11 Tips for Hosting an Idyllic Summer Picnic

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A guy walked by with his dog and stopped dead in his tracks to say something like “wow, this is really cool”. Then a couple stopped to take in the scene and comment. In fact, anyone who walked by stopped to comment. They couldn’t seem to help themselves. You would think men wouldn’t care much about a picnic and how it was set up, or really anything about it, but even they would stop to say “wow”!

I just giggled. I mean, I was thrilled that others found my picnic set-up to be stunning. It’s kind of what I was going for. Phew! Mission accomplished.

It was a special picnic I set up for a photography class I was teaching. It was meant to be beautiful and breathtaking. It was a styling shoot, after all. However, after we finished taking photos we all sat on the layers of blankets and pillows and enjoyed a crisp white wine along with specialty cheeses, loaves of crusty bread, Mediterranean salad, grapes, veggies and hummus, and a carrot cake made from scratch.

It was pretty fancy. But fancy in a fun, lighthearted way.

I don’t know what kind of picnic trips you have planned for this season, but I can give you some great tips on how to make it fabulous! Especially if you want to throw a picnic for a special occasion and wow your guests. Something like a small bridal shower, baby shower, girls trip gathering, or as a way to celebrate any special occasion.

One of my favorite things to do is to create events and spaces that cultivate the kind of love, laughter, fun, and coziness that you don’t see on the average. I like to go over and above what most people expect and create something spectacular for people to enjoy. You can do it too, if that is your thing! If you are reading this then I imagine it is.

So here are some tips and inspiration photos to help you get that idyllic picnic scene that “wows” the onlookers, especially the guests that get to be a part of it!


1. Be selective about your location.
Steer clear of parks that are too busy or that have an off-leash dog park that isn’t fenced in. Choose a place that is calm, heavily shaded, lush and has a lot of nice green grass, unless of course you are going for a beach picnic. If you are doing a beach picnic, I suggest a quite one, by some trees or pretty rock formations.

2. Plan for the right time of day.
Scope out the spot ahead of time and see where the shady spots are at the time of day you are planning for. The last thing you want is to get blasted by the sun halfway though and either have to suffer through it, or have to move everything.

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3. Bring tons of blankets and pillows!
Seriously, tons. I start with a large outdoor rug on the bottom layer and then put the prettiest blanket on top of that. Then start creating pillow piles that will basically be places for people to sit and lean up against. Add a couple of throw blankets in with that and you have yourself a cozy little space.

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4. Add some dimension.
Add height by bringing little side tables and a center table. Something low to the ground since you will be seated on the ground. These side tables will be handy for drinks and other items. Think of using little plant stands. Ikea has some great items that I love to use on picnics!

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5. Use an array of pretty dishes, wooden boards, glasses, etc. No Plastic allowed.
Not only are you saving the planet by not using plastic, you are amping your classiness factor way up! Don’t be too matchy, but keep a nice theme of neutral tones. Nothing too busy, keep the dishes solid to showcase the food. Always use fabric napkins! My favorite is linen. I bought a long cut of an oatmeal colored linen from a fabric store, cut it into 14” x 14“ pieces and washed them so that have a raw edge. I use them all the time!

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6. Bring some fancy-ish foods.
You don’t have to break the bank here. I love to go to the cheese section of the market and get the artisan cheeses when they are discounted because they are getting close to their “sell by” date. It is a great way to try new cheeses, just grab what is on discount. Do, however, spring for the fig jam. It will take your cheese board to a whole new level! Grab some veggies and fruits, make a dip or buy some hummus. Loaves of bread from your local bakery go a long way. A giant salad with a homemade dressing in a mason jar is delicious and stylish. Grab some cured meats or turkey, if you eat meat. Get creative with appetizers on Pinterest.

7. Bring an easy game to play.
Something simple like a box of trivia cards is an easy and fun way to have that little something for entertainment that doesn’t take up any space.

8. Bring plenty of water and beverages.
Wine, iced tea, and water is nice to have in glass bottles. I like to save old liquor bottles to put water in. A carafe with a cork is great for iced tea, either a box of wine or a bottle is always a great addition. Just bring some nice glasses that will do the trick no matter what you are drinking.

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9. Get there early.
Give yourself plenty of time to set up before your guests arrive. You want to have the place already looking perfect so you can see the look on their faces when they realize that you aren’t the average picnic-er. You go for that little extra.

10. Have a shoe section.
Think about having a small mat where people can take off their shoes before they sit down. You don’t want to be dragging pine needles, dirt and leaves into this cozy, clean little space you have created.

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11. Slow down and enjoy.
You took a lot of time to create this environment, be sure to slow down and enjoy it. Sip your wine slowly (apparently I am pushing having wine at this thing…). Tear your bread with your hands and live into the moments where you are spreading a delicious soft cheese onto your bread, dipping it in left over salad dressing, savoring the flavor combinations. Laugh. Don’t be uptight if something unexpected happens that you think might ruin the ambiance. Just be light. Sometimes, when things are a bit fancy, people can feel uncomfortable. They think they shouldn’t touch anything or do too much because they feel they might ruin the perfection. Make them feel at home and welcome by passing around the wine bottle and having everyone serve themselves. No biggie if there is a spill. Be laid back and show your friends just how fun fancy can be!