20 garden party ideas: dinner, movies, and birthdays al fresco

These garden party ideas will transform your garden into an inviting space for entertaining – no matter the time of year, or the size of your outdoor space

Garden party ideas
(Image credit: Ikea)

These garden party ideas will make you want phone all your friends right now and throw a garden party this weekend. Rain or shine, there are lots of ways to transform your garden, patio, or even balcony into a welcoming and cosy space for conversation, dinner, or even a birthday celebration.

Whether your garden parties are all about the barbecue, gathering around an open fire, or simply enjoying a cup of tea with a couple of friends in a gorgeous setting, we have lots of inspiring garden ideas to help you throw a party your guests will talk about for months. 

  • When you're done being inspired, hop over to our feature on how to design a garden from scratch for more clever ideas.

1. Create a garden party theme

Talking Tables Boho Cups Llama And Floral Plates Napkins Llama Pinata Pom Pom Food Picks And Table Lights

(Image credit: Talking Tables)

If you're decorating your garden for the party, choosing a theme will make it punchier visually. Wish you were throwing a garden party in the tropics somewhere? Why not recreate a luscious tropical atmosphere with colourful accessories and a piñata. Add some bright cushions and hanging decorations, and you're good to go...

This garden party setting has been put together with the Boho range of accessories from Talking Tables. 

2. Pick barbecue that's ready to cook in three minutes

Lotus Grill Smokeless BBQ from Cuckooland

(Image credit: Cuckooland)

With the unpredictability of British weather a constant barbecue party issue, this garden party idea is a real find. The Lotus Grill from Cuckooland is ready to cook only three minutes after lighting – and it's smokeless, too (but don't worry, you'll still get that characteristic barbecue flavour in your food). Win win.

Want a bigger BBQ? A gas BBQ or perhaps even a smoker grill? Find all the summer's best barbecues in our buyer's guide.

3. Light up the garden for a night-time party

Acid drop light by Curiosa & Curiosa

Acid drop lights, Curiosa & Curiosa

(Image credit: Curiosa & Curiosa)

To make sure your garden party continues seamlessly into the evening, prepare with plenty of outdoor lighting. Mix and match different types, from tea lights to lanterns, for a really pretty, luminous effect. 

This garden (below) has been kitted out with outdoor lights from Lights4fun, who lots of options for evening garden parties. 

Find more garden lighting ideas in our gallery, and don't miss our pick of the best garden lighting: from fairy lights to wall lanterns.

outdoor lights by Lights4fun

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

4. Please a party crowd with fresh lemonade

Garden Party Lemonade Drinks Dispenser from Rex London

(Image credit: Rex London)

Probably nothing screams 'garden party' like a lemonade dispenser. We love the Garden Party Lemonade Drinks Dispenser from Rex London – it's really, truly party-sized, too.

5. Find a fire pit for cooler nights

Oxidised Cast Iron Fire Pit With Steel Stand by Garden Leisure

(Image credit: Not On The High Street)

If you're throwing a garden party in autumn or winter, an open fire of some sort always helps to draw everyone together. Marshmallow toasting is one of the great pleasures of cold-weather partying, especially if there are children at the party. 

Find the best chimenea for your outdoor space and our favourite patio heaters in our buyer's guides.

6. Throw a garden pizza party

Uuni 3 Wood-Fired Pizza Oven with Stone Baking Board from Cuckooland

(Image credit: Cuckooland)

Outdoor dining needn't be confined to the summer months; the trick to enjoying food outdoors throughout the year is having something that's quick to make, quick to eat, and won't require an elaborate table setting. 

The Uuni 3 Wood-Fired Pizza Oven with Stone Baking Board reaches a very hot 500°C in under 10 minutes and will bake an authentic wood-fired pizza in just one minute. Now that's what we call efficiency. Plus, its compact proportions make it a practical buy, too.

Explore the best outdoor pizza ovens in our buyer's guide.

7. Make your garden seating comfy

Rustic garden scheme by Lights4fun

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

Comfy seating is a must in the garden, party or no – and it's crucial for keeping everyone happy into the evening. We say padded with plenty of cushions is the way to go. 

If your seating is naturally hard, for example a corner bench or metal set, get plenty of cushions and blankets to create a cosy atmosphere. This sumptuous garden party idea is from Lights4fun

8. Create a party ambience with an outdoor speaker

Ultimate Ears UE Megablast

Want to really get the party started? You need music. And while you don't want to annoy all your neighbours with overly loud sound, a tinny old speaker won't do, either. 

The Ultimate Ears Megablast speaker has rich, powerful sound and has Bluetooth, so that you can stream your music to it from your phone or laptop. Find the best outdoor speakers in our buying guide.

