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Normally September brings fall (in most of the country) and one of my favorite events of the year, Dîner en Blanc!
I consider myself a Dîner en Blanc vet having attended multiple Dîner en Blanc events in San Diego and volunteering as a Table Leader for three years. Side note – There are some people on the San Diego Dîner en Blanc Leadership Team (Mark, I’m looking at you!) who have attended a crazy number of events, even international Dîner en Blancs so I use the word “vet” loosely, I just know what I’m talking about for the purpose of this blog post haha. Since I won’t be celebrating in person with les amis (friends in French, don’t let me down Google Translate) I thought it would be the perfect time to look back on past events and put together this handy guide so it’s ready to go for next year’s event!
What is Dîner en Blanc?
DEB is an invite only, pop-up, chic, all white dinner event that takes place in a public place. The location is a mystery to attendees until they’re on their way to the physical location. Yes, seriously!
To be invited to a DEB event, you must be sponsored by a previous attendee or you can sign up for your city’s public waiting list. Once confirmed, you’re assigned a meeting location for the evening where you will meet the rest of your table (more on that later) at various spots around town. Guests will then transport their belongings (more on that too) via charter or public transportation to the mystery location.
The actual event consists of a dinner portion (kicked off my a ceremonial napkin wave), dancing, and just enjoying the evening before it’s time to break everything apart and leave the location.
One of the coolest things about DEB is that if you watch as people leave the “venue” or you go back the next morning, you can never tell if an event occurred in the first place! DEB attendees take all their belongings, leftovers, and trash, leaving the location as clean as when we arrived.
How Did Dîner en Blanc Begin?
Dîner en Blanc (or DEB) began as a word of mouth event in 1988 in Paris. François Pasquier invited some friends and their guests to meet him for a chic picnic. Attendees were told to wear all white as a way to identify each other. Today, in Paris alone, the event draws 10,000 attendees each year and has taken place at some amazing locations like the Eiffel Tower, the Château de Versailles, Le Louvre Pyramid, and the Palais Royal Garden!
Where Is Dîner en Blanc Held?
DEB is now a worldwide event happening in cities like Barcelona, London, Moscow, Stockholm, Montreal, Santiago, Havana, Mexico City, Sydney, Cape Town, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, and in cities all across the United States!
Like mentioned above, one of the best parts about DEB is that attendees do not know the physical location of each year’s event, until they are on their way!
The three events I’ve attended in San Diego have been at Liberty Station, the Del Mar Racetrack, and the Embarcadero.
What Is The Dress Code?
Attendees must wear white and only white and be dressed in a chic & elegant fashion. Attendees can definitely accessorize and are encouraged to be creative & original but this isn’t a costume party, a DEB attendee always keeps it stylish & tasteful.
I’ve Been To A Dîner en Blanc Before. How Do I Get More Involved?
Dîner en Blanc events would not be possible without the amazing team of volunteers that helps organize the night. In San Diego alone, I think our volunteer team is over 100 people. I’ve been a Table Leader for three years now which means I help answer any questions through the portal before the event, organize my table of around 40 people night-of helping them check in, get to the event, and set up.
There are also Group Leaders who organize a team of Table Leaders and run an entire check in location. There are Food Organizers who help run the catering tent. We can’t forget the Set Up & Break Down team, I’m sure I’m probably missing others but if you want to take a bigger role in your city’s Dîner en Blanc, just ask! It’s such a great & rewarding experience.
San Diego’s volunteer team normally meets for three meetings before the event running through any updates, getting newcomers up to speed, answering and questions, and reviewing the flow of the event. Fun little fact – Even as a Table Leader, I don’t know the event location until I open the envelope and tell my group so there’s definitely still Dîner en Blanc magic even if you volunteer!
What Do You Need For Dîner en Blanc?
So it’s your first Dîner en Blanc and you have no idea what to expect… you’re in the right place! The mystery… the magic of it all… there’s really nothing like DEB but just because you don’t know where you’ll spend your evening, doesn’t mean you need to pack blindly!
Follow this handy packing checklist for all my tried & true DEB essentials.
First thing first, you’ll need a table that’s between 28 and 32 inches. Yes, it’s that specific for a reason. Don’t be that person who thinks they can just sneak in their non-compliant table. If you’re sitting next to your friends, bring two tables that are approved, sometimes rows have to arc or a bigger table isn’t able to be accommodated. It’s a rule for a reason, follow it. Rant over. I bought this rollup table my first year and have used it at every event since then. It’s so easy to transport and at $48.55 with Prime one day shipping, it’s definitely worth the investment.
I bought these $7.99 basic white folding chairs from Ikea. They’re completely acceptable as is but I like to add a chair cover to enhance my overall décor. At $7.93 each, these chair covers are machine washable and really help set the tone of the event.
