Hosts planning impromptu outdoor parties for the holiday weekend might understandably be tempted to make a Target or Walmart run for last-minute supplies. But a Saturday or Sunday morning trip to the local flea market could yield a more interesting, equally affordable bounty of supplies for your Labor Day garden party. Here are a few of my favorite flea market staples for outdoor entertaining:• Let's face it: eating with plastic utensils pretty much stinks, and the new biodegradable versions, while obviously preferable for environmental reasons, are even less sturdy than their eco-unfriendly cousins. If you like to entertain, keeping a stash of mix-and-match flatware is a worthy pursuit. Flea market vendors (not to mention Salvation Army and other thrift stores) frequently offer bins of silver-plate flatware for cheap. And for a relatively casual outdoor party, lots of different patterns look cute mixed together.
• Okay, I know you might be a little tired of hearing from me about the glories of blue mason jars. But the truth is, they're great for garden parties: as candle holders, vases, or even drinking glasses. They've got a lovely rustic vibe without being too "country-kitsch."
• Flea markets often turn up an abundance of old copper bowls, kettles, pitchers and the like. You can polish them up for a cleaner look, or leave them oxidized so they blend in with your casual garden table. I like to use them for flowers (of course) and as serving pieces (cleaned well and lined with leaves or other garnish).
• Flea market linens — in the form of dish towels, handkerchiefs, raw textiles, or any of the above — make perfect napkins at outdoor parties, where lap eating is the norm. Again, a mix-and-match approach is nice, especially if you're going that direction with the flatware and/or the containers for your florals. Inexpensive linens like these can also be cut up to make pretty fabric flag banners to hang around the garden.
• I've had a lot of luck finding candle hurricanes at flea markets, and these are a must for any evening outdoor party when there's even the slightest breeze. (Thrift stores are another good source for these.)
The possibilities are endless… old soda crates can be used for stacking napkins; discarded terracotta pots, filled with sand, make great candle holders; old cake stands are perfect for serving cheese or hors d'oeuvres (or cake!). Got any favorites of your own? Please add them below!