What do you get when you invite 5,000 New Yorkers to a fancy picnic at a secret location? Le Diner En Blanc, of course. What started as a small idea, has grown into a world wide phenomenon with waiting lists as long as the circumference of the equator!
In 1988, after being abroad for part of the summer, Francois Pasquier had the grand idea to invite a small group of friends to a fancy fete like they’d never experienced. He instructed each of them to wear white so they’d be able to find each other in the Parc de Bagatelle in Paris and the first official Dîner en Blanc was born. They loved the idea so much, the following year they decided each person would invite other friends and 25 years later, the event has grown into the global glam picnic it has become, with thousands of people attending, and that many more on a wait list, hoping for their chance at this one-of-a-kind celebration.
As for me, I was one of the lucky ones to get from the waiting list to the dinner table and I can’t express what an amazing event it was. For years, I’ve been dreaming of the day I’d get to dress “en blanc” and wheel my cart full of goodies to an undisclosed location (more on that shortly). Last year, I met a girl, who I quickly befriended, who had just participated in the event. I had heard about it from several others and she told me to register for the waiting list, so I did!
As the year went on, I kept track of all things Diner En Blanc, just waiting for the email telling me I had been chosen! Well, fast forward a year later, I was! I couldn’t believe my eyes! But let’s back track first. Originally, I had to fill out an application, listing my new friend as a reference. What I didn’t know was that they’d contact her asking her if she was interested in sponsoring me, which would ultimately bump me up on the “list”. She did and that’s how I made it onto this highly coveted roster.
Just a few weeks before the event, I got the much awaited email letting me know I was one of the chosen ones and I jumped for joy! I finally had my chance to attend this glamorous getty. What would I wear? Where would I get my supplies? How would I decorate my table? All questions I had, because just one look at the measures people take for this event, and you know you’ve got some serious competition.
But, me being me, I was ready for the challenge. First step was determining who my date would be. As an invited guest (well, you still have to purchase tickets, but you’re invited onto the list), you get to bring one guest with you. It could be a great event to take a significant other, but if you have someone who doesn’t quite fit the bill, or isn’t worth the title, you take the next most special person, your BFF of course.
So, I quickly called my bestie and we started planning…over a bottle of wine, naturally. Because DEB (as it’s known) is a see and be seen event, and the most fabulous of fabulous people go, you can’t just wear any old thing. As a matter of fact, creativity and eccentricity are encouraged, and headgear is a definite must!
Not having much time to coordinate, we searched the Internet high and low, deciding on matching white bob wigs for each of us. Most people wear some kind of hat, fastener or other head gear, but wigs it was for us! Combined with our fabulous white ensembles, and we were a hit!
Next, we had to buy a folding table, chairs, cutlery, white plates and even linens. Yes, there are rules, because of course the french have very high standards for being fabulous. That means no plastic, and you have to bring and set up your own table, place settings, center piece and meal.
Now remember, we had no idea the location of this event, so we had to lug this stuff, via my granny cart, around the city. We met our group leaders at a specified location, and she then directed us to the location, using public transportation of course. And while it really was quite the production and a pain in the ass (especially being dressed so fabulously), it was totally worth it. Like anything else, it’s all trial and error and we learned tons of tips, tricks and tactics so that next year, we picnic like a pro.
Once we finally arrived to the location, we had 10 minutes to set up. Designated a specific area of the open space at Robert F. Wagner Park in Battery Park, we set up shop next to complete strangers, forming one big communal table. As people unfolded their table cloths and popped open their containers, a great feeling of camaraderie and friendship filled the air.
French music played in the background, the sunset set over the Hudson, and an old NYFD fire boat shot streams of water into the air, welcoming us to New York’s 2016 Le Diner en Blanc. And within minutes, an announcement came over the loud speaker asking us to wave our napkins (cloth, of course) in the air, as a sign of welcome, getting the dinner party started.
As time quickly passed, we enjoyed great food, conversation and even better company, surrounded by 5,000 of our closest New York friends. The air was as crisp as the champagne we sipped and the candlelight from our centerpiece set off a beautiful glow on each of our grinning faces. The setting was magical.
When dinner was done, we stood up from our tables and decided to see what the competition was all about, as we made our way to the dance floor. Let me tell you, I thought I went all out, but boy, do people take this serious! I must up the ante for next year’s jam!
Chandeliers, candelabras and everything in between, graced the tables that lined the edge of the river. It was a sea of white wonder and everyone was in a fabulous mood as we made our way to the DJ and dance floor. There, we snapped pictures, jived among our fellow party goers, and watch a full moon rise on the horizon with stunning views of some of Manhattan’s most famous landmarks – the Statute of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Freedom Tower.
The night flew by and soon it was time to clean up the fun. Overall, it was a magnificent night and I’m so excited to do it again next year. But I do have some tips for those who are interested in attending next year –
- Wear comfortable shoes to get there and bring your nice shoes in a bag (if you want).
- Have one person designated ready to take the stuff in an uber once you determine where the location is. It is much easier this way and you don’t have to deal with the hassle of dragging stuff all over town (though sometimes it’s part of the excitement)
- Don’t over cook or overpack food. You will want to bring some nibbles, but there was so much going on, we were less focused on the food and more focused on giggling and having a good time
- The DEB crew says you can’t bring wine. I will tell you, not one person checked our bags and we could’ve definitely brought some in. My only suggestion is to be extra prudent, just in case, and empty Pellegrino bottles as a disguise. With more than 5,000 attendees, I don’t think they’re checking everyone’s granny cart.
- Plastic cutlery and china is fine, as long as it doesn’t look cheap. It’s easier to get rid of and you don’t have to worry about it breaking.
- Do get creative! Go all out on your headpiece and centerpiece. The more outlandish, the more fabulous, and the more chance you have of getting photographed!
- Bring plenty of napkins/paper towels to clean up. No one likes taking home dirty dishes.
- Do get up from your table and check out the rest of the scene. You’ll get great ideas for next year!
Diner En Blanc is now celebrated in more than 70 cities across the globe and growing! For more information, or to get on the waiting list, visit http://newyork.dinerenblanc.info