Dining Al Fresco with Style

If you’ve never dragged a table and a few chairs into your backyard for an al fresco dinner, then I must tell you, you’re missing out.

I have been consumed by this delightful concept ever since our honeymoon in Greece 19 years ago.

Did I just say 19 years? Wow, that’s a loooooong time to be dragging furniture in and out of my house and into my backyard.

But I’m here to tell you, it’s totally worth it!

Your yard can make a stunning backdrop to a delicious meal any ol’ time you fancy. In my opinion, late summer or early fall is the perfect time for outside dining. The temperatures are cooling off, the bugs have seemed to disappear and the evening air is exhilarating!

And guess what? That just happens to be right now!

There’s just something elegant about enjoying a meal underneath a tree in the middle of your yard.

Don’t ask me why. It just is. Trust me.

There’s really nothing to it. Once you place a table and some chairs in the grass, you’re good to go.

I’ve got a few simple tips to share that will make your evening complete. No worries, they’re easy and quick, no making paper from scratch for place cards here.

For starters, I like to use a simple white tablecloth and then take my color cues from my backyard, green seemed the obvious way to go. I want my centerpieces to be quick and easy. Don’t stress over complicated arrangements and definitely don’t go spend a lot of money on flowers! Just look around your yard and use what you’ve got at your fingertips! You’ll be surprised at all you can do.

As you can see, I just cut some green foliage from my Baptisia plant that had already finished blooming and then trimmed some lavender that was in its’ full glory… and voila!

A centerpiece was born!

I like to spruce up my white tablecloth with some color and I’ve found that placemats work like a dream. Bet you’ll never guess what I use as placemats…

Scrapbook paper.

I’m serious! They cost pennies a piece and you’ll have an unlimited selection of color, texture and design. Not to mention, no worries about food and stains to clean up later! Here I used different designs within the same color family and alternated them between place settings.

I decided to jazz up the table a bit with green & white polka dot plates. Personally, I adore polka dots. They’re just so happy and festive, but you can use what you like.

Instead of place cards, I like to use cardboard letters. They’re fun and hip and if the mood strikes, you and your guests can stick them on your shirts like Laverne. Or not. See, no tedious paper making or calligraphy in sight. You could even use a letter shape paper punch or even cut out letters from the newspaper.

The world is your oyster.

Now, my next tip is my all time favorite…

Try tying different color ribbons on the stems of your glasses, this way everyone will easily remember which glass belongs to them (hopefully).

Simple. Fun. Easy.

For a little sparkle and sophistication I like to set the table with fun flatware. It also gives me an excuse for my antique silver flatware fetish.

I love to find old silver at antique shows- it’s so affordable and charming. Of course the monograms aren’t always mine, but don’t tell anyone.

Now for the show-stopper of the evening…(drum roll please) the “CHANdelabra.”

“What the world is a chandelabra”, you ask?

Well my friends, this is a chandelabra…

… a Chandelier turned into a Candelabra. It’s an old brass chandelier that has been spray painted white and filled with candles rather than light bulbs. I like to tie a ribbon to mine and hang it from the tree in the center of my yard. I light it as dusk settles in and the crickets begin their evening serenade. And let me tell you, an applause of  “oooooooo’s” and “aaaaaaah’s” from the mouths of my guests never fails.

There is just nothing like candlelight dancing from a tree to make your evening complete.

Well, have I convinced you? I hope so! And don’t worry, you can blame it all on me when your neighbors wonder why in the world you keep schlepping that table back and forth.

And who knows…I may just leave my table outside until it snows.

Happy dining al fresco style!


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  1. Posted August 27, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely beautiful! What a wonderful idea. Can I come for dinner, please?

  2. Posted August 27, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    What a lovely idea. I love the chandelier!

  3. erica
    Posted August 27, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Um … my birthday is in a few days & while I wasn’t planning a party now I just think I might have to! The scrapbook paper tip is GENIUS! Oh, and please don’t judge me when you come to your nephew’s party tomorrow … it will be al fresco but not nearly in such grand style!

