Not Your Garden Variety

A Bridal Shower Where Elsa Schiaparelli meets Alice in Wonderland

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Gifts wrapped in colorful bows. Ladies decked out in gorgeous floral frocks. Sounds like another bridal shower? Perhaps. But you can bet your last Jordan almond that when takes on the planning for this time-honored event, you've found the inspiration to plan a party filled with unexpected surprises.

In this fresh take on the classic garden party, we arranged a setting complete with shocking pink and Mughal prints. It's where Elsa Schiaparelli meets Alice in Wonderland--minus a Mad Hatter or March Hare to claim there's no room for one more. For in this inspirational environs, the more the merrier, indeed!

"We envisioned an edgy garden party," says Michael Gerloff, Creative Director of Colin Cowie Events & Celebrations, who lead the charge. "We wanted to create an environment that was really strong and floral but also not forced but eclectic and natural."

The key to creating a setting on your own inspired by this dreamscape isn't hard or expensive.

Here are five secrets for pulling off your own version of a boho-chic-meets-glam bridal shower that is as full of spirit, verve and style as this lush al fresco décor:

Break out the good stuff

Even though this table is set outdoors under a canopy of branches and not in a formal dining room with a grand chandelier overhead, don't hold back your finest china and glassware. It will make your great outdoors event instantly elegant. "We slipped in Baccarat glasses," reveals Gerloff.

...And the cheap stuff

In contrast to the $125 wineglasses (that's the cost for one!), this tabletop has plenty of elements that are also downright cut-rate. The ruffled chargers under the plates? They're made of melamine and cost about $9 each.

For water goblets, white vintage Florentine glasses were mixed with the Baccarat. For floral décor, hardy black-eyed Susans and fragrant sweet peas were displayed in simple (but so country garden!) jam jars.

Designate your hero

In any table setting you plan, adopt this as your mantra. Your "hero" means the focal point around which you want to build your table. In this case, it was the graphic, Mughal-inspired Kelly green and white linens that cover the long dining table.

While these designs look like they'd cost a fortune, the linens were just unfinished cloth bought at Ikea, cut from bolts of fabric and ironed. How do you choose linens this way? Go for cotton canvas. They resist wrinkles and always look sharp.

Color in threes

Of course, Kelly green and white are not the only dominant colors in this setting. Distinctively shocking pink (and its related richer purples) also abound. "Colin Cowie palettes always work with one color beyond the two central ones," explains Gerloff. "What really works is a strong contrast to make a bold, dramatic statement."

Place it on a pedestal

Anything elevated looks more important. Use cake stands, footed compotes and three-tier pedestals to make a grand gesture instantly with your food's presentation.

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