Hosting Tips

A Bohemian Backyard Dinner Party

By Carmen Collins
boho backyard dinner party

Sometimes the best nights out are the nights we stay in. Today, Houston calligrapher Meg Grant is sharing her recent backyard dinner party with us. She handcrafted everything from the invitations and place cards, to the menus and bar signage. Scroll down to check out her thoughtful floral arrangements and learn how to host your own family-style dinner party in the comfort of your backyard.

From Meg: “I have always had a love of intimate gatherings. The ability to bring a small group of people together and allow the creation of those individuals to bring about an experience and thereby memories is what I love about parties. For this party in particular, the purpose behind the celebration was nothing more than bringing some of my closest friends together for an evening of revelry, good food, and good drinks! That intention is why the header for the invitation was “Live, Love, Laugh, Eat & Drink” – subtly yet directly stating what kind of evening I wanted to create for each and every one of the 15 people attending.”

photos by ashleigh amoroso

Where did you host this outdoor dinner party?

The party was hosted at my home, in my backyard in Houston, Texas. For me, this party was a way to do all the things I love doing, and given the Houston weather in November is usually sublime, I wanted to host an outdoor soiree on the ground. Although sitting bohemian style on the ground isn’t a novel concept, it was something new for us and a refreshing change from the status quo.

We love all the signage you created for the party. How did you get into calligraphy?

I actually took my first calligraphy class when I was about 10 years old as a young camper at Camp Greystone in North Carolina. After the birth of my son, who is now four, I was looking to start my own company that would allow me to work from home so I could have the flexibility to be with him and do something I was passionate about. The work I get to do is amazing because I get to provide those details and personal touches for others that make them proud and happy about the event or occasion they are throwing.

What calligraphy supplies would you recommend for someone who wanted to make their own event signage?

Paper Source is a great and accessible place for paper products – place cards, envelopes, table signs, etc. Their color selection is amazing and their quality is fantastic.

When you are getting your start, I think using markers or brush pens is the best way to go. Sharpies are always a staple in my work, and Tombow pens come in an array of colors that can give subtle and dramatic effects.

There are also great books and resources that can help you get started in learning calligraphy, like Hand Lettering 101 by Chalk Full of Love and any of Laura Hooper’s calligraphy materials.

Tell us about these gorgeous floral arrangements. What flowers are they made up of?

Maria Maxit of Maxit Flower Design created these floral arrangements using a mix of:

  • king protea
  • quicksand roses
  • garden roses
  • spray roses
  • ranunculus
  • anemones
  • dahlias
  • kiwi branches
  • pampas grass
  • kiwi fruit
  • star fruit
  • cactus fruit

What went into creating the low dining tables?

I constructed wood table tops which were then placed on wooden crates. The tablescape was nothing short of what I wanted: an eclectic mix of fabrics, textures, vintage plates, assortment of glasses, and flowers for days!

We love the mismatched layered look of the plates and glassware. Are they vintage?

The plates were a mix of vintage and new. I collected French plates from a vendor on Etsy and mixed them with my collection of Suite One Studio plates. The majority of the glasses were actually the wedding glasses from my grandparents’ wedding nearly 63 years ago in Puerto Rico. My grandmother gave me her full collection of them as a gift some years back.

Tell us about your handmade invitations.

The invitations were done on 220# Lettra, letterpressed with rose gold foil. Once they were printed, I stained each invitation with an Argentina Malbec because of its color. No two invitations were the same!

What was your signature drink of the night?

I love margaritas and we’re in Texas, so I knew I wanted to do a blood orange margarita! I’m from Floria and my family grew oranges as I was growing up. I thought having that component was a special twist that really only I would notice. Plus, the blood orange was in season and provided a nice color and touch to the menu.

Who was on your guest list for this backyard dinner party?

I invited some of my closest friends – a mix of old and new – but I intentionally designed the guest list so not everyone at the party knew each other. This provided an opportunity to bring some of my different groups of friends together in a fun, intimate setting.

This cheese display is to die for. What all did you serve for appetizers?

We had a big display of cheese that featured red pepper cheese, graskaas, triple cream brie, gloucester, and port wine derby. Our crudité selection included baby carrots, cucumbers, and bright peppers, with a homemade red pepper hummus.

And for the main course?

I worked with A Fare Extraordinaire and we were able to pull off the family-style dining experience, instead of a plated dinner, to keep the nature of the party casual. The main course was boneless braised beef short ribs, topped with candied yellow and red beets and dusted with gremolata. There was also a wild mushroom medley in a puff pastry purse, wood fired grilled vegetables, and flatbread topped with butternut squash puree, brussel sprout leaves, and oven-roasted oyster mushrooms.

What was your favorite part of the night?

The vision and intention of this party was to enjoy time with friends, create memories, and create an environment that was pleasing to the senses and the stomach. As a sign read at the bar, ‘Every empty bottle is filled with stories.’ Making memories is what life is about – memories to savor and live in.