In a Rustic Garden Shed, an Elegant Surprise Party

elegant dinner party in a garedn shed in newport ri

In a rustic-chic garden shed on The Point, a trio of hosts held an elegant surprise birthday party and sit-down dinner for 18 guests.

True elegance requires a certain amount of restraint and a sense of effortlessness, but everyone knows that it can take a lot of energy to achieve that effect. Fun, on the other hand, should require much less work, although setting the stage for a good time can definitely enhance its outcome.

Toward that end, a group of friends recently put their heads and hands together to plan a surprise, girls-only dinner party for their pal Nell Green – owner of clothing boutiques Monelle and Chace N’ Lulu in Newport and Nantucket – who was celebrating a milestone birthday.

To set the scene, hosts Amy Gerry, a marketing executive, and interior designer Kelli Rugg together with photographer Meghan Sepe, spruced up an outbuilding on Amy’s property in Newport’s historic Point neighborhood. A fresh coat of white paint and cafe string lighting brightened up the space. The palette, they decided, would be rose and gold, to reflect Nell’s elegant, feminine taste and penchant for pink wine.

elegant dinner party newport ri

To heighten the ambience, they served only rosé – with and without bubbles – to their 18 dinner guests, plus a few more who came by for drinks and dessert. Each guest was asked to bring a bottle of rosé as well; these were piled into a wheelbarrow that the guest of honor – who lives next door – could push home at the end of the night (or, perhaps more accurately, that her husband would retrieve the next morning).

To contribute to the rustic-chic feeling, the party planners added carefully selected details: jumbo, shimmery gum balls strewn on the tabletop mimicked pearls – a tribute to Nell’s unrelenting preppy style; formal flowers balanced by bouquets of backyard branches; hand-lettered banners by Jessica Allen; wine-bottle “candelabras” spray-painted gold; a quotation on one wall written in pink chalk. A dinner of steak tips was followed by just the right amount of dessert, and all agreed that the food and setting were equally beautiful. As a guest, I can say that the rosé did indeed help elevate the mood, but without a doubt, the most delightful ingredient on the menu was friendship.

All photos by Meghan Sepe. Click on any image below to launch the gallery.

Meaghan O'Neill is a writer, editor, blogger wrangler, and the founder of Puddingstone Post. She was formerly editor-in-chief of TreeHugger, Discovery Channel online, and TLC's Parentables. Her writing has appeared in numerous print and online publications, and her book, Ready, Set, Green: 8 Weeks to Modern Eco-Living (Villard/Random House) was published in 2008. She lives in Newport, RI with her family.


  • Reply June 3, 2015

    bettie pardee

    Hello Meaghan, so good to see your work again. This is a scrumptious story and you tell it beautifully. What an addition to the summer Newport offerings.
    And thank you again for your story on Parterre last summer. Stop by and say hello! Best, Bettie

  • Reply June 4, 2015

    Meg O'Neill

    Thank you Bettie! I’d love to visit Parterre in any season. 🙂 Hopefully, we will see each other soon. xo

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