Aromatic herbs, fresh garden veggies and migrating butterflies inspired this backyard bash. Follow these rules and your next party will be anything but garden variety. 

Plan ahead

Hosts often come down with a case of party fatigue mere hours before their event. Scrambling to pull together the remaining details the day of the party can easily result in stress, strain and eclipse your good cheer. Remember, even the most accomplished party hosts plan ahead. The key to throwing a great garden party is ensuring you are enjoying it as much as your guests. Send out your invite at least three weeks in advance and decide your menu, serving pieces and plan of attack two weeks before the big day. 

Signature cocktail

Full bar can be a party budget buster. Surprise your guests by selecting a low-effort (read: lazy) signature cocktail to serve from a pretty pitcher, Mason jars or shatterproof tumblers (do yourself a favor ditch the plastic red cup). How many drinks will you need? Plan on 1½ alcoholic drinks per hour per guest. For every 25 people, prepare 2 gallons of iced tea or lemonade, if you’re also serving alcohol; up that to 4 gallons if your party will be sans bar. Don’t forget the ice. Store extra bags in a large cooler out in the garage or somewhere accessible, but preferably out of sight.

Rosemary Lemonade Vodka Fizz

INGREDIENTS

1 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup sugar

2 rosemary sprigs

1 cup vodka

Chilled club soda or seltzer

Garnish: Fresh rosemary sprigs 

DIRECTIONS

Combine lemon juice, sugar and rosemary in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. 

Stir mixture until sugar has dissolved completely. Reduce heat and simmer 2-3 minutes. 

Cool completely, about 1 hour, and discard rosemary sprigs. 

Fill 8 (8-ounce) glasses halfway with ice. Divide syrup and vodka among glasses. 

Top off with club soda and garnish with a fresh rosemary sprig. 

You also can prepare this drink by the pitcher and make it self-serve. 

Standing room only? Not quite

Unless you plan to serve a sit-down dinner, don’t provide a seat for every guest. What? While this may seem counterintuitive it actually encourages mingling and keeps a party lively. 

A good rule of thumb is one seat for every two guests. Even adhering to this rule may mean you need to gather up some additional seats. First, assess your indoor inventory. Dining room chairs, poufs and ottomans will help keep the vibe casual and relaxed. 

Still not enough? Renting extra chairs can be inexpensive. You also might be able to have additional tables, dishes and linens brought in by the same company. 

Not in the budget? Press friends into service and ask to borrow from their stockpile.  

Simply stunning setting

Hosting a garden party doesn’t mean your yard or patio has to be perfect. No, you can’t skip the required mowing and weeding. Yes, you will need to rake leaves, add mulch to flower beds and clean up after Fido. Beyond that it takes just a few simple flourishes to make your party backdrop look stunning. 

Holding an evening event shifts the focus from ferns to festive lighting. Consider stringing bulb lights and paper lanterns from nearby trees. Power them with green or brown extension cords so they will blend into your surroundings. Prefer the flattering light of candles? Opt for the battery powered variety for a little peace of mind. Group them near seating areas as well as on the bar and buffet so guests can see what they are about to enjoy. 

Rather than arranging cut flowers, visit a local nursery and select flats of inexpensive blooms. Stick to a monochromatic palette for effect. Fill baskets, small buckets and planter boxes. The best part? You can plant them the next day. 

Play it cool

Did the mercury rise a little too high? No one wants to wilt in our Texas weather. Create cooling compresses. Roll inexpensive washcloths, preferably new, and tie with a ribbon or twine. Store in a bucket or small cooler of ice water in arm’s reach so guests can help themselves. 

Accordion fans also can save you from a sweltering heat spell. Put them in a big basket where guests can find them. 

Sweet endings

So you killed it with the ultimate playlist, your guests sipped your signature spring-inspired drink, and your savory dishes were delish. End the evening with a sweet serving of dessert. These butterfly cupcakes take their cue from the colorful wings of pretty pollinators. 

Unwrap a variety of hard candies and place in a resealable bag. Finely crush with a meat pounder. Arrange pieces in shapes resembling wings on a Silpat-lined baking sheet and melt in a 350-degree oven for 3 to 5 minutes. Use a toothpick to gently reshape melted candy to your liking. Allow to harden. Place an almond on your favorite frosted cupcakes. Arrange wings around almond. Note: Candy and our humid climate can be at odds. It’s best to make the wings only a few hours before the party to ensure they don’t melt. Arrange wings right before serving. Take a bow.

Alicia Cahill is a creative director for Coast and owner of The Kitchen Chick, 528 23rd St. in the island’s downtown. Want more ideas from Cahill? Follow her on Pinterest.

Products shown and available at The Kitchen Chick:

Moda Home Tablecloths

Jessie Steele Napkins

Oneida ceramic Egg Tray

Wilton Armetale Sand Dollar Tray

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