Rising temps mean it's time to shake off the winter blahs and head outdoors to celebrate. From impromptu barbecues to full-on weddings, BRIDES magazine offers fresh ideas for creating a stylish, welcoming retreat.
1) Give the drinks some dash
Always keep a chilling pitcher of the following: red-hibiscus-and-raspberry iced tea, sparkling water with mint, or juice with a dash of club soda (or sparkling wine).
2) Toss the paper napkins
Something as simple as bandannas or striped dishcloths bought in bulk (machine-washable, and therefore endlessly reusable) can make any barbecue or blowout feel chic—and less like a grade-school cookout.
3) Custom-cut the linens
Armed with pinking shears, create coasters, tray liners, and tablecloths without sewing one stitch. The zigzag made by these crafting scissors is whimsical and looks like a finished edge. Instead of fabric, you could even cut up clean, unsoiled sheets.
4) Make DIY paper flowers
To make a paper-flower mobile (to be hung from a tree, porch, or gazebo), cut wrapping paper into nine-by-five-inch pieces. Accordion-pleat each piece along the short side, then staple it in the center. Cut a curved point on each end of the folded paper. (The curves should be mirror images.) Fan out the paper into a circle, then tape it in place with double-stick tape. Punch a hole on top of a petal, thread it with ribbon, then hang it from a wire wreath frame. To jazz up a plain white tablecloth, sprinkle paper flowers made with an oversize flower-shaped hole punch (available at most craft stores).
5) Create instant gardens
Fill galvanized tubs with vibrant potted perennials, like geraniums, and place them on decks or concrete patios, around the base of the house in lieu of flowerbeds, or on benches placed under windows in lieu of window boxes. Chances are, you won't even need to replant them.
6) Set up outdoor rooms
Breaking up a large yard makes better use of all that square footage you gain once the weather gets warm. Gather small clusters of chairs in and around special features: a beautiful outdoor umbrella, a fragrant tree, a stunning gazebo, a fire pit, etc. Also, don't be afraid to bring chairs from indoors (just be sure to bring them back inside at the end of the night).
7) Make minimalist centerpieces
Place single statement flowers (like peonies) or a small handful of wildflowers from the backyard in glass bottles. (See #8.) For an edible decoration inspired by the season, set out ceramic cereal bowls filled cherries, berries, or other colorful seasonal fruit.
8) Reuse, reuse, reuse
Don't toss all your bottles and cans into the recycling bin. Colored or unusually shaped bottles and cans with fun graphics (stewed tomatoes from Italy, say) can have second lives as containers for fresh-cut flowers.
—Yolanda Crous, BRIDES magazine