Surviving Diner en Blanc - A First Timer’s Guide to the All-White Affair
Somewhere in the world it is that time of year again, Diner en Blanc is upon us. As we approach this year’s all-white soiree, I thought it would be helpful to prepare a survival guide filled with tips I wish I would have known for my first experience. You can find information about the event all over the internet, but I’m going to share the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to prepping for Diner en Blanc and let you know if it's worth the effort. So, keep reading if you want to know “what they don’t tell you about Diner en Blanc”.
Yours truly, DEB 2019
What is Diner en Blanc?
Diner en Blanc, or DEB as some call it, is an all-white outdoor picnic held at a secret location in a public setting. This is not just any old, picnic. It is a formal affair in which all the attendees dress up in their most fabulous garb, set formal dinner tables covered with lavish décor, and eat and dance the night away.
Oh, one thing I forgot to mention…
You. Supply. EVERYTHING.
Yep, you read that right. You bring the table (size specific), the chairs, the tablecloth, cloth napkins, real plates (salad, dinner and dessert plates, of course), stemmed glasses (water and wine/champagne glasses), real cutlery (no plastic allowed) and a centerpiece.
And yes, you also pay to get in.
To add to the complexities, getting in can be a challenge, but I’ll talk about that in a bit.
The "Cliff's" on the History of DEB
Diner en Blanc was started by a lovey Frenchman named Francois Pasquier. One day he invited a handful of his friends out for a private picnic in a public setting in Paris. The friends were instructed on what to bring and he announced the location at the last minute. That was 30 years ago, and the tradition was established. It has since spread across the world. Whether you’re in Europe, Africa, Asia, or any of the Americas, you can experience Diner en Blanc in a large city near you.
It is truly a bucket list event that you have to try at least once if you’re a fan of a fabulous party and/or affair.
It’s absolutely to live for!
What They Don’t Tell You About DEB
My first year at Diner en Blanc was an all-out SS (aka an event-emotional roller coaster). From scoring the invite, up until the very moment we did the “napkin waive” (a DEB tradition to signal it’s time to eat) things were a bit stressful.
I attended with my mom and two of my friends and I’m going to be honest, it was a challenge. There was a lot of hustle and it was a bit disorganized (it was my location’s second year, so they were still working out the kinks).
I also volunteered myself to make the food for all of us and tried to "perfect" our table setting and decor.
I can honestly say I have never worked so hard for a party in my life. - Rue
But it was worth every bit of effort we put into it. In fact, I think the effort makes it more beautiful and, just like everything else you work hard for, you seem enjoy it more because you feel as though you've earned a good time.
After year 1 a few of my my friends tapped out. They were over the entire thing and don't have a desire to attend another and I don't blame them. This is something I totally understand because I felt the same way.
My mom is the reason I attended the following year. She absolutely loves DEB and because of how much she loves it I make sure we go. It has totally become a tradition for us, and we look forward to it every year.
Mom at our table. DEB 2019
I’ll be honest, I’m glad she talked me into going again because our second time was a lot nicer since we are now "experienced DEB'ers" heading into our third year and I feel like I’ve got the hang of it!
If this is your first year, you’ll definitely want to devour this post. I’m sharing all of my jewels and “mishaps” so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes. So, without further ado, here are my best tips to surviving Diner en Blanc!
Secure An Invite
As I mentioned before, DEB is a private invite-only event. In most cases you have to be invited by a “member” in order to attend which means, you need to be on someone’s good list because each member only gets to invite one guest!
There are several ways to become a member and it can get a bit confusing so I will quickly break it down below:
This phase includes the friends of the “founders” in the city you are attending as well as current members (or people who have purchased tickets directly from DEB. More on that in a bit).
When you’re in this phase you get first dibs on tickets, and you don’t really have to stress about the event getting sold out as long as you purchase before your phase closes.
You also get dibs on group seating which is a plus when you want to sit with your friends. More on that in a future post so stay tuned.
While purchasing your tickets you are able to “sponsor” one person. This is the official way you can refer a friend to become a member. Remember, you can only sponsor one person and you must have their email address at the ready at the time you are buying your tickets.
During this phase, the people who were sponsored by members during Phase 1 can purchase tickets. This phase opens about a weekish after Phase 1 and allows you to purchase a pair of tickets for you and a guest until Phase 2 closes.
This is the phase that sells out the quickest so if you are in this phase be sure to be at your computer, on the day of, at the exact time that is stated in your notification email. It sells out in minutes and if you don’t have a ticket by the time this phase closes, you may have to wait until the following year to attend unless the DEB GAWDS shine down on you.
