Diner en Blanc – Tips and Tricks for Attending
***Warning! This is a comprehensive guide on everything you’ll need to know when attending a Diner En Blanc event. It is VERY long. So I recommend getting a cup of coffee, refilling your glass of wine, or locking your bathroom door (depending on your reading environment) before embarking on reading all of this article.***
(Just really quick, if you want to see pictures from Diner en Blanc 2015, click here. Event photos from 2016 can be found here. There are also some additional tips in the new posts. But if you want everything in one place, make sure to check out my book. I’ve also complied a list of Amazon.com links for everything you might need for Diner en Blanc for those that don’t like to spend all day shopping.).
Oh man. How do you talk about something you have wanted to do for literally years? I don’t know when it happened, but three or so years ago I saw something online about Diner en Blanc and I was immediately mesmerized. Like, seriously, completely, and wholly obsessed. I knew I wanted to be a part of one and would love to have started one in Albuquerque, but didn’t even know how to go about doing it. So I dropped it and followed the diner in white in other countries and states. Until a few months ago, when all of that changed.
What is the Diner en Blanc? Well, it’s basically a flash mob dinner party. You can google it and get more of the history, but it started in France with a man and his friends and has since exploded into an international phenomenon.
The entire premise is to sign up, pack up a picnic, white table, white chairs, white dishes and utensils, and of course, dress in all white, meet in a predetermined spot, and be whisked away to a secret location with 800 (or more depending on where you attend) of your closest friends. From there you set up everything and party the night away.
Luckily for me (and all of the others who attended), a local woman, Micaela Brown, decided to bring Diner en Blanc to Albuquerque. When I first saw it announced I immediately signed up for the wait list. Thankfully I received an invitation to sign up and as soon as it was opened, I did. Because, well, when something you’ve been waiting years to do shows up on your doorstep, that’s what you do.
For a party-loving girl like me, it was such a blast. A group of my friends signed up to go as well, and we were fortunately seated near them (if not next to them). We had SUCH an AMAZING time. Seriously. It was awesome.
Now, talking about a great party is one thing, but what about tips for attending a great party? There were definitely some tips and tricks I learned that I will be implementing for the future!
Diner en Blanc can be broken down into four areas of focus:
1. What to wear (fashion is a biggie)
2. What to eat (it is a picnic for foodies…it started in France after all!)
3. How to decorate your table
4. Have fun!
Focus One: Fashion
Obviously, you have to wear white. All white. Not cream, not off white, but WHITE. Metal accessories are okay (or so I’m told).
Personally, fashion was not the big draw for me. I’m happy taking care of my kids in jeans and comfy shirts. With that being said, I can definitely appreciate those who took the time to come up with creative outfits and made a splash. There were lots of feathers, pearls, rhinestones and anything else you can imagine.
I’ll leave fashion tips to the fashion bloggers. Jamie, a local blogger, can be found at More Than Turquoise with some great tips.
Finding an outfit for you man might be one of the hardest things to do for Diner en Blanc. So I went ahead and put together a simple outfit on my purchase page.
Focus Two: Food
Where I lack in fashion, I more then make up for in the other areas! Food is a huge passion of mine (you can check out my other blog Bunches O Lunches) and I was so excited to prepare our menu! We opted to bring our own picnic rather then buy a basket since we wanted to have some warm dishes (the inaugural Diner en Blanc Albuquerque was held on October 9, 2014…which can be cool after the sun goes down).
We decided on a five course meal. We did an appetizer course, soup, salad, entree and dessert.
Diner en Blanc TIP: Do yourself a favor and DON’T pack food with red sauce. You are wearing white after all! Try picking foods that, in the event they fall on your clothes, won’t leave an obvious stain.
Diner en Blanc TIP: If you pack warm foods, wait until the last possible moment to pack them up. We packed our foods around 4:30pm and we ate between 8-9pm. Our soup was warm- not hot- but warm. Our green beans were warm and our chicken was lukewarm. The potatoes were also lukewarm. If you are okay with that, then you will be fine packing warm foods.
Diner en Blanc TIP: I packed our salads in individual size snapware containers. This allowed us to dump the salad onto our plates without needing to dish them out and try and do so evenly in the dark. Put the toppings on the bottom of the container so when you turn in out on the plate they are on top. We also packed the dressing separately so the salad would’t be soggy when it was time to eat it. Dress is right before it’s time to eat.
My husband and I love having coffee with our dessert.
Diner en Blanc TIP: If you don’t drink your coffee black, and choose to take some with you, pre mix it before leaving. My husband and I drink our coffee with cream and honey, so he mixed it in the Thermos before packing it up. All we had to do was pour and enjoy! Also, if you pack your desserts in individual serving dishes, it makes things super easy!
