Sitting in a park with snacks, drinks, and conversation with a friend of two was one of the only possible (read: safe) social activities to partake in over the past year — but it’s always been one of summer’s simplest pleasures. So even though you may still not have access to (or are not comfortable to venture to) malls and movie theaters and even bars, knowing how to create an Instagram-worthy picnic will be a skill worth having this season and beyond. But it’s not just about getting great social content: Knowing just what to pack to create ambience and keep you and your cohorts satiated and entertained while making it as unfussy as possible will make the occasion even more memorable.
You probably can assume a few of the most basic picnic essentials, like something to tote all your stuff in, something to lay on, and so forth, but to do it in a clever and stylish way that also happens to be functional is something you might want to learn from expert entertainers. Sure you’ve seen the photos of spreads with whole watermelons, glass goblets, and other beautiful but impractical accoutrements, but will you really be enjoying yourself with a mess on your hands or if you’re worried about breaking things? Probably not. On the flip side, disposable dishes create extra waste and, quite simply, just aren’t very chic.
You can find a happy medium, and the pros are here to help you. With guidance from event and interior stylist Abby Pendergrast, and One Darling Day wedding planner and stylist Claudia Casanova — who recently co-founded a very picnic-friendly online shop Bonita Bodega with business partner Danielle Powell — TZR gathered a few ideas of what you can use to orchestrate the dreamiest picnic ever for your next park hang, outdoor concert, beach day, and so on if you want to take yours to the next level without too much fuss. Find them all ahead.
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“Blankets set the stage for the perfect picnic,” says Pendergrast. Pick something that’s soft and comfortable to sit on, as well as eye-catching as a backdrop for your food, drink, and serveware. This blanket from Bonita Bodega has everything you need you lay the groundwork.
An Old-Fashioned Basket
Channel your inner Jane Birkin (remember her famous basket bag?) and tote all your goods in a classic woven basket (bonus points when it’s lined with cute gingham fabric, like this one from West Elm and Heather Taylor’s collab). It won’t keep things chilled like a cooler (though it’s a lot more chic), but for a pro tip, freeze your grapes or make sure the bottle of wine inside is extra cold and that will help keep everything inside crisp and fresh in transit.
Chic Serving Platters
“To me what makes an Instagram-worthy picnic, is using cute serving platters for all of your snacks,” says Pendergrast, who loves the colorful melamine serveware set options at Target. They add a pop for your pictures, they’re super durable. and they’re affordable.
Prefer to graze at your picnic versus serving a meal? “Nothing says picnic more than a charcuterie board,” Casanova and Powell offer. And creating an eye-catching grazing board doesn’t have to be difficult. This sleek, speckled melamine platter from Goverre (which also makes spill-proof wine-glasses that are perfect for taking to a picnic) comes cleverly pre-sectioned, so all you have to do is fill in the shapes with different types of crackers, fruits, cheeses, and nuts to make an artful arrangement.
“Obviously I have to have rosé or spritzers at the park, and glass is a no-no,” Pendergrast says. Instead, you can still look elegant while sipping your summer cocktails or natural wines with acrylic tumblers like these, which even have a sturdy little stem for extra fanciness.
Want to (literally) elevate your picnic? This fold-out table from Food52 can take your spread up a notch, says Pendergrast. “I love this because it's sturdy but also has a strap making it super easy to haul to your picnic destination,” she says.
You can do better than paper napkins. Pack some lovely linens for a sustainable and photogenic option. Textiles can also offer you another way to inject some more color and/or pattern to your setup. “You can't forget napkins and these are my favorite from Suay Shop made from deadstock linen in LA,” says Pendergrast.
Flowers For Ambience
OK, so you might not need flowers at a picnic, but Pendergrast and Casanova and Powell all agree that they give your spread a pastoral feel. Grab a fresh bouquet from the farmer’s market or, if you want to give your guest a gift that will last, opt for a dried arrangement. They’re sweet, on-trend, sustainable, and they’ll give your picnic a rustic chicness.
A Conversation Starter
Casanova and Powell believe that no picnic is complete without a little activity. “To help get the conversation flowing, we always use a Moglea cards deck or these ‘Say it Do It’ cards that take a modern twist on the traditional truth or dare game.” And honestly the most Instagram-worthy moments are the ones in which you’re genuinely having fun.