"In 1988, after spending a few years abroad, François Pasquier wanted to organize a picnic to reconnect with old friends. The concept was simple: "Bring a meal, and bring a new friend." Seeing as his garden was too small to receive all the guests, he told them to convene at the Bois de Boulogne and to dress in white, so they could find each other. This friendly gathering became so popular that it grew over time. It now brings together over 10,000 friends of friends every year in Paris. Nearly 30 years later, François Pasquier still organizes the Parisian Dîner en Blanc with those same friends. Diner En Blanc is a members only, pop-up diner party that is usually held at a crowded public place that was not designed for such a purpose ! At the last minute, the secret location is revealed to thousands of friends who have all been patiently waiting to learn where “Dîner en Blanc” will take place. Thousands of people, dressed all in white, and conducting themselves with the greatest decorum, elegance, and etiquette, all meet for a mass “chic picnic” in a public space.
Over the course of the evening, guests experience the beauty and value of their city's public spaces by participating in the unexpected. Beyond the spectacle and elegance of the dinner itself, guests are brought together from diverse backgrounds by good taste and a love of beauty. Le Dîner en Blanc recalls the elegance and glamour of high French society, and guests engage one another, knowing that they are taking part in a truly magical event. There are no disruptions: no car traffic, no pedestrian traffic—only amazed and astonished looks from passersby observing the scene before them. And participants, like spectators, wonder whether it's all not a dream" … (courtesy of Diner En Blanc International )
A week ago I attended Diner En Blanc Chicago. This year I was a team leader. From the moment the Chicago date was announced, my friends and I began planning. If you have never been to a Diner En Blanc Event, you have to have a few basics before you can start adding the extras !
Diner in Blanc is a dinner party that you bring. You bring your table, chairs, tablecloth and tablescape. It has to be portable and easy to transport and it has to be all white.
The Table: This is the standard table used for Diner En Blanc. The way Diner En Blanc is setup, every table is the same size, height and width. You are seated table to table so it’s imperative to have the correct size table for uniformity. The Coleman Outdoor table is compact and easy to carry as it rolls up and fits into a bag that you can carry on your shoulders.
Two Chairs: You need folding chairs. These should be white, but in the event you don’t have white chairs, you can always cover them with an inexpensive white chaircover. I found my chairs at IKEA for $7.99!!!
White Tablecloth: This is the base of your table decoration. Every attendee must have a white tablecloth. The possibilities are endless. You can grab your standard square tablecloth or you can upgrade to something fancier. This year, I opted for white sequin tablecloths that were on amazon for the affordable price of $17! As long as the tablecloth is white, you can cover your table any way you want.
White Place setting for 2: You have to have something to eat on right? Diner En Blanc requires a table setting for 2 people with white or clear plates, white serving dishes, cutlery, and wine glasses. Nothing disposable is allowed. I was able to find the perfect table setting at my local dollar store. I grabbed clear plates, cutlery, and wine glasses for under $10. I also found silver chargers for $2 at Hobby Lobby that added a elegant touch to my tablescape. Don’t forget white cloth napkins, wine opener, white trash bags and a lighter (for sparklers later in the evening)
Luggage Cart/Picnic Basket: Like I said earlier, you are responsible for bringing you entire setup and if you plan properly, it is a breeze to transport. I typically carry my table on my shoulder and use a luggage cart to carry the chairs and picnic basket that hold my food and place setting. The luggage cart is the best option because it’s on wheels and it folds flat for easy storage once you get to the secret location. You want to have you traveling items easily put away. Add bungee cords to secure everything and you are ready to go!
The Ensemble/Outfit: Diner En Blanc has a strict All white dress code (not ivory, off white, cream…WHITE). From head to toe you should be in stylish, elegant white attire. You can be as creative as you want with your accessories, hats and gloves. Your shoes also have to be white but I definitely suggest 2 pair. One to take photos in and one to dance and walk in! I started looking for my outfit after the 2016 Diner En Blanc event and found a beautiful white dress on Amazon along with a gorgeous headpiece to compliment my great Gatsby inspired theme. If shopping online, I highly suggest ordering ahead of time. Many times online stores describe an item as white but it is really a off white or cream ensemble and that’s a Diner En Blanc “no-no”.
