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3 outdoor table setting ideas for your next garden party

Summer is here and so are three full months of outdoor dining opportunities. Whether you’re hosting a casual luncheon, an evening soiree, or anything in between, your table setting will set the tone for your entire event. There’s no need to stress because you can DIY a table setting that is sure to make an impression. Even better, it won’t cost you a fortune. 

Find inspiration from garage sales, your local craft store, and even your backyard for decoration inspiration. Let’s get ready to entertain outdoors — in style. 

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1. All natural outdoor table setting ideas 

When it comes to outdoor dining, there’s no need to look any further than your own yard or garden for inspiration.

  • Start with a pastel tablecloth to create a subtle backdrop for the rest of the table setting. Add a runner in a rustic, natural fabric like burlap or muslin to add some fun texture.
  • Skip the florist and utilize what’s growing right on your property. In addition to the traditional flowers, look at the abundance of greenery around you and consider how each sprout, scalloped leaf, and wildflower can work as a potential tabletop decoration. Recycle mason jars, teacups, empty wine bottles, and containers you likely already have around the house for a more eclectic feel. For maximum visual impact, ensure you’re using a variety of shapes and heights. As a final touch, glue on a strip of lace ribbon to make an empty jar ready for your garden party.
  • Arrange galvanized steel pots filled with sprouting herbs to add a pop color and a light aroma. 
  • Choose solid white plates that allow your food and decorations to be the stars. Bright, bold plates can be fun, so if you choose to go that route, simplify the surrounding decor, flora, and fauna.
  • Roll up creamy white napkins, tie them with raffia string, and tuck in a mini bouquet as a final touch.

2. Colorful outdoor table setting ideas

When the dining is casual, the rules go out the door. Skip the matched dinnerware in favor of a hodgepodge of plates in bold hues or soothing pastels. If your setting includes plates and bowls for various courses, choose different colors for each course and give every guest a slightly different setting. 

Select cloth napkins in fun, vibrant prints or mix ’n match solids and patterns around the tables. Colorful flatware with melamine handles that are just right for outdoor dining. Speaking of color, find bright glassware in every shade imaginable to make your beverages feel even more fun and festive. 

Prefer a more laid-back and casual setting? Skip the tablecloth and let the natural beauty of your outdoor table show. Dress it up slightly with foam cutouts of fun summer shapes like flip flops, sunglasses, and flowers. Apply a small peel-off glue dot to the bottom to keep them in place and prevent them from blowing away on breezy summer days. 

3. Themed outdoor table setting ideas

Make an impact at your next outdoor garden party and create a theme that comes through in every aspect of your garden party. 

Some of our favorite themes include:


Crisp navy and white are the epitomai of nautical chic. We love the look of navy and white striped table runners paired with sailboat-patterned tablecloths and cloth napkins. You can even pick up a roll of striped ribbon to tie around vases or candlesticks.

Add a touch of the unexpected by wrapping wooden chairs with soft white fishnets, or hand knitting stemware ‘cozies’ tied off with contrasting bows. 

Wrap blue pillar candles with raffia roping for an extra touch of texture and style, and bind utensils and napkins together with a thin rope. 

Beach time

Put those shells you’ve been collecting to good use by creating DIY napkin rings by decorating plain silver bands with hand-picked shells. Consider scattering starfish or scallop shells across a neutral tan, seafoam green, or shell pink tablecloth to really make the shells stand out.

Last, fill clear glass votive holders with sand, and top each with a tea light to produce flickering candlelight that’s protected from breezy nights. 

We’re only just skimming the surface here. There are so many incredible ideas that will create truly memorable table settings for your next outdoor event, all you need is a little imagination. Just pick a theme, color scheme, and style, then decorate to your heart’s content!

Kim Renta
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kim has written for Bloomingdales, Movado, and various e-commerce wine sites. When she's not writing about wine and…
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