As for drinks, we chose not to purchase alcohol this time around (some Diner en Blanc’s allow you to take your own, but our’s didn’t allow it due to state laws). Instead we decided to make Italian Sodas. We pre-made it in a glass bottle and served our drinks in wine glasses. It was excellent. We also packed bottled waters…more on that later.
Focus 3: Table
The designing of the table *may* have been the part I was most excited about. I really wanted to embrace the elegance of the night, but do something creatively different that would stand out. One great way to do that is to go up, so I opted to create a canopy out of garland that framed our table.
Normally, Diner en Blanc is a summerish type of thing. Since ours was in October, the sun was setting as we were setting up our table and it was a little harder to see what we were doing. It was all good, we just turned our lights on first for the set up.
Diner en Blanc TIP: Whether you have a simple or complicated table design, be sure and practice setting it up at least once (especially if you buy a roll up camping table). It will save you time and frustration.
When you are done setting up your table, pack your tub/basket/suitcase in reverse order. Pack it so the last items to go on the table are in the bottom. For example, rather then packing your tablecloth on bottom when packing, put your tablecloth on top since it will be the first thing to go on the table.
It will save you time and you won’t have to pull out all of your dishes first to get to your tablecloth. Pack your tub with your bottom layers at the top and your top layers at the bottom (if that makes sense).
Diner en Blanc TIP: When designing your table, plan to use different texture, layers and height to make it stand out. When you have white on white things can get lost. To really make pieces stand out by having variety (flat and gloss, smooth and rough, high and low, soft and hard). For instance, I used feather chargers which really stood out against a standard white tablecloth. It adds an additional layer to the table without distracting from the other parts of the table. Be careful not to add too much though! Elements can be lost if you add too much.
Also, buy using a cake platter, you can add height and extra table space to your table.
To add an additionally fun element, we decided to create white handled silverware. I loved it.
Additionally, don’t forget about your chair backers! I wish I had a better picture of these, but we used white slipcovers over our folding chairs, but we wanted them to stand out a little, so I made oversized white paper flowers to attach to the back. Then, in an effort to make them stand out a little bit more, we laced them with LED lights so once the sun set, we turned the light on and our chairs glowed (it also made it handy for our friends to find us).
Diner en Blanc TIP: If you buy LED lights, they will last all night. The one strand we used that wasn’t LED, didn’t make it through the entire night. Try looking at Hobby Lobby in the Wedding section to find white strands of battery operated LED lights. That’s what we used for the chair above and it was FAB-U-LOUS.
Now, I live in New Mexico where it is sunny something like 300 days a year, so I wasn’t completely prepared for it to rain. But if there is one thing we know about Albuquerque, it is that the weather can be so unpredictable. So when we saw it was a 50% of rain, we decided to buy umbrellas last minute. Be sure and be prepared in case of inclement weather! You never know what might happen. (We had a canopy for our table. We cut a piece of clear plastic wrap and used clothespins to secure it and keep our table dry. Sorry I forgot to get a picture of that!)
Focus Four: HAVE FUN!!!!
Seriously. Have fun. Let loose. Don’t get so caught up in comparing yourself with everyone else you don’t enjoy the night. Be yourself. Pack food you like. Dress in clothes you will be comfortable in (but make sure they are white! There are rules you know), be creative with your table, but do as much or as little as you are comfortable with. Don’t forget to smile, dance and laugh.
I’m not a huge dancer, but my husband is. I promised him I would dance with him if we went. We did go, so we did dance. We had a blast. It was a great way to finish the evening.
Remember that there will be chaos. You’ll forget something, people around you may be impatient, your cart and everything on it may tip over or any number of things may go sideways. It’s okay. Breathe. You are there to have fun and be a part of something special. Just shake it off. Shake it off.
Thinking about taking part in a Diner en Blanc near you? Then you may want some helpful information. Below is a list of expenses, timeline and what to pack list as well as things to know before signing up.
How much does Diner en Blanc cost? Well, that really depends on what you have and don’t have. Our event had a registration fee of about $30 per person. In total, for two of us, it was right around $75 (for the membership fee and tax, etc.) The registration fee covered the charter buses, insurance, DJ, etc.
I can’t speak for anyone else, because I am sure some people dropped a pretty penny on their clothes, but we tried to keep cost to a minimum.
