Five nostalgic garden games for your outdoor wedding reception

05 May 2017

Stuck for ideas for your outdoor wedding reception? Here are five competitive garden games for you and your guests to enjoy

Image gallery

Image gallery

Summer is just around the corner, and with it comes outdoor boho, vintage, and festival themed weddings. If you’re planning an outdoor ceremony or reception, a great way to entertain your guests, break the ice, and bring them together is with some traditional and nostalgic garden games. Here are five of our favourites, with instructions on how to play.

Giant Jenga

Jenga is a tense game even in tabletop form, so imagine scaling it up to garden-sized. Fun for everyone to play, no matter their ages, this game will bring all of your guests together even if it’s just to see the giant tower topple. There are options out there for customising the large pieces with names, dates, and more, so you could even give out the individual blocks to guests as favours at the end of the evening.

What you need:

  • Giant Jenga set
  • Solid platform to play on
  • Photographer (for the guest’s reactions)

How to play:

1. Build the tower. Place three blocks down in a vertical direction, followed by three blocks on top in a horizontal direction. Continue until there are no blocks remaining.

2. Take it in turns to try and remove a block by pulling it out or pushing it from one side.

3. Once the block has been removed, place it on the top of the tower facing the opposite direction to the row underneath.

4. Repeat step #2 until someone makes the Jenga tower topple down. Whoever makes the tower fall loses.

Photos courtesy of Amanda K Photography


There are lots of companies out there that will hire out full-size portable bowling alleys for wedding receptions, but it’s not necessary to go the whole hog. Simply purchase or hire out a set of wooden skittles with a couple of small bowling balls, and set them up on a flat area of the lawn or patio at your venue. Your guests will love the competition. If you really want to impress, practise your bowling skills before the big day and blow everyone away.

What you need:

  • Wooden skittle set consisting of nine skittles
  • Two small wooden or plastic bowling balls
  • A flat surface (avoid areas that slope upwards or downwards)

How to play:

1. Set the skittles up in a diamond shape roughly 10m (36ft) away from the bowlers. Make sure to make a line or add a mark in the ground so that everyone will start from the same position.

2. Split into two teams. Each player on the team has three turns to bowl. For every skittle knocked down, the player receives one point. Between each turn, reset the skittles so that the maximum number of points one player can receive is 27. After every player on one team has taken their three turns, the scores are added up, and the next team begins.

3. Whichever team has the highest total score after both teams have played wins.

Photo courtesy of FortyOneTwenty


Suitable for any venue with a grass area or lawn, croquet is a traditional garden game that originated in the 1850s in England. Some hotels may already have a croquet course set up for their guests, so take advantage of it. The pace of the game allows it to be a social experience instead of a highly-competitive one, making it perfect for getting some fresh air in between drinking and dancing.

What you need:

  • A rectangular area of short grass
  • Nine wickets and two stakes
  • Four balls
  • Two mallets

How to play:

1. The nine wickets and two stakes are arranged in a double-diamond pattern. The game is a race around the circuit of wickets in the order and direction shown in this diagram.

2. Split into two teams of two. One team should play with the blue and black balls, and the other with the red and yellow balls.

3. Choose the colour of ball you’d like to play with, and then begin the game by striking the ball. A turn consists of a single stroke, unless you score a wicket or hit another ball, in which case you get another stroke. Entering a wicket from the correct direction will earn you one wicket point.

4. The players play alternative turns until both players on one side gets their balls through the 12 wickets and hit the stake.

5. When your ball has been through the last wicket, you can then score a stake point by striking the stake and being removed from the game. The final score is the sum of the number of wickets and stake points each side has obtained.

Photo courtesy of Krista Mason

Coconut shy

This traditional game, which originated in the late 1800s, is typically found at funfairs and fêtes. If you’re having a festival or boho wedding, why not add to the summery vibes by including a vintage carnival-style coconut shy in your outdoor entertainment? You could even make the coconut shy wedding themed by dressing up the coconuts as brides and grooms. This will be a game that both adults and children can enjoy. Add little prizes such as sweets or drinks vouchers for the winners.

What you need:

  • Coconuts
  • Wooden or plastic balls
  • Posts for holding the coconuts
  • A display or sign 

How to play:

1. Set up your coconuts by placing the posts in any pattern you like and hammering them into the ground. Place a line or marker on the ground roughly 3m (10ft) away from the coconuts: this is where players will stand.

2. Decide on the number of balls each person will be given. The fewer balls they receive, the less likely they are to knock down all the coconuts. Players take it turns to throw all of their balls at the coconuts.

3. Scoring can be done one of two ways. If you want it to be competitive, total up the number of coconuts each person has knocked down, with the person who’s knocked the most coconuts being named the winner. If you want it to be slightly more traditional (and a little bit unfair), there is only one way to win: knocking down every single coconut in one turn.

five-nostalgic-garden-games-coconutPhoto courtesy of Gavin Photography

Beer pong

Ok, so this one isn’t strictly a garden game, as it can be played either outside or indoors – but it is nostalgic. Its origins are foggy: Dartmouth College claims that it started there sometime during the 1950s, whilst Bucknell University believes it was invented there during the 1970s. Either way, it’s been around for between 60-50 years, and is a staple game at parties and functions across the world. If you or your other half is a beer fan, you could elevate the game by incorporating craft beer or local breweries.

What you need:

  • A table – preferably a ping-pong table
  • 16 plastic cups
  • One ping-pong ball
  • Two extra plastic cups or one large bucket

How to play:

1. Set up the table with eight plastic cups on either side of the table, filled halfway with beer. Arrange the cups so they’re in a triangle shape. Get a bucket or extra cup and fill it with clean water, for rinsing the balls in between turns.

2. Choose who will go first.

3. Take turns throwing the ball, aiming for your opponent’s cups. The goal is to throw the ball into a cup of the opposing team. Whichever cup the ball lands in, your opponent must drink.

4. Keep playing until one team has no cups remaining. The team that runs out of cups first loses. 

five-nostalgic-garden-games-beerPhoto courtesy of Green Antlers Photography


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