Decorating & Entertaining Ideas

Inside a Picture-Perfect Summer Garden Party in Charleston

Inside a Picture-Perfect Summer Garden Party in Charleston
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Celebrating the 20-year anniversary of her full-service event production company, Tara Guérard Soirée, Charleston, SC-based wedding planner and designer Tara Guérard has lost count of how many events she has planned. “I think I’ve designed and planned over 500 weddings alone—but that’s not even including the other events that I’ve done,” she tells us. That said, it’s no surprise when we called her to recap the elegant summer dinner party she threw for One Kings Lane, it took her a moment to recall which event we were discussing; “This was the one in my garden, right? With the hydrangea?” With hundreds of events under her belt, the southern belle is the consummate hostess.

For a more intimate look at her personal entertaining style, we asked Guérard to throw a summer get-together on her own turf—her charming and lush garden in Charleston—with friends and family. On the topic of her vision for the party, Guérard tells us she asked herself, “How can we have a really great outdoor garden party, maybe with a nod to the Fourth of July, but elevate it a little more so it’s not just about a bucket of fried chicken and some flags?” The designer turned to a palette of blues and whites, with stripes as a running theme.

As a fun and inexpensive way to customize her linens, Guérard used Stitch Witchery bonding tape to iron grosgrain ribbon onto solid cocktail cotton napkins for a bordered effect.

As a fun and inexpensive way to customize her linens, Guérard used Stitch Witchery bonding tape to iron grosgrain ribbon onto solid cocktail cotton napkins for a bordered effect.

“I picked up some fabric at the store that was very summery and cheerful with kind of a picnic feel, and really all I did was throw it down on the table. I didn’t have to sew anything,” Guérard tells us of her easy tablecloth solution. “Then we just picked up some hydrangea and put them in blue-and-white vases in the middle of the table.”

“My favorite thing in the world is a dinner party, so I made this get-together a dinner party in the garden,” Guérard says. “We tried to serve traditional summer food—fried chicken and sliced tomatoes, homemade coleslaw, and all the things you might see at a barbecue, but we did it in a little more of a dressed-up way.”

To jazz up her place settings, Guérard tied grosgrain ribbon around her dinner napkins.

To jazz up her place settings, Guérard tied grosgrain ribbon around her dinner napkins.

Bowls of strawberries and slices of watermelon made for easy and fresh summer desserts.

Bowls of strawberries and slices of watermelon made for easy and fresh summer desserts.

One of the keys to easy summer entertaining, Guérard advises, is getting out of the kitchen. “Slice some tomatoes. Buy the fried chicken from the grocery store. Pre-make your coleslaw the day before. Put out a bowl of peanuts—you can just buy those at the store,” she suggests. “Entertaining is easy if you just make some of the details pretty—and just be prepared to have a good time!”

Guérard used durable melamine plates, plastic tumblers, and bamboo cutlery at the kids’ table, along with a chocolate bar at each setting. “I always do try to do something separate for my children because I don’t like when there’s a hole at the table, and the children never sit for more than three minutes,” Guérard says.

Guérard used durable melamine plates, plastic tumblers, and bamboo cutlery at the kids’ table, along with a chocolate bar at each setting. “I always do try to do something separate for my children because I don’t like when there’s a hole at the table, and the children never sit for more than three minutes,” Guérard says.

There’s no reason to put children at the big table, because they’ll never sit still. Just let them know you care about them too and make them their own cute table.

— Tara Guérard
The designer set up a self-serve bar in garden where guests could help themselves to drinks throughout the night. “I always think that you should have everything available to drink at any kind of party—meaning liquor, beer, wine, champagne—because you never know what every single person drinks or what they’re in the mood for.”

The designer set up a self-serve bar in garden where guests could help themselves to drinks throughout the night. “I always think that you should have everything available to drink at any kind of party—meaning liquor, beer, wine, champagne—because you never know what every single person drinks or what they’re in the mood for.”

Local craft beer by Coast Brewing Company and Holy City Brewing complemented the garden party’s color scheme. The “Paradise Turns” cans were designed by celebrated Charleston-born street artist Shepard Fairey.

Local craft beer by Coast Brewing Company and Holy City Brewing complemented the garden party’s color scheme. The “Paradise Turns” cans were designed by celebrated Charleston-born street artist Shepard Fairey.

As a refreshing summer sipper, Guérard served vodka sodas with a splash of grapefruit and fresh blueberries. “I call it my skinny drink,” she jokes.

As a refreshing summer sipper, Guérard served vodka sodas with a splash of grapefruit and fresh blueberries. “I call it my skinny drink,” she jokes.

We Southerners are always, always just thinking about our guests first and foremost. It’s all about hospitality.

— Tara Guérard

Related: Clare Vivier’s Summer Entertaining Secrets →

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