This year, I had the absolute pleasure of attending the famed Dîner en Blanc’s 30th anniversary celebration in Paris. My attendance was by chance, as I had planned to be running a marathon on that date, which I had to cancel due to an injury.
When I was offered the place of a friend of a friend who had to cancel at the last minute, I jumped at the chance. How could I not, since, along with running the world, being in Paris is one of the things that brings me the most joy, and for such a fabulous occasion!!!
Here’s a look at the who, what, where, when, why and how of Dîner en Blanc.
The clandestine Dîner en Blanc (Dinner in White) is a massive outdoor dining event held annually in an amazing location with its guests all dressed in white, resulting in a wonderfully chic evening.
Dîner en Blanc, or DEB as it’s often referred to, began in 1988 when founder François Pasquier hosted a picnic at a park in Paris and asked his guests to dress in white. 30 years later, Dîner en Blanc is a global phenomenon, in which thousands of guests from six continents and dozens of cities dress all in white and gather together in a beautiful, central location.
To share a meal and a wonderful experience with friends you know, and those you have yet to meet.
Usually, the “who” are those lucky enough to snag a coveted invite, which would require knowing someone who’s been invited in the past and is still in the organization’s good graces for not violating any protocols.
However, for its 30th-anniversary celebration, Dîner en Blanc opened its premiere event to anyone from around the world to attend, resulting in more than 17,000 guests in attendance, including 6,000 coming from abroad and making it the largest DEB to date.
It should also be noted that according to the rules, the dinner is for couples or groups. No single tickets are sold. So how did solo me end up with a ticket? Well, as I mentioned, a friend of a friend canceled, so solo me and another solo traveler shared the table. We connected online to coordinate the details for our table, and met for the first time in real life at the meeting place just minutes before walking to the location.
Part of the allure of Diner en Blanc is the secrecy. The location of the event isn’t revealed until the day of the event, just minutes before you arrive onsite. The table leader texts an initial meeting location to the guests at their table, and once all the tables are at their assigned meeting place. My table’s meeting spot was the École Militaire metro stop, just a few hundred feet from the final location, Esplanade des Invalides, the open lawn area next to the Hôtel des Invalides with the golden Dôme des Invalides on one side and the romantic Pont Alexandre III bridge on the other.
Dîner en Blanc is essentially a BYO affair. Guests are required to be dressed elegantly in white, bring their own table and chairs, a white tablecloth, appropriate place settings (no paper plates or plastic cups allowed), and of course, decorations. After arriving at the location, guests quickly arranged their table and chairs, set their tables and spread out the bountiful feasts they’d prepared. After setting their tables, guests wait for the ceremonial napkin twirl, which is a blessing of sorts, which signals for the guests to be seated and officially begins the festivities.
I was amazed at some of the things people brought to decorate their tables, not to mention the full-on three-course menus. Oh, and wine! Lots of wine and champagne flowed throughout the evening.
The unspoken rule seems to be to be as over-the-top as possible in your dress, décor and dining choices. I was so not prepared. But now I know, and for any future DEBs I may attend, I will be EXTRA!
The evening includes live music, DJs, and toward the end of the night as it got dark, guests lit sparklers, which were provided by Dîner en Blanc International.
Dîner en Blanc happens once a year, in the summer on a date is determined by the particular city. Check the Dîner en Blanc website for specific dates.
Let me know which Dîner en Blanc you’re going to. Maybe I’ll meet you there.