To get on this list you must go to the DEB website for the city you want to attend in and sign up for the waitlist. You don’t need to know a member or be invited, but you do need to be quick on your toes!
Expert Tips on Securing an Invite
As with everything DEB, reading is fundamental. Please be sure to read all correspondence so that you don't miss key information. (example: the transportation icon at my particular DEB indicated that table and chairs will be provided. Some people were confused and thought it referred to being shuttled as opposed to walking to the event. This was not the case and could save you lots of money and effort so be sure to read every detail.
For each phase you will receive an email notifying you of the date and time that each phase opens prior to the date of sales. Be sure to check your SPAM folder and keep an eye on your inbox.
Be ready to choose a table leader at the time of purchase. If you’re going with friends, you’ll want to be sure you all choose the same table leader otherwise you will not be able to sit together.
You must have a guest; you must be on time; and you must stay the entire time.
This is a rain or shine event so get your clear ponchos and white umbrellas because it’s going down whether you like it or not!
When purchasing your tix, using a desktop computer is better than using your phone and be sure you read all of the directions as some credit cards are not accepted.
Follow DEB and your cities DEB on all socials as they will also let you know when "you’ve got mail".
Read all the directions in the captions because they have tons of tips on how to ensure a smooth you are all set!
So, finally you’re in. Now what? See my expert tips below
Prepare The Set Up
Gather your necessities and pack light
Only bring things you absolutely need. Less is better especially the first time around.
You’ll of course need all of your table settings, but you’ll also want to decorate your table. You’ll see some elaborate décor in the pictures but just remember...
Feel comfortable knowing that not everyone will have elaborate tables and it’s perfectly fine to be low-key unless you’re aiming to win the table decorating contest.
You can do a quick google search to find out all you’ll need to bring.
Silver and gold accents and accessories are DEB approved.
Practice your table set up before the event – once the event gets going, it goes fast, and you’ll want to hurry and set up your table so that you are on time for the napkin waive. Doing a test run prior to getting to the event will serve you well as it will prevent you from needing to “figure it out” once you get there.
Pro-tip - set your table up and let your partner begin decorating while the other stands in line to grab the food and drinks. This will definitely save you time as it’s best to get in line while everyone else is setting up their tables since the lines are usually long.
Year 1 test run
Hot food gets soggy, so if you’re bringing a hot meal be sure to have it properly packed and insulated to retain its quality, otherwise the juice is not worth the squeeze.
My expert tip would be to have a nice lunch prior to the event and bring light finger foods like gourmet sandwiches, cold pasta salads and convenient mess-free desserts. Trust me, as a food/fine-dining connoisseur and a person who loves a good meal, the food at this event is just not as important as some of the other details.
Use disposable food containers when possible – makes for an easy cleanup.
My meal prep for 4
You can also buy food from the e-store. Just know that the lines will be long so, be ready to wait.
Order Takeout – once you know where the meeting spot is, which should be a day or two before the event, you can always research restaurants in the area and order take out. Talk about no mess and no fuss!
Coordinate food with your friends who are attending – if you are sitting with friends, you can coordinate a meal where everyone brings a dish. This saves time, effort and money. Trust me, you will spend enough on other parts of the event.
My homemade charcuterie board
The event has two contests, one for best table decor and one for best dressed. My expert advice for first timers is to focus on ONE of the contests and CRUSH it!
Listen, unless you are an over achiever or you plan parties and events for a living, there is no need to try to ace everything your first time around.
I remember our first year, there was a lady who went ALL OUT. Her table was gorgeous, her food was immaculate, and she was dressed to the GAWDS!! Clearly, DEB and the like was her wheelhouse.
Unless decorating and cooking, and dressing, and toting stuff, and waiting, and standing, and, and, and… (you get the point) all at the same event is your thing, then there's no need to overdo it. It will save you a lot of time, money and headache to keep it simple. If you find that you really like the event then just remember, there’s always next year!
My final and most important tip
Be patient with yourself and others – this one is more for me than you but I’m adding it here for good measure. You definitely want to give yourself, and others, grace during this event.
There are a lot of moving parts and remember, the goal is not perfection. The goal is to look fabulous, eat good, and have the time of your life!
So my loves, there you have it. I hope you find this survival guide helpful. Did I miss anything? If so, add your questions in the comments and I will answer them! Also, have you been to DEB? If so, leave some of your pro-tips below and be sure to share this post with a fellow attendee. Each one teach one!
xoxo - Rue