The Wayzata Library lawn is transformed into a memory-making spot.
The Wayzata Library holds a lot of great stories, but the area in front of the local bibliothèque was the scene of a special love story.
As with any good tome, let’s start at the beginning: In March 2021, local event planner Courtney Smallbeck, like many of us, found herself with a fairly empty calendar. Thanks to a friend, she was introduced to a trend already sweeping the West Coast: boho-style luxury picnics.
“I, of course, loved it because it channels so many of the things that I enjoy about event planning and also dining outside,” Smallbeck says. She launched Perfect Picnic Co., thinking that the newbie business would do a few picnics to start. Not so! “By the end of summer, I’d booked over a hundred picnics,” she says.
For the setups, Smallbeck focuses on layering beautiful items, from unique tableware and fresh flowers to knotted napkins and etched-glass goblets. “It feels like it shouldn’t be in a park,” she says of the picnicscapes. “It feels too elevated to be part of a picnic, which just makes the experience very magical.” Smallbeck also coordinates with clients, drawing from a wealth of décor elements to match color schemes and various themes her picnickers have in mind.
The basic picnic includes delivery and setup, including a large rug, a custom wood picnic table, plentiful pillows and cushions in various colors, a throw blanket, a table runner, boho décor, candles, fresh flowers and table settings.
Food options are equally open to collaboration, from bring your own to catered eats. Smallbeck recommends inspired charcuterie boards, and the team also offers picnic or tea sandwiches, salads, cake balls and more.
Smallbeck says the best part of her work is seeing people’s reactions when they walk up to the picnic. “I think they somewhat know what to expect because we have a lot of photos on our website and social media, but photos cannot capture the magic of a luxury picnic,” she says.
There is a looming question when it comes to any outdoor activity: What happens if it rains? For light sprinkles, Smallbeck sets up a clear bubble tent over the picnic, which she says ultimately makes for a cozy and intimate vibe. If the weather turns completely uncooperative or the group is larger, the team will bring the picnic to a client’s home.
Here’s where the story takes a romantic turn. Last October, Ben Rorvick reached out to Smallbeck to arrange a picnic—AKA a marriage proposal venue. “His soon-to-be fiancée really wanted to be engaged looking out on Lake Minnetonka,” she says. Given that a large portion of the lake is owned privately, Smallbeck and Rorvick did some research, and Rorvick discovered a space in front of the Wayzata Library that included a view of both the lake and the city. (Smallbeck secured the necessary permits.)
“It was absolutely stunning,” Rorvick says. “The picnic that Courtney set up was more than I imagined it would be, and the setting was incredible overlooking Wayzata and Lake Minnetonka.”
“We did a picnic for two, and we also set up our lace teepee, which they sat inside of while seated at the table,” Smallbeck says, noting the structure was carefully aligned to look out on both the city and the lake. Smallbeck also brought in a photographer, who surreptitiously sat at a nearby bench when the couple arrived.
“When the groom proposed, our photographer subtly and secretly took all these photos of the proposal,” Smallbeck says. After the couple had a chance to privately take in the moment, the photographer took additional photos with the newly-engaged couple.
“It feels too elevated to be part of a picnic, which just makes the experience very magical.” – Courtney Smallbeck, owner of Perfect Picnic Co.
When packing cheese for a picnic, Gabby Lasersmith, certified cheese professional with Kowalski’s Market in Excelsior, recommends keeping two things in mind: ease of eating and the outside temperature. “Go for cheeses that are spreadable or spoonable [ricotta, soft-ripened cheeses, chèvre and cheese spreads],” she says. “They can withstand the heat for a couple of hours, and all you need is a dull knife. Another good pick would be hard cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged Goudas and aged cheddar. They also do well in the heat, but I would cut them up beforehand.”
Just as fruits and vegetables lend themselves to certain times of the year, so, too, does cheese. Lasersmith shares her recommendations for warmer weather offerings.
Harbison: a soft-ripened cheese from Jasper Hill Cellars
“This luscious, spoonable cheese is wrapped in spruce bark to keep it all in,” she says. “Cut around the edge of the cheese, peel off the top rind and voila! With notes of lemon and spruce, this cheese is rich and sweet, pairing perfectly with fresh raspberries and crusty bread or hot pepper jelly and dried apricots.”
Tea Rose: a chèvre covered in dried flowers and herbs from Capriole Cheese
“Along with floral and herbaceous flavors, Tea Rose is light and tangy. Pair it with light honey and a fresh clementine or citrus marmalade on a shortbread cookie. As the name implies, it also goes great with a nice glass of iced tea.”
Wild Stag: an aged cheddar from Deer Creek that is exclusively available at Kowalski’s
“[This is] well balanced in tanginess and nuttiness with notes of toffee and butterscotch. Fresh cherries, chocolate, peanuts, pretzels and caramel corn are absolutely delicious with this cheese. Just put them all in a cup together, and eat as a finger food. Great addition to an outdoor movie.”