One evening in June 1988, François Pasquier invited a few friends to the Bois de Boulogne, asking that those on the guest list bring another friend, along with food to share. In order to find one another more easily, everyone was told to wear white. The exact location was kept secret until the last minute. And so began the tradition of Dîner en Blanc!
I’ve had the pleasure of attending these festive dinners for the past five years, with the 2018 celebration marking the 30th edition of this Paris ceremony. Invitations are scarce, and you need to know one of the group leaders to score a seat. These days paid invitations in the form of tickets are circulating, though the original event has always been free of charge. Now tables are set around the world, with diners donning white attire from New York to Tokyo to Buenos Aires. But it’s the Paris Dîner en Blanc that sets the scene for the most extravagant outdoor dinner party of them all.
What’s most exciting about this grand event is the anticipation leading up to it. Meeting spots are communicated on the evening of the dinner and from there each group walks to the final destination where they meet with thousands of other diners. Much like an organized picnic, tables and chairs are set up along with tablecloths, dinnerware, and cutlery. Each table provides its own food, often adding flowers and candles to set the mood. Champagne flows throughout the night, while live music fills the air. Dîner en Blanc undoubtedly proves to be one of the most convivial events in the French capital, where locals and foreigners mix and mingle amidst the glow of the City of Lights.
My clandestine locations have included Paris’s bridges starting at Hotel de Ville, the gardens of Palais Royal, and the Esplanade des Invalides where last year’s momentous celebration took place. While the revelry appears to have no end, once the clock strikes midnight, the guest are all packed up and not a trace of the festivities remains. Until next year, that is.
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