A few weeks ago we held our annual member meeting at work and kicked off the summer season in style with an elegant picnic themed party.
I work as an event planner for a local park foundation – a non-profit that raises money and awareness to support the park. Typically, for our annual meeting, we do a nice reception on the garden patio with wine and finger food. And it is lovely.
But this year I wanted to do something different. Something that would really wow our guests, but still have a touch of casual and comfortable.
Something that would make them think of summer in the park.
Carefree, sunny summer days are the perfect time for lazing around outside with friends while enjoying a glass of wine and lingering over a tasty picnic.
Use any of these party ideas to create an elegant picnic at your local park or even in your own backyard.
I started with the idea for the food and came up with a “pack your own picnic” theme. For the decor I used traditional red and white gingham accents.
You don’t always have to use cloth to impress your guests. These paper napkins are just fine for an outdoor picnic theme and can create visual interest when presented in fun containers like these small galvanized buckets.
We set up several banquet tables under a large white canopy to define the dining space and provide shade from the sun (it is also appropriate if you have a bit of summer drizzle.)
I chose black linens for the service tables (food buffets and bar) and brilliant holiday-red table clothes with burlap runners for the dining tables (see my post for making these easy no-sew burlap runners here.)
Everything was just stunning against the red table covers! This look certainly contributed to my “wow!” factor!
For the table decor, I was inspired by this pin on Pinterest from Catch My Party. But instead of using mason jars as vases, I re-purposed some Starbucks Frappuccino bottles that were leftover from a meeting. My co-worker was going to recycle them.
I think she thought I was crazy when I dug them out of the recycle bin. But I knew I would use them for something. Someday.
Well, their time had come! These are so easy to put together. I pulled all the labels off by hand and then used a scrubber sponge (and some serious elbow grease!) to get the sticky residue off. I then wrapped a bit of burlap (taping the ends to the bottle with clear tape) and simply tied a strip of gingham fabric on top to cover the tape.
Red and white flowers with greens (I chose sweet-peas and stalks of mini euphorbia) completed the look.
We added touches of the red and white checked gingham in other places throughout the party.
My co-worker made this sign for over the bar by cutting triangle pennants from the fabric, laying hand-cut black construction paper letters on top and then laminating each triangle. They were attached to a black bamboo rod with clear tape and then hung with twine from the rafters.
Speaking of the bar – setting up a refreshing lemonade station, complete with sparkling water and fresh cut lemons, is a perfect addition, or great alternative (especially if you want to hold your party in a local park where alcohol may be prohibited) to your more spirited beverages.
Since the food is truly the centerpiece of any picnic, I called upon one of my go-to caterers in Seattle, Cameron Catering (but this meal could easily be re-created in your home or from your local supermarket deli.)
Justine at Cameron Catering was happy to help me out. Their box lunches are always fantastic, so I knew they were just the right team to make my deconstructed box lunch idea a reality.
They are so wonderful to work with. I told Justine what I wanted to do and she was excited and very collaborative.
I am addicted to collecting picnic baskets and have several that I have picked up over the years at thrift stores and garage sales for a song.
I told her that I had plans to use a few of the baskets for decor on the food tables and she was the one who suggested putting flowers in them.
In addition to my Starbucks bottles, I was going to make some larger flower arrangements for the tables anyway, so this a great solution!
Chef Suzanne Cameron is remarkably talented at building the most beautiful displays of fresh, local, innovative and delicious food. I cannot tell you how many people asked about the catering – I lost count!
On the menu were sandwiches in brown paper wrapping and a nice variety of salads.
Everything was packed individually in either compost-able or recyclable containers.
The packaging was simple and these clear salad containers allowed the vibrancy of the food to really shine.
Service was non-fussy as guests were invited to pack their own picnic dinners in the provided brown paper bags with handles.
The decision for this menu was an attempt to stay on top of my budget – lunch is usually a more affordable option for catering than dinner.
And for dessert? Stay tuned! I’ll soon be sharing a perfect pairing to this summer picnic supper