  4. Posted August 27, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Wendy your setting is gorgeous!! Thanks so much for sharing your al fresco dining ;)

  5. Robyn
    Posted August 27, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful, Wendy! I love it all. And yes, I love the idea of sporting Laverne letters on my sweater after dinner! Too cute.

  6. Posted August 27, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Can I come! It looks so festive and fun and fabulous. I can just imagine the relaxed conversation and good food under the stars.

  7. Elizinwfb
    Posted August 27, 2010 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Totally going to use the scrapbook paper idea!!!! Thanks.

  8. Posted August 28, 2010 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Oh, so lovely girl. It just says “peace.” Beautiful.

    Are you going to share what you cooked, who came, how the conversation went? To me that is the best part (the talk!)

    Love ya!

  9. Posted August 28, 2010 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    I really love the casual elegance of your setting! A beautiful table in a beautiful setting. What more could anyone want?

  10. Amy bregman
    Posted August 29, 2010 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Wendy I love your ideas and pictures! Really cool and inspiring. I want to come for dinner too!

  11. Elizinwfb
    Posted August 29, 2010 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    One more thing, it looks fabulous, but what do you do to get rid of those nasty mosquitos? We had a patio party last evening and as the patio filled up, people moved to our lawn and POW! they were calling for the Deet. Please advise because I want to replicate your dinner. We did have 2 tiki torches.

    • Posted August 29, 2010 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

      Why thank you love! So sorry to hear about mosquito’s crashing the party! We have had good luck with them this year, but in the past other than citronella, I’ve sprayed the yard with mosquito repellent (grass included) and my FIL swore by mint naturally repelling the nasty pests. Good luck & thanks for stopping by!

  12. Posted August 29, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Oooo. Pretty. I want to come to dinner, too!

  13. Posted August 29, 2010 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    I love the idea of eating outside…your table setting is so sweet Wenderly. Have you notice there have been no bugs this year since no rain? I will have to keep the next old chandy at the dump swap shop I find to light it up outside with candles.

  14. Posted August 29, 2010 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    Love this! Does it count that I have a table on the patio? We eat most meals outside in the summer but what I want…bad, is to now find a chandelabra! I’ve rewired the fixtures in the ceiling of the patio so that all of the energy from that switch is directed to strands of white lights; but I would love having one of those hanging overhead!

    You’ve gone over the top with your decor; really…very special!

  15. Posted August 30, 2010 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    You have convinced me SO WELL. I’m dying to steal every single one of your ideas and impress my friends with them. The chandelabra! The sticky letters! The little ribbons! It’s all so cute I’m gonna die.

  16. Maria
    Posted August 30, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Wendy – I think this is my favorite thing you’ve posted so far. I cannot wait to run out and buy some scrapbooking paper for placemats – too clever!

  17. Nicolle
    Posted August 30, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    You are a genius!

    I love your ideas; simple yet elegant.


  18. Posted August 31, 2010 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    This looks like so much fun! Love all the little creative touches!

  19. Posted August 31, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    I can’t think of a more perfect setting to enjoy a meal with friends. What a beautiful table setting and your “chandelabra” is the finishing touch.

  20. Posted September 14, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    So elegant! A stunning table setting! I just might have to drag a table chairs down near the lake as soon as we finish moving in : )

  21. Posted July 14, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    I’m pretty new to your site, so I just came across this post, but I love it! The table looks gorgeous! And I adore the chandelabra!!! Unfortunately, I live in Florida so we don’t have any non-sweltering weather until December and then it still isn’t exactly dining weather. But I can hope and dream, right? :)

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  1. By Trash to Treasure | Wenderly on July 13, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    [...] summer I found this chandelabra while antiquing and I shared how easy it is to make when talking about Dining Al Fresco in [...]

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