$39.48 for pants and shoes
$25 for sweater
$14 for belt and tie
$39.35 for shirt, sweater and pants
already had shoes
$35 Camping Table
already had folding chairs
already had chair covers
already had tablecloth
already had votive holders
already had battery operated candles
already had white dinner plates/salad plates/soup bowl
already had white napkins
already had silverware
already had cake platter
already had wine glasses
borrowed taper candleholders
$1.99 for feathers to make chargers
already had poster board
already had hot glue
already had dowels
already had paper for garland
already had vases to secure dowels
$4.99 for clear drink bottle
already had tissue paper for flowers
$2.50 for LED battery operated light strand
already had white ribbon
already had vases for flowers
$4.99 for a bunch of hydrangeas
$2.00 battery operated taper candles
already had batteries
I worked my food into the budget but had to pick up a few items last minute. To buy the picnic from the event, the cost ranged from $30-$80 depending which option you chose. The alcohol started around $25 and went up to $60? I think. I can’t remember precisely.
already had dates
already had nuts
already had chocolate
$2.99 loaf of bread
$4.99 bacon (we ran out before the event!)
$6.00 for truffle cheese
already had grapes
already had salad ingredients
already had chicken ingredients
already had potato ingredients
already had green bean ingredients
already had coffee stuff
already had apple crisp ingredients
already had popcorn ingredients
So, what did the timeline look like (if you don’t stay home and have someone to watch your kiddos while you run errands, be sure you do as much beforehand as possible. I didn’t stop moving for a few days).
June 30- Sign up on wait list
September 16- Receive invitation to register for Phase 3
September 17, 11:00am- Registration for Phase 3 opens
September 17- Receive confirmation of registration
September 17- Sign in to Diner en Blanc site
September 21- Receive welcome letter from bus leader
September 28- Receive informational letter from bus leader; Orders for picnic basket sales close
October 2- Wine orders close
October 5- Receive reminder follow up email from bus leader
Wednesday, October 8:
Finish making props for the table
Practice setting up the table
Pack up the table/props accessories
Make sure all clothes were ironed/laundered as needed
Make sure all clothing/accessories were laid out for the following day
(Basically, make sure everything but the food is ready to go)
Thursday, October 9:
Receive e-mails from bus leader with a few reminders about things to bring (water!) and plan to be warm/have umbrellas/ponchos
Swing by Hobby Lobby and pick up two battery operated taper candles and a string of LED lights
Swing by Trader Joe’s and pick up fresh flowers, french bread loaf, soup, cheese and bacon
Swing by friends house to borrow candlestick holders
Go home and make appetizers (packing individually made it easy to keep things contained and separate), precut bread, precut cheese (it saves time and space)
Make main dish
Heat up Thermos
Put hot foods in pre warmed dishes
Pack picnic basket/insulated bag
5:20pm- leave house and head to meeting point
5:30pm- arrive at meeting point and enjoy drinks while waiting for people to arrive and to board the buses
6:00-ish- find bus assigned to group leader and load items into the back of the bus
6:30ish- load buses and head to secret location
7:00-7:15- arrive at secret location (Balloon Fiesta Museum! during Balloon Fiesta week on the night of the Special Shapes Balloon Glow followed by a Fireworks show- it was pretty EPIC!)
7:15- 8:00pm- Chaos ensues while you wait to walk to the spot with your items, find your spot to set up, try and set up while all the people around you try and set up, get things out and moved and, well, you get the idea
7:45pm- Try and remember to take pictures while your friends come and say hi to you.
7:46pm- Get told by your husband to go apologize to said friends for being a butt and taking pictures instead of saying hello
7:47pm- Say hello to friends and apologize for being a butt for taking photos instead of saying hello and give lots of hugs.
7:52pm- decide to go to the bathroom only to find out that the twirling of napkins is moments away and you DO NOT want to miss it. Plus the Fireworks have started and they are pretty EPIC.
8:00pm- Twirling of the napkins and Fireworks. When it’s done, sit down and enjoy your dinner with 800+ people. We had friends on one side and met new people (who actually live in our neighborhood!) on the other. It was pretty loud between the people talking, DJ’s music and the end of the fireworks. But we made it work.
9:00pm- The lighting of the sparklers (these things are intense people! Like 3 feet long or something- the mega sparklers of light). Then the music changes and the dancing gets going.
11:00pm- The trumpet horns blow to signify the end of the evening and people tear down their tables, head to the buses, load up and head back to their pick up point and head home (though our site had an after party but we had to relieve the babysitter).
It was awesome and epic and amazing and all these wonderfully beautiful magical things. I loved it and can’t wait to attend another!
Packing list for Diner en Blanc
(this is just a general list-not specific to what all I took)
1 folding table 28″ -32″ (square) We bought this one but would recommend finding one that you can fit your legs under because it can be a bit uncomfortable (especially for those with long legs!)
