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I decided to take a break from the construction at Chic Villa and throw one last outdoor picnic for some friends. I absolutely adore transforming outdoor spaces into over-the-top dining destinations -- there is something so special about creating an indoor feeling outside when you eat. I call this my Secret Garden Soirée. With these simple tips you too can soak in the last feeling of summer with an unforgettable picnic soirée. (Image: Ashley Hafstead)

8 steps to hosting the perfect garden party

Even though it is fall (yay for pumpkin everything), it currently feels more like summer with these 80 degree days. I decided to take a break from the construction at Chic Villa and throw one last outdoor picnic for some friends. I absolutely adore transforming outdoor spaces into over-the-top dining destinations -- there is something so special about creating an indoor feeling outside when you eat. I call this my Secret Garden Soirée. With these simple tips you too can soak in the last feeling of summer with an unforgettable picnic soirée.

1. Location, location, location

This is by far the most important step. Whether it is in your backyard, in a public park or in the forest, take the time to find just the right location. This is the canvas that you embellish with tables, plates, etc.

2. Create seating

Bring rugs to lay down and place pillows piled up on top of them. This will allow your guests to sit comfortably on the ground — and stay clean while doing it!

3. Tables

For my outdoor soirée I chose to stack palettes to create a rustic dining table. Think outside the box — try using two coolers for legs and a large piece of plywood on top for the table. Or maybe try two tree stumps with an old door as the tabletop. The possibilities are endless; you just need a bit of imagination. Plus, it doesn’t REALLY matter what the table looks like because you can cover it with a tablecloth!

4. Add texture to the table

After the seating and table are taken care of, it is time to add interest to your tabletop using texture. This comes by adding tablecloths, chargers (I love the playfulness of these turf chargers I found on Amazon), worn pieces of wood, and napkins. Tip: Let cheese boards play double duty, as you can use them to also display your silverware instead of just laying the silverware on a napkin.

5. Choose plates, glassware, and silverware

I am a huge fan of mixing and matching napkins, silverware and plates. It adds a bit of whimsy, which is perfect for an outdoor picnic!

6. Lighting

This is crucial, especially if you are throwing a late afternoon or early evening picnic. Once the sun goes down, the entire space can be transformed into a magical experience for your guests with the proper lighting. Bring tiki torches, candles, lanterns, and string lights that are battery run so you don’t have to rely on electricity.

7. Make it a pot luck

To make things easier on you as the host, make it a pot luck picnic. Give your friends and family a theme (think Mexican, Italian, Thai, etc), ask them to bring a dish and let them show off their culinary skills! Also ask them to bring their favorite drink pairing with it. I always love food and wine pairings (or cocktail or beer pairings) and I usually end up learning something new!

8. Enjoy

Sit back and take in these last few warm days while enjoying an outdoor feast with some of your favorite people!

You can follow Ashley's first-time homeowner series as she renovates #chic_villa here!

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