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The Dîner en Blanc Paris 2016

20 May 2016

Visit the Extraordinary Large-Scale Secret Dining Experience of the Year

Returning in June for another mysterious night is the most exclusive party in the world: the Dîner en Blanc. Since its creation in 1988, this has remained one of the biggest VIP events in the Parisian calendar, famed for its decadence, beauty and, above all, secrecy. All that is known about the 2016 event is that it will be held in June at a beautiful public place in Paris, and if you are lucky enough to receive an invitation you must dress completely in white…

In 1988, a few friends decided they wanted to do something inoffensive but prohibited – they wanted to dine al fresco in one of Paris’ communal beauty spots. Many of the public outdoor spaces in Paris are not accessible for large gatherings – groups who try this will usually find themselves moved along by police. But what started as an informal idea amongst a dozen friends, soon escalated into an event of 200, white-clad diners enjoying a picnic in the Jardins de Bagatelle – a favourite garden spot of Marie Antoinette. Thus the popular Dîner en Blanc began and, now in its 28th year, no-one has looked back since.

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Diners sit in rows to eat

Exclusive Invitations and Enjoyable Traditions

Each year, the location of the dinner changes. Past ‘forbidden’ venues have included the outdoor courtyard of the Louvre, the Trocadero Gardens, the oldest square in the city Place des Vosges and in front of Notre-Dame Cathedral. In 2015, six of the city’s bridges were announced as the locations, so guests sat over the Seine on the wide pavements to dine. The organisers always make sure the location is an area of beauty in the city and that there’s enough space for everyone invited – last year there were 15,000 diners on the list! The rules are you must be invited by the organisers and you must bring a partner along to dine with.

Other than the location, the remaining rules stay the same each year: you must be dressed all in white, you must bring a picnic, folding table and chairs. To eat, you can bring what you like but must only bring champagne and wine to drink – at the end of the meal, all rubbish must be taken with guests so that the location looks as if no one was ever there. The most mysterious and secretive part of this event is knowing where to go… the date is released a few days ahead of the event but the space is only revealed to guests an hour before it begins! The final rule is that diners must only use public transport to get to the secret location… and since the location is only released an hour ahead of the event starting, they need to move to the nearest Metro, bus or train as quickly as possible!

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The Dîner en Blanc in the Cour Carrée square

The Most Luxurious Picnic in Paris

Once diners arrive, within 10 minutes, the location is completely transformed. Tables and chairs are set up in long lines, like an open air banqueting hall. Strangers pitch up alongside one another, open picnic baskets and start to share plates, candelabras and food. The same rules apply to the dressing of the tables as to the people sitting at them: all white. It is the most magical sight to see rows upon rows of white clothed tables, twinkling with white candles and adorned with vases of white flowers – although it’s a temporary event, people really do go to town with decorations.

The same can be said for the food – this is no normal picnic. It is well known that the French love their food and ephemeral dining is no excuse for laziness… hand-painted crockery, antique glassware, home-cooked delicacies and fine wines will be found on every table. There are some charming etiquette rules to follow before eating can commence – women must sit down one side of the table and men must sit facing them on the opposite side. The whole row of tables must also be set up and ready to dine before anyone begins their meals. This way, each ‘banqueting table’ – although strangers to begin with – feels as though they are dining together in a group of friends and not at different paces. Often bands will strike up, playing traditional French music or classical pieces to enhance the relaxing and jovial atmosphere. If you aren’t invited, it’s worth checking social media for location announcements then heading down to the spot yourself for some seriously beautiful photo opportunities…


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The sun sets over the Louvre pyramid

By midnight, everyone knows it is time to disperse. New friends have been made and, whether it was their first occasion or they’ve been to all 28 events, everyone goes home happy, sleepy and full. Those who are lucky enough to be invited along as a guest, will receive an invitation of their own the following year and choose their own friend to take along… and so it continues. This delightful event has proven so popular that now London, Singapore, Milan, Barcelona as well as the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda and the Ivory Coast host their own versions of the ‘White Dinner’… so if you aren’t lucky enough to attend the original Dîner en Blanc in Paris, perhaps you might find your way into one of the others instead!


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