Tips and Ideas for an Outdoor Table Setting




The summer is the perfect time to gather with friends and family for an outdoor dinner party. But what separates a good dinner party from an unforgettable one? The answer lies in the table setting. An eye-catching tablescape can transform any backyard into a stunning summer oasis.

Join me on my deck as I share my colorful and inviting table setting. I’ll walk you through the process as to how I created this summertime tablescape and share some tips to help you recreate the look!

outdoor table setting with candles and flower arrangement in pitcher.

I’ve shared many table settings on Inspired by Charm over the years. They are so fun to create and I’m also excited to share mine with you in hopes that it will give you an idea or two to assist you if you happen to be hosting anyone outdoors in the near future.

a dining table set-up outside on a deck.
close up of a bowl and plate on and outdoor table setting.

I thought the best way to share tablescaping ideas would be to walk you through my thought process and steps for putting something like this together. I won’t go through every detail, but I will point out a few important ones. If you have questions or there is something that I missed, just let me know in the comment section at the end of this post.

Last but not least, I should mention that I created this outdoor table setting for a styled photoshoot. Please don’t feel overwhelmed or feel that this is the “standard” for outdoor entertaining. You do you! Even if you only take one or two of these ideas, that will be good enough. Entertaining shouldn’t be stressful. Do what you can/want and remember to have fun with it.

outdoor table setting with flower arrangement.

Start with a Plan

Whenever I’m decorating a table, I find it easiest to start with a theme or color scheme. Having some direction makes the whole process much easier. Determine the overall theme or ambiance you want to convey and use that as a guide for your table decor. Think about the occasion and the guests you will be hosting. Is it a casual backyard BBQ or a formal dinner party? Will there be children in attendance? Answering these questions will help you determine the appropriate style and tone for your tablescape.

My inspiration for this table was these acrylic cups with lemon graphics. I used the colors in the graphics (yellow, green, and pink) as I made the selections for the rest of my table.

close up of plate and glass on an outdoor table setting.
lemons in a bowl in a basket on an outdoor table setting.

Having some sort of direction or focus really makes the process easy and effortless. Stick within your theme and you’ll have a pulled-together look every time.

Pick a Color Scheme

Having a plan, could be as simple as selecting a color scheme for your outdoor table setting.

Your outdoor table setting should reflect the mood of the occasion, and color plays a significant role in setting the tone. Once you have a plan in place, it’s time to choose a color scheme. If you’re holding a formal occasion with an elegant ambiance, muted color palettes like creams, grays, and soft greens work well. For a more relaxed and casual vibe, opt for bright, bold colors like blue, yellow, and red. Furthermore, you can incorporate neutral colors and accent them with pops of color from your chosen scheme.

pink flower arrangement on an outdoor table setting.

Add Layers

As you plan your outdoor table setting, remember that the details can make all the difference. If you’re looking to add a lot of depth and interest to your table setting, consider adding layers. Think about using materials with different textures and sheens for maximum appeal and interest.

As you can see here, I started with a tablecloth, added placemats, and even layered my dinnerware. This is always a great way to add different textures to your table and it will also add interest and appeal.

close up of bowl and napkin on a table setting.

When it comes to tablecloths, consider selecting a fabric that will work well outdoors, like polyester or a durable cotton blend. Opt for a neutral color or a pattern that complements your dinnerware. From there, you can add visual interest with runners and napkins. A simple, solid-colored runner in a contrasting hue can make your place settings pop. Alternatively, a patterned runner or napkins can bring a playful or elegant touch to the table.

In addition to color and pattern, think about texture. Adding texture through your linens can create a cozy and inviting atmosphere. You might layer a burlap runner over a smooth tablecloth, or pair a woven rattan placemat like I did here with linen napkins. Whatever you choose, make sure it feels good to the touch and enhances the overall aesthetic of your table setting.

outdoor table setting with flowers, candles, and dinnerware.

Incorporate Luxury

Just because you’re entertaining outdoors doesn’t mean you need to use disposable products. Unless a meal or an occasion is extremely casual, I opt for a fabric tablecloth and napkins whenever possible. It makes the table and meal feel much more elegant and special. It adds a touch of luxury. Plus, you can just wash them afterward and use them again.

outdoor table setting with plates and glasses.

