For onlookers on the street, Dîner en Blanc looks like a giant, all-white party with thousands of people. In reality, absolutely no tables and chairs are set up beforehand as the concept is a complete pop-up event. That’s right – guests on the coveted list are responsible for bringing their very own furniture (which also needs to be white, of course).
After seeing photos from a previous event in 2017, I was on the email list but was never invited. It’s based on a loyalty system, so if you get invited one year, you’re automatically in for the next – leaving less and less new invites to go out. But alas, this year, I received an email in August to attend this year’s special 10th anniversary of Dîner en Blanc in New York City.
Of course, I couldn’t turn down the offer after waiting for so many years. This is what it was like and what to expect on this magical evening…
What exactly is Dîner En Blanc?
According to their website, “At the last minute, the secret location is revealed to thousands of friends who have all been patiently waiting to learn where Dîner en Blanc will take place. Thousands of people, dressed all in white, and conducting themselves with the greatest decorum, elegance, and etiquette, all meet for a mass chic picnic in a public space”.
This “chic picnic” started in Paris in 1988 where it continues today, with over 10,000 guests a year in the City of Love. It was originally just a handful of friends and word of mouth quickly took off. For its 30th anniversary in 2018, there were more than 17,000 in attendance.
While it’s not necessarily celebrating any specific event, it is very joyous and is treated like a blind dinner party. Attendees go with a guest (or alone) and conversations with new seatmates lead to lasting friendships and new traditions.
How does the biggest kept secret work?
Dîner en Blanc now takes place in cities all over the world. Within each destination, the location is always different and is never previously announced. Once confirmed on the list, I was given a selection of subway stops to choose from where I would meet my group leader and tablemates. It’s not until our trek from the subway station that the party’s destination is revealed to us.
All attendees must wear all white, bring a table and two chairs and are responsible for their own dinner. There are options to order a dinner and Champagne through their site where you can pick it up that night, but the line for that gets very long.
Although it’s not required, the table settings go above and beyond. Attendees arrive with full-on suitcases with candles, table clothes, glassware, light fixtures and more.
What to expect leading up to the special night.
Once invited, each attendee pays $66 to attend. From there, you’ll have a username on their website with your assigned group leader. This person is a great point of contact leading up to the event.
Make sure to purchase a table and chairs before it’s too late. For an event with over 3,000 people, prior to the big night these items will often be sold out online. Last but not least is your outfit: all white is mandatory but attendees go all out with LED headpieces and beautiful white gowns and tuxedos.
This year was New York City’s 10th Anniversary.
This year’s event was held along the water in Battery Park City. Previously, locations included: Governors Island, Lincoln Center, Pier 26 and more. It’s mesmerizing to see a large empty space within an hour become adorned with tables, chairs and decorations to then go vacant again by the end of the night. This year’s event, with over 3,000 attendees, was also special because it was the return of Dîner en Blanc since the global pandemic.
Is Dîner En Blanc worth all the hype?
While it isn’t a cheap night out between the cost of two chairs, a foldable table, any decorations, dinner and an outfit, it definitely is an experience to be had. Your dinner doesn’t need to be fancy – my friend and I brought Chipotle. Once everything is completely set, then the night begins. With live music, a DJ, and dancing, you’ll leave with new friends that can be your tablemates next year too.
Organizers describe it on their site as, “Beyond the spectacle and elegance of the dinner itself, guests are brought together from diverse backgrounds by good taste and a love of beauty. Le Dîner en Blanc recalls the elegance and glamor of high French society, and guests engage one another, knowing that they are taking part in a truly magical event.”
Over the course of the evening, guests experience the beauty and value of their city’s public spaces by participating in the unexpected.
How to get on the list for next year in New York City.
The best way to try to get on the list is to check the site periodically. Since the event just happened last month, the new dates for 2023 are not posted yet. When it is, you can enter your email on this site.
Check out other cities as they take place all over the United States and the world. It’ll be a night that you won’t forget, and just try not to spill red wine on your all-white outfit!