There was a time when you wouldn’t dream of putting the word stylish before picnic party. The two just didn’t fit together. Now, while the casual element is still key, all kinds of events – from weddings to corporate networking meetings – are taking on a picnic theme. Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Set the scene
A wonderful thing about a picnic event is, once you have chosen a location you love, nature does most of the decorating for you. Trees provide the perfect stand on which to hang paper lanterns, small pea lights and vintage bunting, all of which can help create a party atmosphere. Simple floral arrangements add another splash of colour, whilst checked table cloths, picnic blankets and brightly coloured cushions can be purchased in any colour to fit in with your chosen theme. For that vintage feel – opt for ‘proper’ floral patterned crockery – mismatched for a reason!
2. Think comfort
Lying on the grass seems like one of the best things ever when you’re 20, but if you’re organising a mixed age party you need to give a bit more thought to the seating. The great thing about a picnic party is that you can comfortably host more people than you could for a sit-down meal. Many people will be happy to sit on a picnic blanket, especially if you add plenty of large cushions to lounge around on. But other people will need more substantial seating like painted wooden chairs (cushion on the seat) next to rustic wooden picnic benches. And if you really want to bring the comfort of your picnic, hire sofas to be used outdoors.
3. Menu board
When it comes to drawing up a menu for your picnic you can’t beat a good old-fashioned chalk board. Not only does it look great, but it has a practical purpose too. It lets guests know exactly what to expect and gets taste buds watering before they’ve even seen the buffet.
4. Fill ’em up
Food is central to a picnic and you don’t want to stray too far from the classic, simple staples – smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches, handmade Scotch eggs, individual quiches and herby sausage rolls. All can be served with a modern twist such as in individual picnic baskets. Sandwiches are best served in crusty bread, which is less likely to go soggy! Packaging portions separately also helps to keep food fresh and makes it easier for guests to eat neatly out of their hands.
5. Dessert heaven
Individual portion deserts can make eating pudding so much more appealing. Single portion fruit salads served in lidded glass jars and stored in an ice bucket are always popular. For sweet-tooth snacking, large cookies, or chocolate brownie squares are easy to handle and filling large korken jars full of bite-sized treats looks fantastic as part of the display.
6. For kids of all ages
Whatever your age, there are not many who can resist a bag of pick n mix. Whether you set up a small sweet stand or hire one in, you can be sure the youngsters won’t be the only ones queuing up to take their pick.
7. Keep ’em cool
Nothing beats an ice-cream on a warm day. If you don’t think it’s stylish, think again – even the Queen serves ice-cream tubs at her garden party. Depending on the theme and size of your event, you might want to think about hiring an ice-cream van or a vintage barrow.
8. Stay hydrated
Making sure the bar doesn’t run dry is a concern for all event hosts. But I’ve been to several events recently where it wasn’t the beer that was in short supply but the water. Don’t underestimate how many bottles of water you might need to keep your guests hydrated, and make sure that there is also plenty of ice to keep drinks cool. Served jugs of chilled Pimms – or frozen Pimms lollies – and simple, cool Prosecco..you can’t beat it on a warm day.
The essence of a picnic is to relax and enjoy being outdoors. Lawn games are popular, but for a more formal occasion you might like to lift the entertainment a level by hiring a band. Live music is always a wonderful addition to a party, but make sure that you adhere to any local regulations when thinking about using amplified sound.
10. Bad weather back-up plan
Unfortunately in the UK, weather is the one thing you can’t be sure of for any event. Hopefully you will choose a warm sunny day to hold your picnic party, but just in case you don’t get the blue skies you hoped for, make sure you have a back-up plan. If partying in your garden you can move indoors; hotels or other formal venues will usually have a room you can move into; or you might want to think about hiring a marquee or some other kind of shelter. Whatever you choose, the great thing about a picnic party is that it is relaxed and casual, so plans can be changed and guests moved without too much fuss.