrowd the table. Include menus and place cards to personalize the evening.


Choose one or two colors to establish your palette and theme. Too many colors can be  chaotic and circus-like. Use a white tablecloth as a classic, neutral base and use colored napkins, glassware, place cards and even chairs to enrich your setting. Cool hues, like this party’s teal and blues, foster a lush, fresh feel for an evening soiree.

Click here for a look at Chef Tom’s latest private pop-up dinner.

Previous articlePop Goes the Party
Next articleWater Colors