Bespoke Living Entertainment

How to Plan the Perfect Picnic: 5 Top Tips From Expert Hosts

A picnic provides food, fun, and fresh air for everyone. Luxury Defined asked the experts for their advice on how to host the best alfresco experience

Everybody loves a picnic, but when the pandemic hit, outdoor socializing became even more popular—and for good reason. “We launched Gather Picnic Co. in the summer of 2020 when going to restaurants or to people’s homes for traditional parties wasn’t an option,” says Emily Hecht, founder and creative director of Gather Picnic Co in Atlanta, Georgia.

“We do many birthdays, showers, anniversaries, and traditional gatherings now, but in the beginning the majority of our clients were simply craving a way to be outside with their loved ones,” she says.

The fact that picnics are traditionally held in parks or on beaches made the idea even more attractive—there’s plenty of fresh air and room for everyone to spread out.

Low table picnic setting overlooking the sun setting into the sea
Maui Luxe Picnics can arrange photography and videography sessions, drone footage, yard games, hakus, floral upgrades, and performance artists such as musicians and hula dancers to further upgrade your experience. Courtesy: Maui Luxe Picnics

“One of the reasons we started when we did [during the pandemic] was that we knew we could keep people safe in outdoor environs and small groups, and still have a great experience,” says Jordan Stiteler of Reverie Picnics & Events in Reno, Nevada, and Lake Tahoe, California.

Even now that life is getting back to normal, the enhanced picnic trend is still going strong. “I think it’s the privacy and exclusive feeling that picnics give guests,” says Jam Stewart of Picnic PopUp in Nashville, Tennessee.

“It’s also incredibly intimate—being seated at a low table gives you a new perspective. In many cultures, people share meals while seated on the floor. It’s easier to be grounded and connected when sitting like this, especially when surrounded by nature. There’s something simplistic and magical about that,” Stewart says. Here are top tips from picnic planning experts for hosting an amazing outdoor soiree you and your guests will never forget.

Wooden board with colorful food and a bottle of pink drink
The founders of the Gather Picnic Co. were inspired to start their company thanks to happy moments hosting their own friends and family. Today all you have to do is turn up with your favorite people and they will do the rest. Courtesy: Gather Picnic Co.

Tip 1: Choose the Right Location

Many parks and green spaces require permits, so make sure you choose a spot that’s available for use. Sometimes, you’re spoiled for choice. “From oceanfront properties to country farms and private waterfalls, we have a vast variety of beautiful landscapes to choose from in Maui,” says Christine Thomas, founder of Maui Luxe Picnics based on Hawaii’s second largest island.

It’s easier to be grounded and connected when sitting like this [on the floor], especially when surrounded by nature. There’s something simplistic and magical about that—Jam Stewart

Beaches are always fun, but if you’re after a romantic date night, Adrianna Davis of Picnic + Petal in California’s Central Coast recommends a quiet hillside. “There’s nothing more romantic than feeling secluded while having a stunning view,” Davis says.

Beautiful green picnic setting in a field
Choose from high tea, sushi, or Italian summer as the food theme for your Maui picnic. Whichever you go for, all set-ups include rugs and blankets, cushions, a low picnic table, fresh flowers, and a vintage beach umbrella, tent, or decorative backdrop. Courtesy: Maui Luxe Picnics

Consider the best day of the week for your picnic, which might not be a weekend—if you want privacy, for example. “Saturdays usually leave no room for seclusion,” says Davis. Choose a day when parks, green spaces, and beaches tend to be less busy and, if you’re lucky, you’ll have the place all to yourself.

Wherever and whenever you host your picnic, make sure your guests can easily find the location, and consider who’s attending. “If you’re having kids, choose a spot near playgrounds or one that has both indoor and outdoor space, so people can cool off if they need to,” says Candace Perez of The Posh Picnic in Austin, Texas.

Tip 2: Think Beyond Charcuterie

Most picnic companies list charcuterie boards as the number one food item served, but while those are tasty and easy to bring to picnics, there is so much more you can do when it comes to hors d’oeuvres.

At the new Grand Solmar resort at Rancho San Lucas in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, guests who sign up for the hotel’s Glam Picnic by the Sea enjoy delicious food that’s easy to eat and share. “Our menu includes sushi rolls, flank-steak tacos, and ceviche,” says Ricardo Orozco, VP of Operations, Solmar Hotels & Resorts.

Colorful board of food and flowers
Guests are spoiled for choice with Picnic + Petal, which has created different themes for its clients, including Boho Vibes, Under the Sea, and Disco Glam. The cheese board pictured is beautifully styled with fresh flowers. Courtesy: Picnic + Petal

Provide food that’s easy to serve and eat. For example, Maui Luxe Picnics offers guests high tea, whimsical floral teas, artisan cakes, and customized chefs’ menus—a far cry from the ubiquitous charcuterie boards. When it comes to drinks, some outdoor settings don’t allow companies to serve alcoholic beverages, so bear in mind you may have to bring your own.

Tip 3: Give Your Picnic a Theme

“All of our picnics have a theme that are based on places we’ve either lived or traveled: Venice, California; Milos, Greece; Sayulita, Mexico; and Santa Fe, New Mexico, for example,” says Hecht. “We spend a lot of time picking the decor, florals, and items for the place settings so that the picnic feels elevated and thoughtful. We want it to feel like a dinner party tablescape, but just on lower tables while sitting on pillows.”

Cream tent with low picnic tables and cushions underneath
Featuring cascading florals, this elegant structure could be the perfect location for your next celebration. If you’re keen to capture the moment, Maui Luxe Picnics will arrange a styled photo shoot for you, too. Courtesy: Maui Luxe Picnics

Themes don’t have to be dependent on locations, however. Bohemian, romantic, modern—any will do as long as it ties your event together and suits your style.

Tip 4: Make a Big Statement

During the Glam Picnic by the Sea at the Grand Solmar resort at Rancho San Lucas, guests arrive via a lantern-lit walkway to a private beach set up with a decorated arch, throw pillows, and blankets for comfort. Unlike most picnics that rely on Bluetooth speakers, the Grand Solmar also offers live music to create the perfect ambience as the sun dips below the horizon.

Reverie Picnics & Events can provide similar performances. Stiteler says, “We have had a guitarist come and play our picnics.” Meanwhile, Maui Luxe Picnics prides itself on its partnerships with local providers of authentic island entertainment.

Couple dancing on the beach surrounded by lanterns
Located north of Mexico’s Cabo San Lucas on a stretch of private beach, Grand Solmar resort at Rancho San Lucas offers golf, a spa, infinity pools, a unique lagoon, and a special beach picnic experience. Courtesy: Grand Solmar

Tip 5: Consider Hiring Professional Planners

Picnic companies run by experienced event planners can raise your outdoor event to a higher level, and give you more time with your guests.

The Posh Picnic is staffed by experienced event planners that set them apart. “Our style is composed of a variation of colors, textures, and patterns,” says Perez. “From the tablecloth to the goblets and floral arrangements, each item we use is hand-selected to complement the intricate details of our clients’ special occasion.” They even have an igloo option if the weather looks unpredictable, and will work with you to perfect your picnic party.

Banner Image: Gather Picnic Co.’s Greek Island theme