I love to entertain, and decorating for my parties gives me a great sense of accomplishment. While planning a party takes a lot of work, making time for creative decorations can make the process fun and enjoyable. And by following these simple tips, you can create a beautiful, relaxing, and enjoyable party for you and your guests.
I always recommend sending your guests handwritten invitations, which add a personal touch to your and really set the stage for your party. For a fun invitation idea, pick up some pre-cut, thin wooden birds (you can find them at Michaels) and paint them with black chalkboard paint. You can then use brightly coloured chalk to write the details of your party on them. Another option is to paint the birds in fun, bright colours or glue newspaper to them (trimmed to the shape of the bird) and stamp the details of the party on them. To finish them off, find some bright ribbon, and glue it in a loop to the top of the bird to be used as a hanging ornament.
For lighting options—especially indoors—consider candles and lots of them, the proper lighting can really set the mood for a party.
To give candles some character, you can wrap several different-sized glass jars with coloured vellum paper. Because vellum is opaque, and it lets just the right amount of light in so you can turn ordinary jars into a beautiful centrepiece (you’ll want to wrap the outside of the jars, as vellum is flammable). For a long table, use many different alternating sizes running down the centre. And if you want to great really creative, consider cutting shapes out of the vellum with a hole punch or an X-Acto knife. This will disperse the light and create a chandelier effect.
Using food as centrepieces has become very popular recently, as it’s both inexpensive and biodegradable. To make your own, use two tall, glass jars. The first one should be a wide-mouth jar, and the second one should be slightly smaller and narrower than the first. Fill the smaller jar with water and drop it into the center of the larger one. Then fill the outside jar with jellybeans and fill the centre one with your favorite cut flower. I like to use cohesive colours like purple hydrangeas with purple jellybeans, or complementary colours like a yellow iris with purple jellybeans. You can also replace the jellybeans with fruit.
Another simple technique is to use grapefruit or orange peels as vases—just cut off the top of the orange or grapefruit and scoop out the fruit (be careful not to cut through the bottom of the peel). Fill them with water and add your favorite cut flower. Again, you may want a cohesive look here, or you may opt for contrasting colours such as blue flowers with the orange peel for a more dramatic display.
Tablecloths and runners
For something more fun than standard tablecloths and runners, try colouring some eggs (using the same process you would for Easter), and then crush the shells and sprinkle them on the table. You could also spread colourful placemats over the table in different positions under the food and centrepieces. This is a great touch if the majority of accessories on your table are white.
For serving food at the cottage, try painting different-sized terra cotta pots in light colours. Try white on the outside with teal on the inside—I love these colours together, and the contrast will stand out on your table. You can also stamp or hand-paint the outside with a monogram, a cute saying or a picture of a bird in another colour like grey. Line the inside with clear, food-grade cellophane or a nice fabric napkin, and you have an interesting and attractive serving dish.
You can also opt out of the standard bread bowl. For a change of pace, hollow out a large purple cabbage and place a clear glass bowl in the centre. You will have to trim the leaves down but don’t discard them just tuck them in-between the existing leaves for a very textured display and if you’d like you can tie them with some brightly coloured ribbon.
For serving drinks, try using mason jars as cups and painting a small, rectangular section with chalkboard paint on the outside of the jar. You can then write each guest’s name in chalk—or write the name of the drink on the jar. You can also just dip the jar in paint of any colour (be careful not to submerge the jar completely or touch the area that people will be drinking from), tie some ribbon around the top, and add a nametag to it.
Dump your old placemats—a much more interesting idea is to use a square or round shallow tray (about the size of a placemat). Fill it with flat river rock, crushed gravel, or sand, and then present the plated food on these fun and different surfaces. It also helps you to connect to the lake, bringing the outdoors in.
The table isn’t the only place that needs some attention—you want to bring the party theme throughout your cottage. If you have large colourful wine jugs, vases, or jars in different sizes, add homemade cherry-blossom branches to them for a simple décor idea. Cut cherry-blossom blooms out of pink-, white-, and cream-coloured paper and then glue them to long sticks and twigs. Add them to the vases, grouping three or more vases of varying heights around your cottage. Add some foam feather birds, or make some paper butterflies and hang them from the branches.
These are just a few ideas, but I could talk forever about different ways to decorate for a party. The important thing is to step outside the box and get creative. And when in doubt, I always say, keep it out! Stick to monotones with small splashes of colour, and you’ll be surprised how great your party decorations will look.
Jennifer George is a certified staging professional and owner of Curbed Appeal. She has more than 10 years’ experience working in the interior and landscaping design industry.