It's 3:45pm on an 85 degree day in Washington DC. About 70 people, all dressed in white gather around the Safeway near the Waterfront metro.
By 4:30 that number triples. By 5pm, there are nearly 500 people toting wagons, granny carts, and coolers. The sun is beaming hot and there is very limited shade.
Two hours later, the massive groups begin the journey to their destination which is still a secret to them. But what they do know is they are promised an elegant affair. This is Diner en Blanc.
For those unfamiliar with the event here is a very brief summary of the history:
The first official Dîner en Blanc took place in the Parc de Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne, started by a man named François Pasquier, who invited a few friends to the Bois de Boulogne one day in June on his return to France after being abroad. To find each other in the park, they all wore white. The dinner was such a success that they decided the next year, each person would invite some other friends and the event grew organically into the 10000+ dinner it is today. (https://untappedcities.com/2010/06/13/diner-en-blanc-white-party/)
Let me first mention this. I have never wanted to attend Diner en Blanc. I have been invited a few times ( while living in Baltimore) but it always seemed too pretentious for me. Ok, maybe not pretentious but i just did not understand the reason behind it outside of appearances. But of course that was me just looking at it without truly understanding what it all entailed. I chose to attend this year because a good friend of mine needed a plus one and I obliged.
For diner en blanc, you are assigned a leader and this leader provides all the educational and logistic information that you need for the event. The leader also will be the person that directs you to the secret location and where your table will be set once there. Your leader also will communicate with you via email.
Ahhh the emails.
What is opposite of polite and elegant? Well those were the essence of some of the emails we received from our leader. Yes, we started off on a wrong note before even donning our all white clothing.
My good friend Stephanie, Jermaine, and I arrived at our designated meet up spot at 3:45pm, 15 minutes earlier than the deadline. We got the tables, chairs, and tableware that we previously rented and checked in with our leader. She notified us that we had a “nice” walk just short of a mile and that was an instant bummer but hey we knew what we had signed up for.
An hour rolled by and we still had not left the destination to start on the walk. It was not until nearly 2 hours later that there was an announcement that we would be departing in the next 5 minutes.
We departed at 5:36. Please remember we were asked to arrive at 4pm sharp.
This was not the leader’s fault as many attendees were incredibly late but per the non-elegant emails we received, we would not be waiting for late attendees. But yes we waited. Again- that is just part of an event so I don’t put that against them.
But back to our trek. At 5:36 we began our walk towards Nationals Stadium. From our location and the distance, we all knew it would be Nationals Park which is Washington DC’s professional baseball stadium. By 5:42 we had stopped in the middle of the road as our team leader was on the phone. With whom? Who knows.
At 5:56, we stopped again. She was again on her phone.
At 6:07 we were told that we missed the turn and had to make a U-turn. Yes we were all upset. But we dealt with it.
At 6:32 we stood near the Nationals Park garage and watched the DC police department yell at Diner en Blanc pedestrians who were blocking traffic because there was not enough sidewalk space for the amount of people. At 6:55, National Park employees came around to check our IDs and notified us that they would be doing a full bag check at the gates.
Yes- full bag check.
Please remember that we are lugging all of our tables, chairs, table decor, food, waters, and anything else we needed for the night.
By 7:15, we were finally at the gates going through the metal detectors and having our bags checked. We had FINALLY arrived. Upon walking in, National Park looked beautiful with all the white tables and decor from the attendees that had already arrived. It was magical. It was also a bit disappointing to see everyone already set up and enjoying while we were JUST walking in.
Then we were guided to OUR area. Away from the light. Away from the patches of green grass. Away from the pretty and elegant ambiance. We were taken to the area under the Budweiser pavilion of Nationals Park. A dark and gloomy area with a background of concession stands and a concrete ground.
But we set up anyway. As we started to take out things out of our bag, we heard a sound and we saw the waving of the napkins signaling that it was time to eat. We had not even set up our tables yet. That was a true bummer as it completely took away from the spirit of “community”. But again we just kept it moving and by 7:45 we were set up and eating.
