How to Throw a Garden Party with Designer Isabel Ladd

When the sun is shining and the flowers are in bloom, hosting a party indoors would be a shame. An alfresco dinner or cocktail party in the garden is a fun way to embrace the new season and all its beauty. Planning a garden party is where Brazilian-native designer Isabel Ladd thrives. With her design moto being “more is more; less is a bore” she leans into all things colorful. She’s sharing her professional tips for throwing a bold, vibrant and convivial garden party.

Frontgate (FG): What decorations do you like to include at a garden party?

Isabel Ladd (IL): I love decorations that feel like they belong indoors at an outdoor garden party. Melamine stemmed wine glasses, for instance, because they look fancy but when you touch them, you realize they are unbreakable. I love flowers in bud vases, cloth napkins and beautiful linens. Really, truly, anything that doesn’t scream ‘outdoors’ – nothing disposable!

FG: How can you make the party flow inside and out of the home?

IL: Various food and drink stations are a must; otherwise, traffic jams occur and people feel stuck. I position a drink station towards the front of the party, followed by a food table in the middle and another drink station towards the back. This setup allows people to flow throughout the house and gardens. I also like to open plenty of rooms within the home to give people additional spaces to hang out and decompress.

FG: How do you incorporate botanicals into your party theme?

IL: I love flowers and I especially love to mix and match them! My trick is to buy flowers from a grocery store and blend them with fresh cuts from my backyard. I usually clip hydrangeas, magnolias, hostas, boxwoods and mix them all together. Don’t forget herbs like mint and basil for added scent and an effortless vibe.

FG: How would you set your table for a garden party?

IL: This is a trick question because I love going over the top with details and decorations, which feels inherently formal. On the other hand, I love the fun and whimsy you get from an informal setting, so I do it all! I set up a table with formal-inspired plastic glasses and pair them with drink umbrellas and cloth cocktail napkins embroidered with quirky accents. It’s a play on high and low and guests love it.

FG: Types of food and drink best served?

IL: I prefer serving bite-sized food that is easy to nibble on while chatting or fluttering about. Charcuterie boards are perfect for this because they’re beautiful, decadent and super easy to order. Anything that keeps the hostess out of the kitchen is a bonus.

I love a drink that guests can serve themselves. I recently made a festive summer cocktail in a large container for easy serving. I used the Optima Chill Cell Beverage Dispenser, which has an internal column for holding ice to keep the cocktail cool without getting watered down. It was such a hit.

FG: What seating is best at a garden party?

IL: I prefer having a variety of seating nooks throughout the garden. It encourages conversation and offers opportunities for guests to mingle and visit. I usually have a few benches along the garden’s perimeter, pairs of chairs tucked within bushes and more comfortable lounge seating in the cabana. With my outdoor pool, however, the best seats are always pool floats!

FG: Tips for handling the elements?

IL: Outdoor parties call for outdoor gear! I like to keep umbrellas next to food and drink tables for shade. Melamine stemware means the glasses always look festive but won’t break. Cloth napkins don’t blow away easily in a breeze like paper. Netted food domes keep flies away, and cute little trays of bug spray, sunscreen, sunglasses and flip-flops keep guests comfortable.

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Photo Credit: Reed Sampley /