I had the pleasure of attending my first Dîner en Blanc in Washington D.C. over the weekend. I've seen Facebook and Instagram friends attend the event in various cities over the years and for some reason, I never really looked into going. But thanks to a Twitter follower, I scored an invitation and was ready to pop my Dîner en Blanc cherry.
The first Dîner en Blanc was in 1988, created by Frenchmen Froncois Pasquier. He invited a group of friends to an elegant outdoor dinner at Bois de Boulogne in Paris. He requested that they dress in all white so they could find each other. Since then, the event has grown to over 70 cities around the world with thousands of invitees.
I did some things right this first time, but I definitely have some lessons learned. Here are my tips for a successful Dîner en Blanc experience:
1. Score an invite.
This is probably the hardest part of the whole event. Tickets are sold in phases that open for purchasing at different times. There are three ways to attend: by being part of the Hosts or Leaders’ personal network and getting invited by them (Phase 1); by knowing someone who registers during Phase 1 and asking them to sponsor you for Phase 2; or, by signing up to the waiting list and registering during Phase 3. The cost for D.C. was $40 plus a $9 membership fee. Tickets are purchased as a pair so be sure to have someone in mind to bring along with you, even though you are able to change your tablemate before the event.
During Phase 1, close friends of the organization, table leaders, previous attendees/members and volunteers are able to purchase tickets. Being a table leader is a huge undertaking and isn't for the faint of heart but if you're up for the challenge, you can sign up on the Diner en Blanc website.
Friends invited by those in Phase 1 may purchase tickets. This may be your best bet for attending next year. Find someone who has gone in the past and ask them to invite you.
Phase 3 is for those on the waiting list. Create an account and register for the waiting list on the Diner en Blanc website for the city that you are interested in.
After registering, you will receive an email invitation a few weeks before the event letting you know the date and time. Please take note of the date and time that your tickets go on sale! If you've ever bought tickets for a Beyoncé concert, it's much like that. You need to be at your computer and ready to go when tickets go on sale! Tickets are on a first-come, first-served basis.
There are several meeting locations around your chosen city. First, select the desired meeting location in your city, then select a group leader, and lastly a bus/table leader. Everyone must select the same bus/table leader in order to sit together at the event. Be sure you are choosing correctly because you are not allowed to change your location or table leader after your tickets are purchased.
*Pro Tip: While you can't change your location, you may be able to switch with people on other buses/tables on the day of the event.
2. Plan and pack light.
Plan, plan, plan! I can't stress this enough. Plan your menu and table decor. Trust me when I say that less is more. My friend and I decided to split the responsibilities - she was responsible for the table and decor and I was responsible for the food.
Food and Drink
- Bring your own. One of our neighbors paid for the eStore meal and it looked a bit...dry.
- All the blogs I read prior to attending said to bring three courses: appetizer, entree and dessert. I brought all three, but I think I brought too much. Our neighbors to the other side brought Chinese food - rice and some kind of meat/veggie topping. They had no clean up and no dishes to take back home, unlike me. My advice would be to either bring a lovely spread of various dishes or one item for each course, in disposable dishes of course.
- I pre-ordered wine (more on that later) when I purchased my tickets because outside alcohol is not allowed. But it seems like everyone had outside alcohol. You didn't hear this from me, but if you want to have a 'turned up' evening, be very discreet.
My friend is an event designer, so our table looked fab. Some people opted for less is more, while others had massive centerpieces. To each his own, but after lugging all of our belongings through 2 D.C. metro stations, next year we are absolutely opting for less.
3. Buy a portable table & have a cart.
You could definitely tell who has been in previous years and those who were beginners. The professionals had their chairs strapped in on a luggage cart and carried a "table in a bag" over their shoulders. Be sure to follow the rules on Dîner en Blanc's website for table and chair size. Here are some suggestions:
4. Be on time to your meeting location.
We made it to our destination (barely) on time and traveled together to the event. However, some people did not make it to their meeting locations on time. Dîner en Blanc is "organized chaos" but everything was really well-orchestrated. As we were trying to set our tables up, some people were making their way through the crowd who I assume had missed their original meeting location because their group was already there since they had an earlier arrival time. It was a little annoying having to move out of the way while we were trying to set up because people were coming through with their life's belongings when they were already supposed to be there.
5. Wear comfortable, flat shoes and don't forget to accessorize.
I always wear comfortable shoes these days because I'm happier when my feet aren't hurting (and so are the people around me). Some women brought their heels with them for the photo ops, but honestly, I didn't think it was necessary. It's just more junk for you to carry home.
Many of the women wore fascinators and pearls to jazz up their outfits. Other people wore costumes and had fun with the all-white theme. Dress however you like but remember to have fun!
6. Bring a portable phone charger.
You'll be snapchatting, instagramming, and facebooking to the high heavens. Your phone is guaranteed to die. Be prepared.
7. Talk to your table neighbors.
Because I was invited by a stranger, I didn't know anyone in the group including my table leader. We chatted with one side of our neighbors and even shared some of our food and drink. It just made for a better evening.
8. Get your wine early.
The line was SO long for pre-ordered wine that I decided to get it later in the evening so I didn't miss dinner. I went to get it around 8 pm and they ran out of the rosé I ordered (don't understand how this happened when I pre-ordered it but that's a different story). They offered us two bottles of a white (horrible) wine but it just wasn't what I wanted.
9. Don't miss the napkin wave or sparklers.
I was too busy looking to meet up with friends and missed the sparklers. I was sad but it was beautiful to witness. And the napkin wave happens throughout the evening. Be sure to bring cloth napkins to participate.
10. Come with an open mind and positive attitude.
I'm not going to lie. It's a lot of work. But having a positive attitude makes it that much better. It was a wonderful evening and I'm so happy to have attended. Thank you to Kim for inviting me!
Have you gone before and have more tips? Please be sure to share for next year's first-timers!