Last week, I attended Dîner en Blanc Chicago for the second year in a row. Le Dîner en Blanc started as a way to host a pop-up dinner in Paris and has grown to a global all-white sensation. Now that I'm a Diner en Blanc vet, I can say I understand how the event works.
My first year attending was frantic. There are all sorts of information out there to help you manage your expectations but really nothing can prepare you for the experience. Kinda like this thing called life. Here were some of my biggest takeaways from the event:
It's not for the faint of planful
There are rules and then there are Dîner en Blanc rules. I never received more emails and information from anyone besides Sallie Mae. I was in group chats dedicated to preparing for the event and making sure we understood how to get invitations, coordinating pedestrian and table leaders and then of course logistics.
Failure to plan is definitely planning to fail.
Less is More
My first year, I tried to recreate a table arc I saw on Pinterest. I bought vines with a floral centerpiece only find out our secret location was a beach. The arc and centerpiece kept toppling over because the ground wasn't level and it was windy. If I could go back in time, I would tell myself that I was doing the absolute most.
This year, I opted for simpler decor. I had chair tutus and a floral applique tablecloth that I topped off with lights. The whole set up took less than 10 minutes. Don't get me wrong, if there were ever a place to be extra, it would be at Dîner en Blanc.
Pick and choose where you will exert energy. You can do simple extravagantly well.
Love thy neighbor
Once you get on site, you hit the ground running to set up your space. I began to set up my table only to find that the poles necessary to stabilize my tabletop were missing! The tabletop rolls up, without something to stretch the top straight, the top would lay limp across the table frame. There wasn't much we could do without a table to decorate, let alone eat off.
Our tablemates saw our struggle and offered us their Bungie cords. My bestie and I took our storage bin and jimmy rigged a net that stabilized it so it could support our table.
We would not have been able to experience the fullness of Dîner en Blanc without their help. I am so grateful to Beverly and Toni their assistance and consideration for our calamity.
Pro tip: The more people you can coordinate to group tables together, the more table space you have for food, drinks,etc. Moreover, you have more area to do spectacular tablescapes.
A ride or die is necessary
The first year, my guest bailed on me at the last minute. I needed someone who would 1.) be willing to compensate me for the ticket 2.) be okay with the lack of information I was able to give them 3.) be willing to and able-bodied enough to lug a table, chairs, decor and food AND 4.) adhere to the all-white attire. She helped me fashion a cool centerpiece from the floral centerpiece I wasn't able to use.
This year, I went with my childhood bestie and she turned into BlaGuvyer when I needed her most.
It is important to find a Dîner en Blanc guest that will fill those voids in your planning but also support you when you forget table poles or can't level your table. Find a guest that will complement you and support you. In short, Dîner en Blanc is about partnership.
I think the most anticipated part of Dîner en Blanc is the napkin twirl and sparkler lighting. Once everyone is situated, everyone vigorously waves their white linen napkins in the air. It signifies the evening has begun and you are in for a great time.
Additionally, people go all out on clothes. Ladies wear derby hats and fascinators that would rival the best of Kentucky's derby society, men suit up in penguin tail tuxedos, and folks adhere lights, feathers, and all sorts accessories to their outfits.
It's a visual reminder that flair matters. Take every opportunity to incorporate extravagance into your life.
Magic is Real
Seeing a sea of spectacularly dressed folks is already a sight to behold. Add a surprise wedding on top of that and you have something beyond amazing. One couple decided to exchange their vows at the event. I ran into the couple later that evening and they shared their love story. Their courtship lasted all of 8 months before they decided to jump the broom...and yes they brought a broom to DEB!
I asked them why they decided to do their vows in front of 4,000 strangers and the freshly minted bride replied, "why, not?!" I couldn't agree with her more because love is magical and celebrating it only amplifies in this world.
With preparation, an affinity for dramatics, partnership, and love; life is beautiful. Dîner en Blanc captures all of this in one night. If you are fortunate enough to attend, do so.
My recommended Dîner en Blanc guides:
Have you attended Dîner en Blanc this year? Share your experience?