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How to Plan the Perfect Summer Picnic—Straight from an Expert

07.07.2021 — Lisa Vorce

Picnics are the essence of summer get-togethers. They’ve survived the test of time because they are simple, easy to plan, and of course, a lot of fun. Pack these picnic essentials and elevate with Ashley’s go-to party planner, Lisa Vorce’s design tips for a perfect picnic tablescape!

Seating & Surface

Keep it simple. If you have access to a local picnic table, bring along your favorite tablecloth to set the stage. If your picnic will be on sand or grass, think multiple blankets and tablecloths. Remember to bring enough textiles for both “table surface” and seating so guests aren’t sitting straight on sand or grass. Throw pillows from your home can make comfortable seats for your guests. If your picnic will be located somewhere near damp ground, invest in a picnic blanket with a waterproof backing (or underlay your blankets with a shower curtain!) in order to ensure the greatest guest comfort.

Design tip: Your textile choice will be the heart of your design for the picnic.  There’s no wrong answer—just match your personality to your picnic.  Do you love color and patterns?  Choose a vibrant tablecloth, or three.  Want to set an ocean-zen sort of mood? Layer white and taupe blankets in a mix of textures.

Grab a Picnic Basket

This is a must-have for every picnic! Pre-fit bento boxes or other containers into an iconic basket, or invest in a modern-day picnic basket that comes with multiple compartments and tableware, for ease of use. If you do not have a picnic basket, no worries! Even something as simple as a cute straw tote bag will work. 

Design tip: Thrift shopping for a vintage picnic basket is fun and adds a touch of style and romance to any picnic!

Make a Charcuterie Board

A charcuterie board is a great way to start off a picnic and provides a hard surface that is essential for serving and sharing food at a picnic. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy! Just pack your favorite wood cutting board along with some cheese knives.  For your starters, include a selection of cured meats, cheeses, and crackers. 

Design Tip: To fill in the gaps on the board spread out some olives, dried nuts, and fruits. Add herbal greenery from the garden or the grocery store and floral cuttings from your backyard to provide both beautiful scents and a pop of color.

Tabletop

For an elevated dining experience, pack china dishware and glass goblets in a crate to cart to/from your picnic.  If an upper body workout isn’t your thing, bamboo plates are a wonderful alternative.  They come in many designs, they won’t break, and they are kind to the planet because they are reusable. Make sure to have enough plate ware, glassware, and flatware for each guest and each course.  Sandwiches and summer salads are an easy complement to the charcuterie board.  Bring an old-fashioned hand-cranked ice cream maker, to have a dessert and a fun activity post the main meal!

Design Tip: Tie different color ribbons or a petite tag on stemware so guests can identify their drink.  Paint guest names on rocks and place them on each place setting to serve as guest place cards and to keep items from blowing away. 

Design Embellishments 

This is where you can bring your own personal touch to your picnic. Add design elements to compliment your chosen textiles: a cute umbrella, a flower arrangement for the table, candles in lanterns, etc. are all great ways to incorporate more color and interest into your tablescape. 

Design Tip: When finding items to add to your picnic tablescape, pick things that are beautiful but can also serve a purpose and reflect your personality. Choosing a beautiful linen napkin for your place setting design is a great way of providing a purpose but also gives you the opportunity to add your own personal touch. The more you incorporate your personality, the more your picnic will be a reflection of you—it will give your picnic its soul and a welcoming feel for family and friends!

P.S., don’t leave home without a bottle opener, extra ice and water, a trash bag, sunscreen, bug repellent, and your charming personality.

Lisa Vorce