Inside Diner en Blanc: The Secret Parisian Dinner Party With 20,000 Guests Dressed in White

By Meghan McKenna

Date June 13, 2018

I arrived in Paris for the 30th anniversary of Dîner en Blanc with a handful of questions: How many guests would attend? Where would we be dining? What would we be eating? Would my silver shoes be frowned upon? Can anyone really tell the difference between eggshell and white?    

This outdoor, all-white dinner party is shrouded in secrecy—and that’s part of its allure. For three decades, guests dressed in head to toe white have congregated in Paris’ most iconic sites for a pop-up communal meal. Carrying white table clothes, fine glassware, haute cuisine, floral centrepieces and bottles of champagne, they set up impromptu open-air eateries on the Champs-Elysees, Louvre and Eiffel Tower. Photography by Ryan Emberley

This iconic annual event, which began as a chic Parisian picnic among friends, has exploded into an international phenomenon with more than 110,000 participants in 28 countries. To celebrate its 30th anniversary, between 20,000 and 30,000 guests from around the world arrived in Dîner en Blanc’s maiden city for a night of mystery, romance and glamour under Paris’ twinkling lights.

French food, French wine and French fashion, served up on the green lawn outside the French capital’s 19th century Les Invalides monument. Views of the Eiffel Tower from one side and Pont Alexandre III bridge on the other, a sea of white between. It sounds like the kind of once in a lifetime event you need a golden ticket to be part of. Photography by Ryan Emberley

In a way, it is. Those interested in attending must either receive a coveted invitation code or sign up for a waitlist. Dîner en Blanc, no matter where you are in the world, has the kind of guest list enforced exclusivity—and strict dress code—you might expect from snobbish VIP parties atop sky-high city rooftops. And yet, despite its rules and lists, Dîner en Blanc has an unexpectedly egalitarian attitude that ensures everyone feels welcome.

Dîner en Blanc is, at its heart, a DIY community gathering. You haul your gourmet meal and lavish set up across Parisian cobblestones, and you arrive at your designated dinning spot to thousands of white-wearing guests waiting to welcome you to the party. On one side of my table was a group from Hawaii sharing chocolate covered macadamia nuts grown on their family farm. On the other, a group from Toronto sharing sips from their six-litre bottle of Veuve. Photography by Ryan Emberley

For those hoping to head straight to champagne and skip the whole waitlist and manual labour bits of the experience, there’s Sofitel’s VIP package. The luxury hotel brand has partnered with Dîner en Blanc to provide guests an all-inclusive, luxury experience in select North American cities. They’ll take care of the picnic baskets, dining set up and getting you on the guest list. All you have to do is show up dressed in all white.

For a sneak peak at what you’ll experience, here’s a look inside Dîner en Blanc’s 30th anniversary in Paris. The magic of the evening can’t quite be captured on camera—but Toronto photographer Ryan Emberly comes close.

Photography by Ryan Emberley

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