8 Clever Ways to Make a Picnic Extra Fancy and Extra Fun

It's a season of celebration, and posh picnics are the latest outdoor party trend. We've got the expert intel for DIYing a perfect meal at the park or beach.

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July 08, 2021
By: Caylin Harris

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After being cooped up in inside during colder months, once the warmer weather comes it feels like just about every meal tastes better al fresco. With a summer of fun in the sun ahead of you, why not take your picnic game from amateur to expert with a little help from the luxury picnic pros — yup, that’s a real thing. We spoke to Ashly Whalen, owner of Menta Graze, about some easy and affordable ways to dress up a humble picnic. It’s so much easier than you’d think!

1. Your foundation is important.

Listen, if you do one thing while dining outdoors bring these two things: an umbrella and a picnic blanket. "You really want a blanket with one side that’s water resistant so you don’t have to deal with damp grass," says Whalen. A cute, fringe-y umbrella helps blocks the sun’s rays and looks pretty darn cute too. And here's a fun tip: an umbrella screw works not only at a beach but at a park too. Just tap the diveted grass back in when you’re done.

2. Carry a dedicated picnic basket.

"One of the big pains is carrying all of your picnic stuff," says Whalen. "Investing in a picnic basket that has all the essentials stored inside can save you time and makes it easier to eat on the go since you aren’t bringing your regular pieces from home." You can go two routes with this. Buy one that comes with plates, cups, and silverware secured inside or find a vintage picnic basket and stock it with compostable serveware or thrifted dishes. The beauty of this separate set-up? You can keep it in your car and use it as needed!

3. If you want to get really fancy figure out a theme.

So not every color needs to be coordinated, but just like a room in your home, having an overall aesthetic helps pull the whole picnic together. So maybe you want something that looks boho with vintage details and tons of texture, or maybe you want a classic look with a gingham picnic blanket and wicker basket. Think about the mood and go from there if you want to get fancier for a special outdoor occasion.

4. You don’t always need to make your own food.

Honestly, when Whalen wants to keep it simple or has a special clients request for a specific dish, she uses DoorDash or Uber Eats to deliver a meal right to the beach or park location. How easy is that?

5. Pack smart foods if you’re DIYing it.

You can’t go wrong with finger foods or a simple sandwich on a fresh baguette. Just think about how it’s going to travel and how easy it will be to eat once you get there. Think: nothing messy that requires a fork and knife. One of the biggest requests Whalen gets is for a gourmet charcuterie board. It’s easy to set up once you get there, and let’s be honest, with a proper mix it has everything you need from meats, cheeses, crackers, fruit, nuts, dips, veggies, and more.

6: Layer in cozy elements.

What really takes a pro picnic to the next level is comfort and luxury. Throw blankets for when the sun goes down and throw pillows all add a cozy element to a beach picnic. Don’t stress about buying all new pillows — use past-their-prime throw pillows and invest in new covers or grab your indoor/outdoor pillows from your porch set-up. "If you do want to buy something new, I love IKEA for inexpensive cushions, pillows, inserts, and pillow covers; then I don’t have to worry about sand or dirt," says Whalen. Candles in jars or lanterns are also a stunning touch if you’re creating something at sunset or in the evening.

7. Think about height.

If you prefer picnic table to a blanket, consider using a coffee table that sits low to the ground, it makes it easier for people to comfortably sit around it. And don’t buy it new! Find a thrifted version. Also, if you want to include beach chairs, make sure they’re closer to the ground to make eating easier. Whalen’s favorites are cute cloth ones from Business & Pleasure.

8. Don’t forget these essentials.

Aesthetics aren't the only thing that will ensure a good time is had by all — consider tucking some of these in your at-a-moment’s-notice picnic basket: wine opener, lighter, a trash bag, bottle opener, SPF, bug spray, antibacterial wipes, hair ties, and a Bluetooth speaker.

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