Encircling oneself with cheery, themed balloon igloos for a memorable Valentine's or Galentine's Day picnic celebration? Yes, please!
Even in unpredictable winter weather, Alpaca Picnic founder and owner Julie Ellison says she can provide heated igloo arrangements. "We actually have several options during winter seasons, such as outdoors in sunlit, covered areas; driveways; indoor picnics at dining tables; or the heated igloos. When booking, we always discuss a weather backup date in case it's raining or the temperature drops below 32 degrees."
For Valentine's Day, she says she works with red, pink and heart shapes, garnered with other romantic touches, if requested, such as lacy doilies and chocolate-covered strawberries. Upon customer requests, she's also done dark, Gothic setups with black and red applications. She says tea parties are extra special because she uses her grandmother's china. The former travel director for Maritz Travel and flight attendant on private jets says her grandma would be proud guests get to sip and cheer life's moments with her dishes.
"Big groups of Galentine's are always fun, and it's popular to do 'Mommy and Me' Valentine's picnics, sometimes with friends and their daughters," she adds. "Some customers have crystal-clear visions of what they want and some suggest that I create things however it works best. It's helpful when customers share inspirational pictures of what they had in mind."
Julie launched Alpaca Picnic during November 2020 after San Diego-based event-planning gigs were canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions and moving back to her hometown of St. Louis. She named the business that due to wanting something unique and with a little personality.
"Alpaca picnic is a play on words, as in 'I will pack a picnic.' I have a very clever friend, Ross Milton, who helped me craft the name. I was tossing around STL Picnic Company, or Julie Abel Set the Table. But when Ross suggested Alpaca Picnic, I knew that was it. Its distinctiveness and playful charm perfectly encapsulated the spirit of what I envisioned for my business," recalls Julie.
In general, an Alpaca Picnic accommodates two to 36 guests in private settings of one's choice, with themed décor, fresh flowers, charcuterie boards, balloons, personalized touches and Instagram-worthy photo opportunities. After customers book a 2-hour time slot and make a 50% non-refundable deposit, Julie coordinates the location, details and add-ons with them.
"There are basically three choices: a standard picnic, an igloo tent or a custom event," Julie explains. "I can offer our signature picnic with seating on the ground with top comfy blankets and pillows but also offer normal height tables and chairs to accommodate up to 18 guests. The igloos are only used in the colder months, but in summer we have umbrellas or cabana tents to beat the hot St. Louis summers. I can even do a tablescape by using customers' own tables at their homes. Don't see something on my list? I love the opportunity to create something new."
In addition to the signature picnic, she offers styled tabletops starting at $100 for 2 hours; varied igloo experiences beginning at $289 to $319 at 2 hours; a metro med spa experience from $200 for 2 hours, which includes wrinkle filling, peels or facial services; and themed/custom picnics from $200 for 2 hours. Service includes full setup and breakdown. Pricing varies for parties of 15-plus guests or more than two picnic tables.
Each choice comes standard with a low-seated table with a decorated tablescape and tableware; various seating pads, pillows and blankets; and sparkling water. Customers are welcome to bring their own alcohol and any additional food.
"Our add-ons range from hot chocolate, charcuterie boards, flowers, unique cakes, custom cookies, allergy-sensitive desserts and private chef services to shade umbrellas, backdrops, mini photo sessions, bluetooth speakers, a Polaroid camera and a pizzalogist where made-to-order pizzas are done on-site," she says.
Julie says her mother makes the chocolate-covered strawberries. "It's a labor of love, but not just from me but my 'interns,' who are my brother, cousin and best friend who help at big events. I like to pay them with lunch and margaritas."
However, one of Julie's most unique add-ons for private resident picnics is booking a real Alpaca appearance by Alpacas of Troy.
One of the most unusual requests that Julie has handled was from the Kate Spade crew in New York, who asked her to host a bridal picnic for a local bride-to-be. She says, "They gifted her the picnic, purses, jewelry and her full china set, which we used to set the table of the picnic. The Kate Spade executive team even flew to St. Louis to be present for the picnic. I felt pretty cool they found me though Instagram and we pulled off the dreamiest picnic."
Julie says she's also looking forward to working with the local Make A Wish nonprofit team on an upcoming picnic.
Besides backyards, Julie says she's happy to set up at any local park that permits such setups.
"Our online booking system allows reservations to be made three months in advance. If someone has a certain date in mind beyond that point, they can submit the request through our generic booking form and we'll do our best to accommodate," vows Julie.
"I love connections made with my clients. I get to set foundations of life's little moments. The excitement of a proposal or a surprise birthday never gets old."
Examples of Alpaca Picnic executions include themed birthday parties, bridal showers, baby showers, bachelorette parties, proposals/engagements, date nights or brunches. Other popular themes cover events or milestones, such as the Kentucky Derby or Death To My Twenties. A Signature Picnic for two guests starts at $199 plus tax.