This was 45 minutes to an hour later than everyone else. We ate and enjoyed and could hear the faint sound of music. Not sure if the music was for us or not but we could hear a little bit of it.
By 9pm we were ready to dance. We headed to the “dance floor” which was on the baseball field and were told we could not get down there as they had reached capacity. I also could not find huge fault in that because its a baseball stadium and probably had strict rules. I do find fault in having it there. I am almost certain the rules of Nationals Park played a huge factor in all the limitations but I wish we could have had that communicated to us if so. Isn’t that what group leaders are for? So back to the dance floor. Apparently the grass was off limits (I mean duh its baseball season) so those on the dance floor dressed in all white were dancing on the dirt. Yeah. Dirt and all white.
Diner en Blanc has traditionally been an outdoor pop up picnic experience. The past few years have taken place on beautiful grassy knolls with excellent views of iconic DC establishments. This year most attendees ate with trashcans and concession stand signs around them. Oh and the smell of hotdogs. Yeah. The venue was selling hot dogs cause duh its a baseball park.
While I did not walk around much because I was pretty tired from the trek, some people I knew mentioned how pretty it was in different areas. Areas like the VIP section and media area. But I cannot be upset at that because that is usually how VIP works. The VIPs are typically the “haves”. I was part of the “have nots”. I guarantee all the pretty pics I HAVE seen on social media are from VIP and showcase all the elegance of being part of the “haves”. Yeah- what a community feel!
Besides the police screaming at pedestrians, the Nationals Park staff was nice. I say that because it was what I personally experienced. They were doing their best to deal with all of us who were very frustrated. But I have read accounts of others who did not have that pleasant experience with them.
I will only ever speak to my experience and how I feel about something. While many others (in VIP etc) had a great time, a vast majority of us did not. We cannot be shamed or faulted for that. If you had an amazing time ( a true one), then I am really happy for you and glad that you are screaming it from the rooftops but do not expect me to do the same just for appearances.
I chose to write this post because the official Diner en Blanc instagram chose to tout this event as something spectacular when it was not. Just explain there were a ton of mess ups and leave it at that. Do not shine the sh*t and expect us to be quiet. I mean some people pre-ordered meals and those meals were NOT there. That is not fair. You can still post that it was a good night but don’t forget to apologize to those who did not share in that.
I know I have just rambled on and on about the cons and I truly love to end anything on a positive note. The beautiful part of Diner en Blanc did not lie with the outward appearances but instead the friendships made and the comraderie built. I met new friends and I was able to share the experience with my good friend Stephanie. Although it was a logistical nightmare, eating across from her and laughing with other wonderful ladies next to us was amazing.
They say most people bond over bad experiences.
Well we definitely bonded and I am very appreciative of that.
I also am appreciative that this event is so incredibly diverse. It is one of the only in DC that has so many different types of people attending and I LOVE that aspect.
I do feel bad for the event organizers because they are the ones taking the heat. But hey- you chose to put this together so you must take the good with the bad.
I also know that I am not always the most popular blogger in DC because I am truly vocal. For a political city that prides itself on smoke and mirrors, I try to offer the real real. Am I human and make mistakes, yes. Do I sometimes vent too much? Yes. But one thing I always am is authentic. I won’t review something that was awful for me but say it is incredible just because it is the popular thing to do. And if I do review something that was wonderful for me but horrible for a majority of others I would not discount their feelings on it.
My blog and instagram community is about trust building over numbers. I won’t let you all down on the brand, event, reviews etc side.
As far as the clothes.
I chose to channel my version of a lady tuxedo. I finally had the chance to break out my vintage Christian Dior tux jacket, wide leg white pants, and body suit. I wore new white statement earrings from Amazon and my birdcage veil from my wedding. And yea, I do owe you all a wedding post with all the details and I promise it is coming soon. But for now, you can see me in this white outfit.
While many attendees got it right, others fully missed the mark. But again, not ending this blog post on a negative note.
So thank you Diner en Blanc DC for teaching me some very valuable lessons and for helping me make a few new friends. I look forward to dining with my new friends again soon at a truly elegant venue.
Where you can purchase similar items to my Diner en Blanc outfit.