9. Love garden party food? Build an outdoor kitchen

outdoor kitchen set up with wooden floor and steel top surfaces by garden house design

(Image credit: Garden House Design)

If you are seriously into your al fresco dining, then consider building an outdoor kitchen. This is a particularly worthwhile investment if you entertain frequently – imagine the time and effort saved by not having to carry endless dishes back and forth between your kitchen and garden. 

This very professional-looking outdoor kitchen is by Garden House Design. Find out how to design an outdoor kitchen in our guide. 

10. Get an outdoor projector for garden movie nights

There's nothing like ending a successful party with a late-night film screening. All you need is some chairs and a quality outdoor projector – check our guide for a selection of the very best.

11. Create home bar – instantly

Garden Trading St Mawes Drinks Planter Bar Table 180cm And Hampstead Bar Stools

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

Bar stools are fun and create a cool and intimate atmosphere; and – if you are very lucky and have a swimming pool – they can contribute to a poolside bar look that is just perfect for a garden party. 

The Hampstead Bar Stools from Garden Trading are sturdy, comfy, and chic – all you could ever ask for from a bar stool.

Find out how to make a home bar in our guide if you want to DIY yours.

12. Create an outdoor cinema room

Go one step further than just getting a projector. If you REALLY love watching films with friends and family more than any other activity, and love being outdoors even during the warmer months, it might be time to start thinking about building your own outdoor cinema room. Our favourite Insta-queen, @Lisa Dawson demonstrates how it should be done – with plenty of cosy lights and soft furnishings. 

13. Find a great garden party dining set

Cheltenham outdoor dining set from Neptune

(Image credit: Neptune)

For a complete garden party experience – think nice, long dinner, followed by a nice, long conversation – nothing beats a proper outdoor dining set. Set your expectations high: it should be well-built, spacious, and cater to all weathers. Oh, and, of course, it should be good-looking. 

We think the Cheltenham outdoor dining set from Neptune ticks all the boxes as far as dining sets go. Explore more gorgeous garden furniture in our guide.

14. Throw an impromptu cocktail party

Woven Glass Cocktail Shaker With Gold Lid from Rockett St George

(Image credit: Rockett St George)

There's nothing like a refreshing Margarita on a hot day – or a fruity mocktail, if alcohol isn't your thing. One thing's certain: no fab garden cocktail party is complete without a gorgeous cocktail shaker. 

The Woven Glass Cocktail Shaker With Gold Lid is from Rockett St George. 

15. Minimise food prep with a cheese board

garden party idea from Ikea

(Image credit: Ikea)

Don't fancy doing lots of cooking for your garden party? Especially if you'll be hosting in a small patio or on a balcony, big plates of food might not be practical. Instead, serve a chic cheese and charcuterie board that people can dip in and out of as they choose. 

This cheese board is from Ikea. 

16. Go full rustic with low seating in a country garden

Bonfire garden party idea from Garden Trading

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

We admit that to recreate this garden idea in your garden you probably would need to live on a farm, but what could be more romantic than the idea of enjoying an evening with friends on some hay bales? If you don't live anywhere near any hay, try bean bag seating instead.

17. Delight with an Alice in Wonderland tea party

Sophie Allport Alice In Wonderland Tea Party

(Image credit: Sophie Allport)

Planning a birthday surprise, or just want a whimsical garden party idea? Thanks to dining accessories from Sophie Allport, you can have your very own Mad Hatter tea party in your garden. And if you want to make your own Victoria sponge, we have a recipe for you check out. 

18. Go boho and relaxed for an easygoing garden party

Garden party idea from Ikea

(Image credit: Ikea)

If you don't feel like hosting a sit-down dinner, but still want to make sure your guests are well fed, go Scandinavian and create a buffet-style table with salads, sandwiches, and drinks. That way, you won't need to worry about everyone finishing eating at the same time. 

19. Combine formal and rustic elements in your dining scheme

Al fresco dining with TruGlow candles from Lights4fun

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

Garden design is all about mixing modern rustic and more contemporary styles at the moment, and the same goes for your garden party. Think combining rustic-style, linen napkins and cushions with more formal elements such as a candle holder and crystal glasses. 

20. Be prepared for rain and shine

Garden party ideas

(Image credit: Ikea)

It doesn't matter where in the world you are, you can bet that, as soon as you set a date for a garden party, the weather misbehaves. So, we'd always advise preparing ahead for rain and shine. Gazebos are great, parasols look pretty and are forever useful and wind/sun sail shades are a quick fix. Whichever, just make sure there's enough shelter for all. Find more of the best garden parasols in our buyer's guide.

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