2 folding chairs (white) or buy white slipcovers to go over them. We saw someone take white lawn chairs, but I imagine that would have been bit uncomfortable to carry
1 white tablecloth (linen)
2 white dinner plates (not paper or plastic)
2 white napkins
2 sets of utensils (not plastic)
2 glasses (not paper or plastic)
Matches or lighter for the sparklers or candles
1 wine opener if you are drinking wine
Trash bag to collect your trash and take off site with you (if there isn’t trash disposal provided by the event)
Food and drinks
Camera (a high quality one will get you better pictures then what I have. Mine were iPhone photos…okay, but not great)
Something to pack it all in (we used a large tub, insulated bag and dolly with bungee cords)
Rolling cart/wagon/dolly and bungee cords/rolling suitcase, etc. for getting your stuff around easily
Registration paper printed out
A good attitude! It’s going to be a little nuts but it will calm down and the night will be awesome!
Battery operated candles (tea lights and taper)- It’s not as pretty as an open flame, but you don’t have to worry about them blowing out.
Votive holders to hold the tea light candles. (we used 6)
Taper holder to add height and hold taper candles (we used 2)
Strings of LED battery operated lights to add light to your chairs or table
2 chargers for under your plates
2 salad plates
2 soup bowls
1 drink bottle
white salt and pepper shakers (filled)
1 cake platter to add height and space to your table
Fresh flowers and vases to hold them in
Clear or White Umbrellas and/or clear ponchos
Jacket/shawl if it’s cold
Hair tie if you want to keep your hair out of your face or it gets windy
Touch up makeup/lipgloss/chapstick
Things to not forget:
Camera (phone or another if you are comfortable with that)
Portable Phone Charger
Ziplock Bag for Wet Towel
Wet Towel to wipe off dirty dishes before repacking
Cooler with Cold Bottled Water (pack a lot. You get thirsty dancing! It’s also nice to feed your flowers)
Flashlight (wish we would have had one for cleaning our area in the dark- you don’t know if your event will have extra lights or not!)
Bright colored Bungee cords (in case yours fall off in the dark and you can’t find them when packing everything up)
Tide pen in case you get something on you
I packed a mini party planner ziplock bag that included:
Safety pins for attaching the flowers to the chair covers and other miscellaneous uses
Scissors for cutting the garland
Tape- cause you never know when you need it
Clothespins to attach the clear tarp to the canopy
Ribbon to attach the flowers to the chairs
Extra batteries in case the candles we were using died
You don’t need:
Money- at least we didn’t. It was all prepaid/ordered
Things to know before signing up:
If you don’t have much stuff and can’t borrow it, costs could be anywhere between $150 to $300 per person (your initial investment, every year after you will have the items already and will only need food, drinks, clothing and registration fees).
If you think you might want to do Diner en Blanc someday, start by buying your white dishes, glassware etc. now. Everyone should own a set of white dishes anyway.
If you find out there is going to be a Diner en Blanc in your area, sign up on the wait list ASAP. Then make sure you follow up and register as soon as possible (these things do sell out).
If you want to go, invite your friends before you sign up. That way you can sign up to be at the same pick up location and with the same bus leader so you can sit next to each other.
There are 3 phases for sign up. The first phase is for people who know the organizer/have been to the event before. The second phase is for those who are sponsored by someone in the first phase. The third phase is opened to any who sign up on the wait list.
If you say you are going to go, go. If you don’t go, you may be denied entry at future events.
Diner en Blanc goes on rain or shine. Don’t chicken out if the weather looks bad. It’s still super fun (unless there was a tornado, or hurricane, or volcano erupting. Safety should always be considered! But a little rain never hurt anyone).
I also want to note: the bathrooms they rented were actually quite nice. They were luxury portapotties. They had stalls and running water with soap to wash your hands. It was tight, but they were nice enough that I wasn’t put off by them. It really added to the luxury of the night.
Disclosure: I was not paid, nor given anything to write this article. I simply wanted to write about my experience and things I learned and enjoyed from this event. I spent quite some time looking on blogs for ideas and checklists and such but didn’t find anything comprehensive. So I wrote about what I wished I had known about. I hope you find this helpful and have a great time attending a Diner en Blanc! (also, don’t like, do things because that’s I what I did. I can’t and won’t be responsible for decisions you make…you know…so don’t like sue me when you break a plate or something. I didn’t tell you to pack it without wrapping it up you know. Common sense people. It does wonders!) Also, if you click on my affiliate links, and buy something, I get like a small percentage of that. Thanks!