Diner en Blanc
June 16, 2014
White tables, chairs, dresses, hats and even masks. This is the annual Diner En Blanc (Dinner In White), a phenomenon that has taken place annually in the city since 1988 and now spread worldwide.
So what is it exactly? Only the chicest outdoor picnic of the year. Guests are dressed completely in white from head to toe (ok, there's a fair amount of beige too) and bring everything you can think of for a perfect picnic. Tables and chairs, plates, cutlery, linens, champagne flutes and an endless array of decorations.
So how to get on the invite list? That's the question. It's an unusual annual event in that it's not advertised, it's not managed by a specific company, it's strictly word of mouth. Essentially you need to know someone who knows someone. The first someone needs to know one of the organizers. This lucky person will be able to score a table that allows them to invite a specific number of people. Then you need to know that someone in order to snag a spot at their table. Even the instructions remain hush hush. A few days before, the table organizer receives an email explaining the rules of the picnic, dress code, specifications of what to bring (oh yes, paper plates do not fly here). Then, the day of, that same person receives a text message detailing the meeting spot.
This is where our journey began. This week, on June 12, the meeting place was set on Rue de Martignac (in front of the beautiful Basilique Saint-Clotilde) at 8:30PM sharp. My French counterpart was mildly impressed with the chicness of the crowd, but myself (as a foreigner) was blown away. Sharp white suit jackets, crowns of white flowers, adorable white dresses, white Louis Vuitton and Hermès bags...not your ordinary picnic attire. After waiting here for about 30 minutes the crowd, as if by magic, starts moving in a direction. Someone “in the know” is leading everyone to the final location. And that’s when we arrived in front of L’Esplanade des Invalides and Pont Alexandre III, a huge mob of chic white-clad groups coming from all directions. Quite the site to see, especially for those just by-standing.
And the table set-up began. Last night saw tables laden with candelabras, elaborate orchid flower arrangements and more. The food and alcohol is also bring your own, but don't start imagining hamburgers. Think baguettes and cheese, caviar, enormous oyster platters, traditional raclette and more. A few groups seemed to have even hired their own on-site caterer. And of course, champagne and wine as far as the eye can see.
You might think that this even is a bit snobby...and you're right, it is...but not in a bad way. The crowd is chic (and certainly skews towards the beautiful crowd in Paris) but the event is welcoming, friendly, lively and a mix of young and old.
The event, which was attended by between 12,000 and 13,000 people this week, took over 6 bridges in Paris. And the festivities went on well into the evening with a DJ truck set up facing L’Esplanade Des Invalides and the grand finale, an 11PM sharp simultaneous lighting of sparklers. Truly a site to see and an event not to be missed once you find someone who knows someone.