Summer outdoor entertaining doesn't have to mean paper plates and plastic tablecloths and glasses. Check out bright acrylics or explore flea markets and garage sales for inexpensive yet stylish dinnerware options such as spatterware or funky aluminum camping pieces. Instead of complete sets, use plates and cutlery pieces that you can mix and match (different styles of drinking glasses will handily solve the inevitable "which glass is mine?" dilemma). Fold and wrap napkins into packages, with gift tags as place cards, if you like.
Wrap your table like a gift. Using twine of colourful ribbon, tie down the tablecloth, folding the corners under to keep them from flapping; the resulting grid can be used to indicate place settings. You can use muslin or consider using other inexpensive fabrics or even fabric remnants -- the edges don't have to be hemmed since they'll be tucked under. Similarly, tie fabric around your picnic benches or chairs or wrap foam squares to create seat cushions and tie them down with ribbon.
Clean, attractive wastebaskets can be pressed into service as ice buckets for beverages. Toss in a few miniature ice packs under the ice to ensure long-lasting cooling power. Now, with the stage set, you can relax and enjoy the evening.
Thoughtful touches such as finger bowls will be appreciated, particularly when finger-licking foods are on the menu. Fill small salad or custard bowls with water and decorate with lemon slices and tiny flowers -- that way the bowls also serve as individual floral arrangements.
A fish tank with ribbon wrapped around the top and base shelters a "candlescape" centrepiece from evening breeze. Clear vases or jars can be used for smaller arrangements. Position candles away from the container's sides; sand will protect the base. Long fireplace matchsticks make lighting hard-to-reach wicks easy.