The Magic Touch - 405 Magazine

The Magic Touch

The Picnic Project sets up a feast for the senses.

Photo by Madelyn Grace Photography.

The Picnic Project sets up a feast for the senses.

Cool breezes, green foliage and sun-drenched settings add a lively, immersive sensory experience to outdoor gatherings. And when it all comes together, it can be magic.

Alejandra Santillan knows a lot about making things come together. As proprietor of The Picnic Project, Santillan’s work has been called stunning, artistic — and, yes, magical.

The company, now in its second year, provides linens, tableware, tables, seating and décor for outdoor events of up to 20 guests. Catering is contracted separately. She says she works with clients to achieve a luxury aesthetic that is tailored to their taste and needs.

“I try to switch it up … change little things,” she said. “I’ve never been a huge fan of large parties. I want my clients to feel this is an exclusive thing, something they don’t have to share with anyone else.”

A dental assistant by training, Santillan, like many, took a new occupational direction during the early months of the pandemic.

“It really came easy,” she said. “I was seeing others becoming self-employed. I found that the need was there, and it was just easy.”

And it’s been a rewarding change on a number of levels. “It’s the enthusiasm of being my own boss, the excitement I feel from clients and the artistic [aspect]. I think I’ve always had a passion for art. I just didn’t think I could make a living at it,” she said.

The only drawback, according to Santillan, is the physical nature of the business.

“It’s physically a lot of work. You’re building a whole setup; carrying everything to and from the event. The outcome is beautiful, but people don’t see the work that goes into it,” she said.

The work Santillan puts into a picnic and her ability to adapt to specific needs is what led Amy Cook Fisher, director of new client setup at Oklahoma City-based Paycom, to hire The Picnic Project for a gathering at her home.

“She tailors everything. We loved their ability to accommodate the numbers and the variety of color options,” Fisher said. “It was the perfect evening. Everybody enjoyed it. Everybody was fascinated with the concept. It’s been seen in California. It took a bit to get here in Oklahoma.”

For now, Santillan is extra busy with the added business that warmer temperatures bring. She has toyed with the idea of partnering with event planners to expand the business, but says she would miss the hands-on aspect of her work.

“When I walk away and I see people come together at the table and start eating and people say, ‘Let’s get a picture of it’ … that’s the most exciting thing for me,” she said.

A picture-perfect picnic. Magical indeed.