How to throw a Coachella festival themed summer garden party on a budget

What do you call a festival that you can organise from the comfort of your couch? Couchella!

For those of us who weren’t lucky enough to get tickets this year, Habitat have come up with a plan. Introducing Couchella – the festival you don’t have to leave your sofa for!

This was the genius theme for the latest Habitat party – complete with watermelon bellinis, festival hair and makeup stylists, and a DJ playing festival style music, all from the comfort of some pretty fabulous sofas.

In the spirit of festival season they asked me to share my own tips and ideas on how to throw a festival-themed party at home. You can read the full article here, or see below for a brief overview! If you’re planning a party, click here for fun and affordable party decoration suggestions, here for big-batch party food recipes and here for big-batch party cocktail recipes!

I love the idea of organising a festival themed garden party and have already started planning a festival style party for my 30th birthday next summer. It’s the perfect theme for a mid-summer outdoor party, and there’s so much room for creativity. If budget isn’t an issue then of course you could really go to town – think cotton candy machines, a hot dog stand, live music bands, a fortuneteller, oversized teepees, a bonfire and fireworks… Heck, maybe even a hot tub or pop-up swimming pool! But for the rest of us, there are plenty of ways to create a festival atmosphere in our own back garden – for a fraction of the cost. Here are a few ideas that will make maximum impact for minimum input…

1. Create little chill-out nooks…

Create tempting nooks, alcoves and dens for your guests to recline and relax. Order some hay bells and stack them together, then place a throw over the top to create a rustic and whimsical atmosphere.

Teepees and wigwams are perfect for festival style garden parties, but unless you buy them second hand or can borrow some they can be pretty expensive. You could of course try and make your own DIY teepee using sticks or poles leaning towards each other and fastened securely together at the top, with a large sheet or blanket draped around it. If you don’t have a blanket large enough, you could try using a combination of blankets until the whole teepee is covered.

For a similar effect, hang mosquito nets from a tree and lay a blanket down inside and pile on some scatter cushions.

2. Light it up

Lighting is one of the most important and effective ways of decorating an outdoor space. Combine outdoor fairy lights with some outdoor festoon lights, as well as hanging lanterns and candles in old jam jars and hurricane lanterns. It’s worth investing in some outdoor fairy lights or festoon lights as they will add a touch of magic to your outdoor space all year round. You could also hang some jars and lanterns (with battery operated or LED candles) from branches at different heights.

If you have time, a fun DIY project could be wrapping outdoor fairy lights around a hula-hoop to create a twinkling outdoor chandelier. For a more whimsical touch, you could also hang some coloured ribbons!

Prepare a bonfire for when the sun sets and it starts to get chilly. To stay on the safe side, invest in a firepit, brazier or chiminea, and make sure you have all the wood, coal and fire lighters you need so you can start a fire as soon as it starts to cool down.

3. Plan a menu

Rather than worry about bringing out snacks or canapés throughout the party, have a buffet station where guests can help themselves to food. Prepare some big batch party food in advance to keep guests going, and ask a few friends to man the barbecue. Also have plenty of convenience snacks dotted around – you could have a big bucket of marshmallows for roasting on the fire (don’t forget the skewers), and a ‘sweet station’ with little goodie bags that guests can fill themselves with sweets!

4. Bottoms up!

The last thing you want to have to do at your own party is to have to run around keeping glasses topped up – it would be a never-ending job and will just turn you into a stressed host!

Invest in some large drink dispenser jars and fill them up with big batch party cocktails such as Pimm’s & Lemonade, White Wine or Rose Sangria, Grapefruit Paloma or Blackberry & Thyme cocktail.

Have the drinks area separate from the food area so there’s not a huge queue and so that guests spread out. Accessorise your ‘drinks station’ with disposable cups (easier for cleaning up afterwards), drinking straws, buckets of ice, and fresh fruit such as lemon and lime wedges. Bulk order bagged ice, bottles of lemonade to top up the big batch cocktails, and don’t forget to also buy some canned or bottled drinks! You can easily store the latter in a wheelbarrow and then fill it up with water and ice to help keep the cans and bottles cool.

Of course don’t be shy to ask guests to bring a bottle either, and any cheap white wine that guests bring can be used to keep the white wine sangria topped up!

5. Entertainment

For a full festival experience, ask any musical friends whether they might be able to perform some live music, or ask around to find some amateur bands. You could even organize a whole line-up! If you can’t find live music, prepare a playlist in advance and make sure that it’s available ‘offline’ (an online playlist is asking for trouble), and make sure you have a sound system that can amplify the music. Your laptop might sound loud enough at home, but once the guests have arrived and are chatting away no one will even be able to hear the music!

For added entertainment you could consider setting up different activities. You could make your own ‘photo booth’ with a couple of Polaroid cameras, fancy dress and funny props. You could also ask a friend or relative to act as a fortuneteller or other form of entertainer.

6. Set the scene

And finally, set the scene with colourful decorations! Decorations don’t need to be expensive to make a big impact; fairy lights, bunting, paper lanterns and big colourful decorations like pom poms or tassel garlands can go a very long way – and then be reused year after year!

An obvious one that never goes out of fashion is bunting – upgrade your bunting by looping fairy lights along it, attaching balloons, tassels, streamers, or even sweets and party favours. Paper lanterns are a great way of adding splashes of colour to an outdoor space, and can create a wonderful whimsical atmosphere.

Mix and match different colours (but stick to one colour palette – for example, pastels) for a fun and summery vibe, or stick to the same colour (for example, white lanterns) choose different sizes and hang them at different heights for a romantic and elegant look.

Balloons are not just for children’s parties – for a more sophisticated approach, splurge on oversized pastel-coloured ones, confetti-filled or even clear balloons, and use them to decorate tables or the outside of your home. Wonderfully festive, tassel garlands really transform a space and create an instant party atmosphere. Use them in combination with bunting and paper lanterns if you want to go all out – or on their own to decorate tables or create a focal point (for example at the entrance). And just because you’re outdoors doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add plenty of greenery! Using wild flowers and foliage from the surroundings and even twigs adds a rustic feel and can make a table look much more festive and inviting.