Pop-up picnics are an easy option when event planning – just choose the location and an amazing setting just appears (then disappears). It’s also a sure-fire way to entertain a crowd by offering something very different to the norm.
You arrive at your favourite beach, the sun is setting, you stroll down through the dunes. Then you see it – a gazebo tent on the sand, a beautiful rug laid out with cushions strewn around, a table with a glowing lantern and a bottle of Champagne. And your partner standing there waiting…
You get the picture. Pop-up picnics – where furniture, food, and pretty much the whole stylish shebang can be set up in your dream location – can be truly perfect for a romantic proposal, but they’re also a whole lot of fun for a host of other events.
“I love people’s reaction when they see their set-up for the first time,” says Cloe Leigh of Tauranga-based Cloe’s Creationz, who has staged pop-ups everywhere (beaches, backyards, orchards) for loads of different occasions (hen’s parties, craft evenings, date nights…). Depending on the event planning involved, Cloe might also liaise with photographers, florists, musicians and caterers to make the event just perfect.
Some of her favourite events to date include a Christmas party for a fitness group on the grass overlooking the beach. Everyone relaxed on cushions, bubbles in hand, and an incredible grazing-style feast snaked its way along the 2.5-metre length of the table. There was also a memorable hen’s night on the beach, with fun games, grazing boxes and a photo area.
“I can’t wait for my first proposal!” says interior designer Debbra Sweetman, who has just started her Tauranga-based company, Fête Co, which provides the set-up, plus luscious platters. She’s already styled some great surprise birthdays events, as well as an especially feel-good event where a woman surprised all her girlfriends to a picnic. “She was kind of saying, ‘I appreciate you’,” Debbra explains of the lovely idea. “Pop-up picnics are just a really unique way of celebrating – a bit different than your standard dinner out at a restaurant.”
Inspired by all the businesses in Tauranga doing amazing things around wellness, Debbra also offers to add an extra activity, so people can make the most of the day and further the friend (or colleague) bonding time. So you could, for example, have a beachside breakfast with a bunch of gal pals followed by a surf lesson, or even a yoga class or guided meditation.
Beaches may be scarce in Wānaka, where Chantelle of My Secret Picnic is based, but of course spectacular picnic spots abound in this postcard-perfect area. Chantelle is a master of platters too, so you needn’t liaise with a caterer. She uses brilliant food suppliers, including Poaka cured meats, Whitestone Cheese, Pirate Pickles and the superlative Pembroke Patisserie (a must visit if you’re in Wānaka). She also creates picnic baskets or platters delivered to the door.
Many pop-up picnic businesses will have a range of different styling options. Debbra describes Fête Co’s natural-toned aesthetic as “a relaxed coastal feel”, albeit with refined touches, such as custom-made cushions. Vicki Hamlin from Who’s Invited in Hawkes Bay is all about the boho look and has six collections that customers can peruse online. There’s Bohemian Dream with delicate pink glasses and napkins, and a variety of plush textured cushions and ottomans, Free Spirit with natural colours, maybe styled with a white lace teepee, or Morrocan with punchy colours and patterns setting the scene.
All there’s left to do is for you to choose your location and your vibe, and leave the experts to work their magic.
By Sarah Nicholson