Any white tablecloth will do so since I was shopping on Amazon, I grabbed this one for $12.99 It’s held up for three Dîner en Blanc events so far.
Keep it simple. As a Table Leader, I have to be at the check in locations before guests start arriving and the first year really stressed myself out trying to put together a full hot dinner. The next year, I opted more for finger foods, nicely displayed of course, and it was the way to go. Keep it classy simple. I’ve seen sushi, tea sandwiches, wraps, salads. Don’t overthink the food.
This tiered stand is great since the tables can be small and you can display food vertically. It also folds flat and pops right up which makes it a perfect fit for DEB!
Do yourself a favor and invest in a hand trolley. I’ve seen people with the collapsible wagons, but I feel like they’re more trouble than they’re worth and let’s not forget – everything must fit under your table and this hand cart fits the bill.
Picnic Basket/ Insulated Bag
The first year I took all my supplies in one large tote and my food items in an insulated cooler bag. It was a lot to carry and I had dishes banging around and chipping. Now I’m much smarter. I’ve been eyeing this white picnic basket for 4, which would be absolutely perfect for Dîner en Blanc!
I already have this backpack version though and used it last year when we attended with friends. It was perfect for transporting all our cutlery and flatware. It also has an insulated, lined cooler bag on the inside for keeping white wines or champagne (or cheese, really whatever) cold and doesn’t leak or get the overall backpack wet – I’ve tested it multiple times. There’s also a side wine bottle holder if you’re as gusty as I and dare to drink red at DEB! Did I mention it also comes with wine glasses, a wine opener (MUST have!), salt & pepper shakers, and a cute little cutting board perfect for a charcuterie display. Honestly – I’m obsessed with this thing. Even if you’re not attending Dîner en Blanc, bookmark this backpack – it makes the perfect wedding gift, Christmas present, housewarming gift aka all my friends have gotten or are getting one from me!
I grabbed one of these 15” Eiffel Towers and added some battery powered twinkle lights to keep my tablescape simple to execute but also on theme.
In San Diego, we can’t have any live flames so last year, I got these fun battery powered rose lights (they come in warm or cool glow) to light up my table a bit.
Don’t forget about a few DEB essentials. While not as glamorous or fun as some of the other essentials, you don’t want to forget these at home.
- Garbage Bags
- Cell Phone Battery Pack
- Hand Sanitizer
- Paper Towels
- Tide To Go Pen
- Masking Tape & Sharpie – Label EVERYTHING!
- ID that shows you’re over 21
- Your printed confirmation
- Your printed confirmation of any e-store/catering purchases
DÎNER EN BLANC Fashion!
Now on to the fun part – fashion! Dîner en Blanc is a great time to really embrace the theme and glam it up a bit. Matt was deployed for 2018’s event so I took a girlfriend, Taylor, to DEB and we had SO much fun with our outfits.
Don’t skip a fascinator! I got SO many compliments on this one that I actually plan on wearing it again this year. If you’re looking for something a bit smaller, this one worked with Taylor’s outfit and was the perfect addition.
Taylor also decided to glam it up a bit by wearing elbow length white gloves – so chic!
As a Table Leader, I always look for fun little touches for my guests. These bright white glow sticks are always a favorite and give me a reason to check in with everyone and make sure all are having a great time!
Now here’s the fun part, last year we knew it was going to be chilly at night so I bought a bunch of shawls and jackets and nothing was working with my dress. I decided to have a little fun and branch out and bought this white fur wrap and couldn’t be happier. Once you unpack it, you throw it in the dryer for a few minutes and it comes out this awesome, fluffy, way higher quality looking accent piece. (I legit spent all night saying “$40 on Amazon!) Do yourself a favor and get this… now!
I also always like to mention footwear. Since you never know where Dîner en Blanc will be and have to be prepared to walk, your typical high heels aren’t always a good choice. The event is formal though so casual footwear also just feels a little off. While not the most glamorous (and definitely not a part of my normal look) these shoes have become my dedicated DEB shoes and I wear them once a year. They allow me to walk while carrying everything, run around from bus to bus as a table leader, and dance the night away!
TLDR Dîner en Blanc Packing Checklist
- Table Cloth
- Hand Trolley
- Plates, cups, silverware
- Picnic Basket/Cooler
- White Cloth Napkins
- Electric Candles
- Wine bottle opener
- Garbage Bags
- Paper towels
- Hand Sanitizer
- Phone Charger
There you have it, my full Dîner en Blanc introduction & packing guide! Have you attended a DEB event before? Anything I left off the list that you’d like to see included? Let me know in the comments below!