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  • Writer's pictureGrace Cousins

Creating The Perfect Private Garden Party

With all the detailed planning of our wedding and reception it felt like there was just no time to plan a rehearsal dinner on top of it all. One of my wishes was to have an intimate relaxed family dinner prior to the larger wedding ceremony & reception. B Events helped us plan the most magical backyard wedding at my childhood home. We decided to have our rehearsal dinner on the front porch which allowed for our families to get to know one another better before the big day. See how we created the perfect relaxed and elegant private garden party at home!


Keep it simple and hire a caterer! I cannot recommend this enough, no matter how many family members would love to help and how good of a cook you and your partner are this is a time for you and your loved ones to relax and enjoy time together. I experienced this with my wedding. I wanted to do it all on my own thinking maybe it would save me money in the end. But let's face it, if you rack up the cost of groceries for the meal, time spent planning what to make and fitting in everyone's dietary restrictions and personal preferences and not to mention actually cooking it... a caterer is worth it! (especially when it's the night before your big day!) For our celebration we used a local vendor we love, Gather & Co. We were able to select from an amazing menu of entrees, appetizers, and sides, all locally sourced. Even though we were at home, we felt like we were at an elegant restaurant as the caterers brought out each course to be served family style. We relaxed and enjoyed each other's company and conversations. It was amazing and guests were so happy with their meals. French pressed coffee and tea with dessert was the icing on the cake!

Dessert is where you can be creative. Stacey from Souled Home Designs made us a gorgeous carrot cake with butter cream icing, embellished with edible flowers from Rooted Farmstead. It looked so grand on the Francesca Kaye cake stand from Anthropologie. Decorating the dessert table was simple. We added fresh fruit and colorful snacks from Wegman's and Trader Joe's. A few yellow gold candles added another pop of color. Glass goblets of lavender and mint sprigs added texture and filled our senses.


In advance we collected milk vases to be used as the center pieces. Look around your home or often your neighbors, friends or relatives may have a collection of vases that you can borrow for the night! These items can usually be found in your local thrift shops as well. We cut greenery, roses and peonies from our backyard garden but depending on the time of year your local flower farmer, florist, or grocery store can provide specific cuttings for your color scheme. If you are planning to purchase flowers be sure to notice what items they have had in stock and ask what they may have at the time of your event. Some places will allow you to order in advance to ensure you have what you need and want. I highly recommend finding a local floral farmer in your area. They can be so helpful in sourcing what you need.

Tip: Did you know that peonies are able to stay fresh in the fridge for months? We harvested our peonies in May and used them for our mid June event! Harvest before they fully bloom, when the petals are still rounded and feel squishy like a marshmallow. Wrap them in dry paper towels or newspaper and cover the blooms and stems with a plastic bag. Put them in a bucket in the fridge, NO water needed. They are best kept away from other fruits and vegetables so if you happen to have an extra fridge in your basement or garage, this would be perfect!


Our wedding was at the same place the following day so we rented vintage tableware so that we were not washing and putting away dishes the night before our wedding. The mismatched vintage floral plates, tea cups and colored water glasses were so perfect for our private garden party. These items are also something that you can thrift affordably depending on scale of the event.

Tip: set your water goblets and tea cups upside down until shortly before dinner to prevent outside debris from falling into your beverages.

We also rented ivory table cloths. I recommend renting table cloths so you don't have to worry about cleaning off stubborn candle wax and wine stains. We were able use the wooden chairs and the gold candlesticks that were rented for the ceremony, for the rehearsal dinner as well. You could also use mismatched wooden chairs from home.


Leading up to the porch we kept things simple by pulling assorted pots of flowers from the yard into a cluster. We covered our wooden tables with the rented ivory table cloths. Drop cloths found at the hardware store can also be a great alternative. In the center we used mauve colored gauze fabric to add color to the table scape. Then we sprinkled our floral filled milk vases and and green and pink taper candles down the center of the table. For napkins we collected vintage embroidered napkins from thrift and antique stores to give the table more personality.

The bride and groom's bridal party gifts were placed at their seats along with name tags on each plate. The place cards were easily made by using the business card template on Pages and printing on card stock. We selected a font which fit the style of the wedding invitations. After punching a hole on the end we strung yellow gold velvet ribbon and embellished with sprigs of lavender, rosemary and boxwood.

Instead of a wedding guest book we decided to use giant Jenga blocks for the guests to write their messages so we could enjoy them later when we are in our own backyard. We had the Jenga out at the rehearsal dinner so our family could write messages in a relaxed atmosphere, knowing we would be very busy the next day. I also created a custom hand-painted corn hole game to surprise the groom with at the wedding.

Follow along for more tips and tricks for hosting and styling your events along with design advice and insight from the designers at Grace Ryan Designs.

Links: B Events

Cake Stand Anthropologie

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