Hosting a winter party in a public venue like a park, vineyard or barn is a great option for those living in apartments or small spaces. This simple, rustic affair is the perfect way to ring in the holidays or just a new season.
Choose a Venue
The first step: Choose a venue. Local parks, vineyards and barns are good options. Find a place that will allow you to reserve the area exclusively for your party. Make sure to visit the venue well ahead of time, taking note of amenities like BBQ areas, regulations and restrictions. Since weather is an extremely important factor when hosting outdoors, be sure there is a covered area in case of rain or snow.
Custom invitations reflecting the rustic setting of the party are lovely, handcrafted reminders of your event that also inform guests about the venue, dress code, directions and time. Print the invitations on brown kraft paper and mount on 4-inch by 5-inch precut wood veneer sheets. Finish with plain linen fabric strips and gold string. Allow guests to RSVP online or via email. Invitations designed by Little Bit Heart
The Perfect Place to Sit
With a picturesque backdrop, little is required to create a party setting. Many parks or outdoor venues provide picnic tables and long benches or chairs. To add glamorous touches to your picnic, cover the table with a colorful fabric like this suzani print and layer it with a solid white tablecloth. A Moroccan wedding blanket or cozy throw on each bench creates a warm, comfortable place for guests to dine.
Take advantage of the ample green space and provide a place for guests to lounge. Spread painters' canvas under blankets to keep critters and moisture away. Throw pillows and wraps will keep guests comfortable.
Pack a Picnic Basket
Picnic baskets help you tote in condiments, spreads and dips as well as tablecloths and throws. Look for bargains on wicker or wire models in thrift stores; this one cost less than $5.
Soft, Warm Colors
The outdoor venue inspired this palette of soft peach, coral and warm brown. To balance the feminine hues, rustic elements such as earthenware, natural barks, capiz shells and metal add a masculine touch. Gold accents add a hint of glamour.
Free, Found and Flea
Choose china from flea markets and thrift stores instead of the typical melamine outdoor tableware to keep the look sophisticated and elegant. Choose items that are not too delicate and won't break easily; these wineglasses cost just 40 cents each! Wood bark chargers with a light coat of gold spray paint cement the rustic yet glamorous look.
A Place for Everyone
Hand-lettered place cards made from brown kraft paper sit atop birch log slices.
What's for Dinner?
Quiet questions of "What's for dinner?" by placing printed menu cards all around the dining table.
Start the meal by serving each guest a cup of spiced pistachio soup. Bring the soup in an insulated beverage container and pour just as the guests are seated. Garnish with chopped pistachios.
Fill the table with vibrant blooms to fully embrace the natural theme of the picnic. Katie Martine of Elegance and Simplicity designed these gorgeous arrangements made up of seasonal flowers and herbs for each table.
Get This Look
This bouquet is made up of copper amaranth, white astilbe, silver brunia berries, echinacea, gomphrenia, Dutch hydrangea and Sweet Annie artimisia.
If your budget is too tight for big floral displays, place herbs and single blooms in mason jars along the table for a more rustic feel.
Portable Buffet Table
Designate a food and beverage station using foldout tables covered in basic linen tablecloths to keep the main table clutter-free and allow guests to move about the picnic area. Old rugs also function well as table covers. Style with feathery wreaths, reclaimed wood pieces, favors and fresh flowers.
Elevate menus, food items and dish markers on rustic slices of birch logs.
A cheese plate makes ideal picnic food: It doesn't require cooking and it's bound to please a crowd. Present a mix of your favorite meats, cheeses and olives atop a marble board. Create your own food-tag holders by spray-painting discount metal forks and folding them into a "U" shape.
Choose Easy-to-Serve Foods
Simple, compact dishes, like these individually jarred pies, keep the picnic simple.
Fig-Pear Tarts in a Jar
These fruit-and-cream tarts are easy enough for novice chefs to make, thanks to store-bought pie crust and a simple filling. Make the components up to two days ahead of your picnic, then just assemble the morning of the party.
Mint and Rose Champagne Cocktails
Dried rosebuds, fresh mint, lime and champagne combine to make this beautiful and delicious beverage. Serve in mason jars, topped with crushed rosebuds.
Let your guests re-create the picnic's signature drink at home by sending them away with a jar of dried rosebuds and a copy of the winter-perfect cocktail recipe.
Rosemary-Walnut Olive Bread
Guests will love this simple yeast bread that's studded with olives, walnuts and fresh rosemary. Serve with seasoned olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping.
Tuck extra loaves into brown paper bags printed with the bread recipe, then send one home with each guest so they can continue to enjoy the party for days to come.