How to Host the Ultimate Picnic In 5 Simple Steps
Summertime picnics are inherently laid back gatherings — in theory, all you need is a blanket, a basket of food, and some friends. But if you’re looking to really up your picnic game for a more special occasion and create a sophisticated setting, we’d argue that I can be just as much of an undertaking as a dinner party or holiday soirée, especially if you’re providing all of the food and entertainment. Between the music, games, drinks, flowers, lighting, and tablescape, a picnic can quickly spiral into a full-blown outdoor dinner party (especially if you’re a natural host at heart like we are).
But don’t stress — we’ve broken down the entire process for you, from service style and menu to table linens and ambiance. Ahead, find everything you need to throw a top-tier picnic in five simple steps.
5 Steps to Host the Ultimate Picnic
Step One: Plan Your Menu & Service Style
If you’re anything like us, curating the picnic spread is your favourite part. But before you get lost in colour swatches and flower arrangements, you should always plan out the service style and menu. From sit-down dinners and strolling buffets to potluck-style and BYOB, your dining style will affect the entire planning process.
For example, you’ll need a large buffet table plus dining or cocktail tables for a strolling buffet, while a sit-down dinner only requires the latter. A potluck-style dinner or BYOB drinks should be mentioned on the invite so people can come prepared. Whatever your approach, it’s best to stock up on plenty of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages in addition to planning a few appetisers, a salad, a main, and a dessert (don’t forget to ask about dietary restrictions!). Find a few of our favourite entertaining recipes here.
Step Two: Create Your Outdoor Dining Room
Whether you’re curating a table-free picnic spread for four or throwing a party for 20 of your closest friends, the next step is to curate your guest list and figure out seating arrangements. If you’re going the seated picnic route, you can rent or borrow an outdoor table and chairs from a neighbour or even utilise a spacious indoor dining set for the evening (weather permitting).
A traditional picnic table is perfect for larger groups, and it eliminates the need for dining chairs. Even if you’re hosting a traditional summer picnic with blankets and tablecloths only, just make sure everyone has some sort of seat (or floor cushion). Backdrop is also important — placing your spread in a lovely park garden or overlooking a body of water will help create a beautiful, memorable experience.
Step Three: Design Your Tablescape
In our opinion, your tablescape is just as important as the food itself. To start, decide on a loose colour palette for your table linens, factoring in your cutlery and dinnerware. You can let colourful glassware shine with a white tablecloth and soft terracotta or sage napkins, or go the bold route with shades like turmeric, pink clay, rust, and petrol.
Next, set the table to get an idea of how much space you have, factoring in dinnerware, serving plates, cheese boards, and the like. If you don’t have a matching set, don’t sweat it! Mix and Match serving bowls, plates, and glassware from around your house to create a more personal, eclectic feel. Finally, add subtle flourishes like candles, flowers, and greenery to your table (but don’t overdo it — your guests should be able to see each other!).
Step Four: Set the Mood
Your table should certainly be the focal point of the event, but touches like twinkle lights, flowers, paper lanterns, and music can help set the mood (and provide ambient lighting once the sun sets). Remember that comfort is just as important as aesthetics.
Depending on the weather and time of your event, consider providing handheld fans, umbrellas, bug spray, or blankets and sweatshirts for a cool summer night. A sheltered veranda, patio, or gazebo is also clutch if you live in an area that gets a lot of summer storms.
Step Five: Provide Games & Activities
Depending on your crowd and the size of your yard, you may want to plan a few outdoor activities to keep the party rolling. A simple deck of cards or an iPhone game (we see you, Heads Up) will likely suffice for a small group of adults, while a cornhole set up, volleyball net, or a makeshift bocce ball court are great for a larger party. Finally, a sprinkler or even water balloons will keep kids entertained for hours on a hot summer day.