So, you’ve got a ticket to the exclusive Dîner en Blanc woohoo! Like me, you’re probably blissfully unaware of what you’ve just committed too… Never fear, I’ve written this post just for you, to help get your head around the myriad of rules and logistical genius you’ll need to take a seat at the big white table… read on my friend (you might want to take notes, kidding… not really).
What is Dîner en Blanc?
The story goes that ‘dinner in white’ started as a gourmet meal between a group of good friends in Paris – now it’s the world’s largest secret dinner party.
In 1988 Frenchman François Pasquier invited ten friends to have dinner in a forbidden location. Word spread and more and more people wanted to come each year… now it’s hosted at landmark locations all around the world (more than 70 cities) and a record number of 15,000 people attended the 25th anniversary in Paris in 2013 (that’s a lot of escargot).
People come together from all walks of life, unified by a love of good food and merriment. Everyone dresses in white, head to toe. There’s no agenda, no fundraising, simply friends (and often strangers) sitting down to dine together.
Brisbane was the first place in Australia to host Dîner en Blanc, and that was 6 years ago. This year 3000 people took part, and I was lucky enough to be one of them 😉
I paid for my ticket, I knew I had to wear white, it looked like fun! What more did I need to know? Er, quite a lot as it turns out, like, it’s BYO everything. E v e r y t h i n g….
10 things you should know about Dîner en blanc
- The location is kept secret until the last minute. This element of surprise keeps everyone guessing and adds a real sense of mystery and fun to the occasion.
- Guests must dress elegantly in white. No ivory, no off-white, and no beige… in an attempt to recreate the elegance of bygone French high society Dîner en blanc is all about glamour –beautiful dresses, feathers, hats, fancy hair-dos and flower crowns, and men looking smart in jackets and white suits (with the occasional random dress up, um, storm troopers?). At all times guests must ‘conduct themselves with the greatest decorum, elegance, and etiquette’ after all, manners maketh the man, right?
- Invitation only. Dîner en Blanc is not advertised, you can only go if you’re invited by someone who has been before. Or you can register for the wait list and cross your fingers (along with 20,000 others). Once you’ve attended you can pay a small fee to become a member, which means you’re automatically on the list next year.
- Logistical genius is required. There are buses, pick-up points, wine orders, table numbers and table leaders to navigate your way through…
- Pimp your table. Unspoken rivalry between guests means it’s no-holds-barred when it comes to decorating your table…lights, balloons, a whole lamb roast… make an effort and go the extra mile.
- BYO folding table AND chairs. White of course. Yes, you need to lug your own table and chairs. Tables are joined together in long rows and must be draped with cloth (not plastic) table cloths. A sturdy trolley and bungee cords are the best way to carry your table, chairs, esky, and picnic basket to and from the event. There’ll be much cursing, but it’s worth it in the end. (Do you really want to wear those heels? Think carefully my friend).
- Rain, hail or shine, the show will go on. Bring a poncho or umbrella in case it rains (it’s harder than you think to find a white umbrella by the way) and a shawl or coat to keep warm.
- Bring cloth napkins. One of the global rituals of Dîner en Blanc is the waving of the napkins. At a specific time, everyone stands up and waves their white napkins in a united gesture of celebration. Sparklers are handed out later in the evening and lit to signal the end of dinner and the beginning of dancing.
- Pimp your picnic basket. Go gourmet, go fancy, treat yo’self. Just no plastic cutlery or plates. You might want to leave your best crystal and china at home, but you should definitely bring your best silver – elegance is key. (No glasses allowed at the Brisbane event due to local drinking laws).
When you arrive at the secret location (this year we were in the Botanic Gardens, in previous years it’s been held at South Bank and Roma Street Parklands), you’ll be assigned to your table host who leads you to your area. Then you set up your table, with everyone seated by sunset. Once the sun goes down you’ll need some lights so you can see your dinner. Candles may look beautiful, but on a windy day they won’t stay lit, so tables are adorned with all sorts of beautiful LED lights, (a beacon of some kind is a good idea, it’s not easy finding your white table among 1000 other white tables). At the end of the night, everyone packs up, leaving nothing behind.
So is Dîner en Blanc a logistical nightmare, or simply a matter of precision planning? Depends really, are you a glass half full or half empty kinda gal?
Once you’ve had a glass of wine, you’ll look around at the spectacle and feel the romance of this amazing French pique-nique, and you’ll nod in appreciation.
“Not making it easy is part of the allure.”
In the words of François; “Dinner parties are what create bonds of friendship.” I can think of no better way to spend an evening than wining and dining with good friends.
Ps. And yes, I’m quietly smug that I have my white picnic all ready to go for next year 🙂
Watch the official video
Eat Well Travel Often my friend!