Forget the musty blankets and cold, dry ham sandwiches. Today’s picnic is posh and picturesque, and there’s a growing number of planning businesses to help pull it off.
The trappings of the new Instagram-worthy luxury meals are reminiscent of the time when picnics were genteel pursuits with paid attendants for the urban upper-class. These days, think boho pillows, fresh flowers, china, glasses, candles, and stemware on an elevated platform. While picnics are certainly not new, the pandemic has brought a surge of planners and picnics on Instagram, because vaccinated or not, not everyone wants to eat inside a restaurant these days.
Zeinab Merheb pulls out all the stops for modern-day clients of Detroit Picnic Co. Each package booked includes setup and cleanup, a flower arrangement, blankets and assorted pillows, wine glasses and basket, sparkling water, a Bluetooth speaker, and Uno and Jenga games for entertainment — typical offerings from luxury picnic companies. A two-hour picnic is $190; food isn’t included, but s’mores and chocolate-covered strawberries can be added on.
Merheb first saw a luxury picnic while at a beach in Los Angeles in 2020. “I said, ‘We need to bring this to Michigan’.” She launched Detroit Picnic Co. in March 2021 by creating tables from wooden crates in her backyard, and posting photographs of her creations on Instagram to attract clients.
“Because it was such a new thing, it was grabbing a lot of attention,” says Merheb. Bookings followed one after another, through Instagram, word of mouth, and Facebook. Most of the clients of her bustling business are men who book surprise picnic setups for birthdays, anniversaries, date nights, or Mother’s Day.
Christan Johnson, the owner of Detroit Luxe Picnics, says most of her clients are women, however, who book her services for bridal showers, baby showers, and date nights with a significant other.
“It’s the scenery people are going for,” says Johnson, who also started her business in March 2021 on Instagram after spotting the trend on Pinterest. A balloon artist, she already ran a balloon and bounce-house company part time with her cousin, so picnics were a natural progression, says Johnson, who grew up picnicking on Belle Isle. Within two to three weeks of her first Instagram post, she received her first client. “Hashtags have been my best friend,” she says.
In June alone, the company hosted 21 clients in homes and backyards, and on the water and in parks. For the best scenery, Johnson often recommends clients to Elizabeth Park in Trenton, George George Memorial Park in Clinton Township, and Gabriel Richard Park, just east of the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle.
Customers can choose from five color schemes: golden neutral (a mix of gold, tan, and cream decor), black chic (black and gold), blue hues (shades of blue with a hint of gold), pretty in pink (pink, nude, and gold), or Bohemian color pop (gold, tan, pink and turquoise).
Outside of the standard amenities, clients can book extras such as a cabana or Polaroid camera, a bottle of Moscato wine or Champagne, or charcuterie and grazing boards.
Picnic parties have ranged from two to 30 people. “Luxury picnics can be for any occasion, just celebrating life,” says Johnson, “but they’re for someone who wants to normalize love and luxury in their lives.” Her mission, she says, is to help them do that.
“I’m sprinkling a little bit of magic throughout the city.”