Picnics are a quintessential summer staple, and likely one that’s tied to many fond memories. But picnics don’t need to happen on the beach or in a fancy park to bring joy. Savour a sunny afternoon by packing the perfect picnic and setting up a unique al fresco experience right in your own backyard. These simple tips and tricks will have you feeling inspired and excited to host your own backyard picnic in no time!
The food and dining experience is what makes a picnic, a picnic. That being said, there’s no wrong way to pack for a picnic as long as you’re considering the weather, how you’ll serve and eat, if you’ll cook in advance or onsite and if any guests will be contributing to the menu.
Plan out a multicourse meal for your picnic that’s simple to execute, beautiful to look at and enjoyable for guests. Serving food you can prepare in advance or simply set out to serve is always ideal. This way guests can pick away at appetizers while they mingle at the start and then everyone can sit down to a full meal when the time comes. There’s no such thing as a perfect menu but there are definitely some foods that make your job as host/hostess a lot easier:
Apps at a picnic should be fun, handheld and easy to eat! Making them ahead of time and serving them cold is also a hosting bonus.
– Charcuterie boards that incorporate a variety of meats, cheeses, pickled veg, crackers and bread are always a hit.
– Everyone loves food on a stick! Apps like caprese salad skewers or melon and prosciutto skewers are popular.
– Using disposable cups is a great way to create single serving portions of popular picnic dips like hummus, baba ghanoush, spinach dip, roasted red pepper dip and more. Put a generous dollop in each cup and then add in a selection of raw vegetables or pitas so guests can mingle and eat with no plates required.
Cold salads are always a win at picnics, especially on a hot day! Consider serving a watermelon and feta salad with fresh basil, a summer pasta salad with herbed pesto, a cold noodle dish with raw vegetables, a Mexican street corn salad or even a standard potato salad or coleslaw.
Want something warmer for a colder weather picnic? Mac and cheese, a warm potato salad or some BBQ’d vegetables will likely hit the spot.
Go straight from the fridge to the table with a main course like fancy chicken salad or even a build-your-own sandwich bar that lets guests customize their main course with the ingredients and toppings they like best.
If you’re planning to grill the main course then you have lots of classic options like burgers, hot dogs, grilled vegetable skewers, grilled potatoes, marinated skewers, drumsticks, sausages and more.
No party is complete without the perfect dessert! Keep things small and easy to pass around and eat so guests can continue enjoying the atmosphere and social aspect of the event without being bogged down with a heavy, difficult to eat dessert.
Opt for mini cupcakes, cookies or a variety of pastries you can make in advance or purchase from a local bakery. Make a fruit salad the night before with fresh, seasonal fruit and either scoop it into little cups, or have guests serve themselves alongside the pastries.
Picnicking in cooler weather? Don’t be afraid to kick it old school with a DIY s’mores station that will keep guests entertained and happy.
Having a signature drink alongside some standard beverage options will make your life as a host much easier. Consider creating something custom to match the theme of your event that you can whip up in advance and either serve from a pitcher or a beverage dispenser. If some or all of your guests don’t want to drink alcohol, that doesn’t mean you have to serve something bland and boring! Make a mocktail that everyone can enjoy by skipping the booze. Make sure you have plenty of water, lemonade, some sparkling options and if alcohol is being served, wine/beer depending on your guests’ preferences.
Having a great spot to sit and eat is an essential part of hosting a picnic. If you’ve got a picnic or patio table you can use, it can be easily decorated with a cute gingham tablecloth and set with plates, silverware and folded napkins.
Don’t have a picnic table? You can also utilize pieces of furniture you already own or purchase something affordable second hand to create an eclectic picnic space for guests. For example, coffee tables are often low enough and well suited to holding picnic spreads. Want to make it a bit more rustic? You can even use bales of hay to create seating or set up little tents for guests to snuggle into.
You can also experiment with different variations of a table to find something that best suits your taste. Have access to some free or low-cost wood pallets? Place a blanket on the grass, push the pallets together to create a long banquet table and then add in your fabrics and decor of choice to brighten it up.
If you’d prefer to go the blanket route, you can set all your food into the middle and allow for seating space all around for guests. Add in some fluffy pillows and different textured blankets for visual appeal and comfort. Just keep in mind that eating from your lap may require a different menu or serving ware to ensure the experience is as pleasant and tidy as possible.
When it comes to decor, you can create a beautiful tablescape with fresh flowers, produce or a DIY centrepiece that works with your theme or strategically contains plants that repel bugs. If you can choose an area that allows you to hang things, you can incorporate some cute bunting banners, string lights, lanterns or hanging decor pieces to create a real mood.
If you’re hosting a picnic midday, you may also want to work on creating some shade if you don’t have any naturally occurring spots you can use in your yard. A simple sun umbrella or a few little eclectic tents can help create shady spots for guests to escape the heat without taking away from the picnic experience and overall vibe. It’s also important to consider the weather when choosing a date for your picnic as different times of the year may require different essentials, depending on where you live.
Hosting a backyard picnic will mean that you’re putting your entire outdoor space on display, so it’s important that you do the proper yard work to have it looking welcoming and tidy for guests. Remember, the last thing you want to do is set up a beautiful oasis on top of uncut grass that overlooks overgrown, messy garden beds. Hosting a backyard picnic may also be a great opportunity to show off some of the DIY backyard projects you’ve taken on lately and perhaps incorporate some of them into the setup.
Music does wonders to set the vibe at an event and a picnic is no exception. Create a custom playlist in advance to help create the atmosphere you want through sound, and strategically place Bluetooth speakers around the space to ensure the music carries without being overwhelming.
Decide what kind of activities you’ll be offering at your picnic. If yard games will be part of the fun, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from like corn hole, croquet, giant Jenga, ring toss and more that will keep your guests entertained before and after the food. You can even host some contests involving the backyard games to get guests excited. Pick up some cute prizes from small businesses in your neighbourhood to sweeten the deal!
Pests are a given any time you dine al fresco, so it’s safe to assume you’ll attract them at your picnic in one way or another. Being prepared in advance with pest control solutions, means you can relax on the day of the picnic and enjoy the company of your guests, instead of running around trying to deter bugs. Be aware that many bug repellants are unsafe to handle and use around food so you’ll want to source some natural bug repellant remedies that you can blend into your decor. Consider incorporating sliced citrus fruits on your table, setting up a diffuser with peppermint oil or citronella, decorating with herbs like mint and rosemary or creating a diversion away from your picnic with a bowl of sugar water.
Whether you’re going for a high-end party atmosphere or an eclectic boho vibe, there are so many fun ways to host a picnic in your own backyard. Consider the weather, make sure your yard is tidy, choose a fun and functional menu, curate some entertainment and set the mood with music/decor and you’ve got yourself the perfect event!