Those are the basic essentials for your Diner En Blanc experience and between two peple these are a breeze to carry. Everything should be white with the exception of the table which is covered by the tablecloth. The great thing is once you purchase your essentials, you can use them for every Diner En Blanc event! So you have the basics, what else do you need?
Now it’s time for THE FUN STUFF! (THE DÉCOR)
One of the best things about Diner En Blanc is seeing the different tablescapes. This is your chance to be creative. There is no limit to what you can do to make your table stand apart from the rest. There are so many things to add something special to your table. Here are a few of my favorites.
LED Candles: You never know if it’s going to be a windy evening or not, so I love LED Candles. You can have a beautifully lit table and not worry about the wind blowing out your ambiance! I have a set of LED Votives, LED Tealight and LED Tapers that I use every year. Just add some candle holders and you are set! You can find really cute candle holders almost anywhere including the dollar store!
String Lights: String lights are gorgeous under a moonlit sky. They are versatile and you can use them to decorate your centerpieces or lay across your table for another beautiful lighting effect!
Table Runners: I’m a fan of table runners because they tend to add a little something extra to your table. I found silver sequin table runners on amazon that added just enough sparkle to my table. Combined with the lighting, it was a elegant effect.
Flowers/Centerpieces: You can really let your creativity flow with your centerpiece. This year my friends and I decided to go with a “Great Gatsby” theme. I found inspiration on Pinterest and decided to re-create a beautiful Ostrich Feather Centerpiece. Thanks to Amazon, I found everything I needed to create our gorgeous centerpieces. I bought white Eiffel tower vases “16, white ostrich feathers, beaded garland and bouquet holders to create my centerpiece then found these really cool LED base stands to illuminate my centerpiece.
So you have your essentials and your decorative items. Now what to expect at a Diner En Blanc event.
MY DEB EXPERIENCE: THE GREAT GATSBY BRIGADE!
As a team leader, I was responsible for 20 couples this year. From the moment registration closed until the day of the event, I was their primary point of contact. I sent regular event updates and answered any questions they had concerning the evening. The day of the event, I sent my final emails with instructions and reminded everyone of what to bring. I arrived to our meeting location 30 minutes prior to guests arrival. Once there I began meeting members and checking them in. The energy was incredible. All of these beautiful people in white, excited and ready to enjoy the evening. The mood was celebratory, with guest taking pre-party photos and admiring one anothers outfits. I must say our group was very fashionable and chic. My friends continued our great Gatsby theme dressed to impress in white accented by feathers, pearls and bling! We headed to our bus and began to load up and get to the event. We spent the bus ride taking photos and getting to know one another. I also took that time to share any last minute information and answer questions. It was quite a treat to listen to everyone guess where they thought the secret location was.
Once we arrived, we walked to our beautiful location in Lincoln Park along the lakefront. We were one of the last groups to arrive and began to setup on the north end near the catering and wine pick up. It was a bustle of activity as everyone began to setup their tables and decorations. Once everyone was settled, we grabbed our food from catering. This year we purchased our meal prepared by Chef Cleetus Freiedman. You have the option of bringing your own food or having your food prepared by the Diner En Blanc Chef. We also grabbed our wine orders as you are not allowed to bring any outside alcohol to the event. We were ready to wine and dine under the stars along the lakefront. The music was playing and my friends and I were enjoying conversation and our meal. This year we were also treated to a live New Orleans style band that played and walked around the park. We got up and partied with the band "NEW ORLEANS" style! Once we were done, we walked around and admired others’ outfits and tablescapes while taking photos under the scenic backdrop that was our beautiful city.
Now it was time to party! After everyone finished their meal, it was time to dance and enjoy the evening. The DJ was fantastic playing music we all loved. We partied on the dance floor and mingled with new friends until it was time to pack it up and either head home or to the official after party. The cool thing about Diner En Blanc is once you pack it up; it’s as if you were never there. We load up our belongings and our trash and leave the area just the way we found it. It was a fantastic evening full of good food, great wine, awesome friends and beautiful memories. It is one of my favorite Summertime Chicago events! Over 3,000 beautiful people dressed in all white with all white tablescapes is just a beautiful and elegant sight to see!
Another year in the books! Can’t wait for next year!!!
Until next time, take care of yourselves and one another.