I also opted for melamine dinnerware. I especially love this set because it looks so chic. This set looks like stone/terrazzo. It always works well with my color scheme.

Create a Beautiful Centerpiece

When it comes to creating a beautiful centerpiece for your outdoor table, there are countless options to choose from. One approach is to incorporate natural elements such as flowers, greenery, and even fruits or vegetables. These can be arranged in a vase, basket, or tray and placed in the center of your table. If you’re feeling crafty, you could even create your own DIY centerpiece.

I love creating my own flower arrangements for my table settings. If you’d like to do the same I have an ultimate flower arranging guide that will give you all the tools you need to create a stunning flower arrangement.

arrangement of flowers on an outdoor table.

Another option is to incorporate candles into your centerpiece. Whether you choose pillar candles or tea lights, the soft glow will add a warm and inviting ambiance to your outdoor dinner party. You can place the candles in a decorative holder or lantern and surround them with flowers or greenery for a truly stunning effect.

Don’t be afraid to get creative – after all, your centerpiece is a key component of your outdoor table setting and should reflect your personal style.

Table Decor Must Haves

I think there are at least two things that every table needs to have. These two must-haves are flowers and candles. Even if you go with just the very basics: plate, flatware, napkins, and glasses, I still highly recommend some sort of botanical element and a candle or two. As you can see, I went a little more elaborate here, but even something as simple as a branch cut from your backyard and inexpensive tea lights will do the trick.

candle on an outdoor table.
peony flower arrangement on outdoor table setting.

Candles add warmth, light, and movement that you can’t really achieve any other way. I also recommend going with unscented candles for a table setting. You do not want to take away from the amazing aromas of your meal.

Also, get creative and think beyond flowers for your botanical element. If you have some extra produce or fruit from the meal, try adding those to the table. A display of fresh fruit and vegetables can be just as colorful and inviting.

bowl of lemons on outdoor table setting.
flowers and bowl of lemons on outdoor table setting.

Recipe Ideas

Finally, what’s an outdoor table setting without some delicious snacks and beverages? Here are a few of my favorite treats that I love for entertaining. They would be perfect for this table setting or any outdoor gathering.

details on a table setting outdoors on a deck.

Final Quick Tips

There are a few additional quick outdoor table decor tips to ensure your space is both beautiful and functional. First, consider incorporating playful accents, such as colorful napkins or unique place cards. These small touches can add a sense of whimsy and personality to your table setting.

Another great idea is to provide cozy throw blankets for cooler evenings. Not only do they add a cozy ambiance, but they also serve a functional purpose when the temperature drops. This is a thoughtful way to show your guests that their comfort is a priority.

flower arrangement on a table set outdoors with plates, glasses, and decor.

Remember to also pay attention to the lighting of your outdoor space. Soft lighting, such as string lights or candles, can create a warm and inviting atmosphere. And finally, always make sure your table setting is functional – ensure there is enough space for plates, glasses, and silverware, and that everything is within reach.

Just For Fun

I have one additional item that I wanted to share with you. As you know, I have been developing my art practice over the past year or so. When I shared a picture from this outdoor table setting on Instagram, an artist friend of mine said I needed to paint it.

So, I did just that!

oil painting of an outdoor table setting.

As with any of my art, I’m not sharing it thinking that it is a masterpiece. The goal of my art journey is to learn, practice, and have fun. That was the goal with this piece. Yes, I would certainly change some things, but I’m so happy that I was encouraged to give it a try. I had fun during the process and was pleased with the end result.

If you’re curious about my art journey, you can read about how I got started and find some of my favorite art supplies.

candle on a outdoor table setting.

And with that, I’d say this outdoor table setting is complete and ready for company!

Creating a stunning outdoor table setting requires a bit of planning and creativity. By starting with a clear direction, choosing a complementary color scheme, adding layers and texture with linens, and creating a striking centerpiece, you can set an unforgettable scene for your guests. Remember to add your own personal touches and don’t be afraid to get creative. Go forth and impress your guests with your newfound knowledge and skills for hosting a beautiful summertime dinner party.

More Table Setting You Will Love

I hope you’ll try some of my table decorating tips and tricks. If you do, please leave a comment below and let me know how they worked for you. 

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