Nope, it’s not a wedding—though people have actually gotten married at the event. Dîner en Blanc International, which has been slowly taking over the world, is technically a picnic, though revelers dress (and eat) such finery, even that label seems a bit of a misnomer. Every summer, thousands of people descend on a surprise location in their city dressed all in white with everything they need for an elegant soirée in tow, including folding table and chairs, gourmet picnic food, table settings and all. The exact location remains a surprise until the moment guests arrive, ensuring an air of mystery and excitement. They meet at designated spots in the city and follow their leader to the appointed location. It’s a night of camaraderie and revelry aimed simply at bringing people together for a memorable meal.
The Dîner en Blanc was born in Paris over 25 years ago when François Pasquier wanted to gather his friends for a picnic in the Bois de Boulogne and asked everyone to wear all white so they could find each other. They continued to meet every summer, and the dinner expanded quickly, with each attendee bringing a new guest the following year.
Over the past five years, the event has exploded in popularity, reaching around 60 cities worldwide, with another hundred on the waiting list hoping to join in on the fun. François’ son Aymeric now runs the Dîner en Blanc International with co-founder Sandy Safi. They license the event to organizers in each city, personally vetting each one to make sure they can maintain the event and ensure its integrity. Safi believes the event has become so popular “because unlike any other event, there are no cultural boundaries, no age limitations. Everybody likes to get together around a meal with a sense of camaraderie and friendship. That surpasses any boundary of culture, age, and race.”
And in today’s small world, people travel from city to city to attend the Dîner en Blanc with family and friends. “The difference per city is the local flavor that each place brings,” says Safi, who cites performers in New Orleans and fashionistas in New York City as examples of regional idiosyncrasies. New cities this year include Dallas, Pittsburgh, Shanghai, Kingston, Jamaica, Melbourne, Australia, and San José, Costa Rica, plus a few others still in the works. “It feels like we’ve created a family in four corners of the world,” says Safi.
Check the Dîner en Blanc International’s website to see if there’s an event in your city this summer. Ahead, see how people from Paris to Los Angeles, and from Mexico City to Kigali celebrate this global phenomenon.