Vancouverites descended on the neighboring grounds of the TELUS World of Science last night for Vancouver’s second annual Dîner en Blanc pop-up picnic and after party. About 2,500 lucky attendees donned their most whimsical white ensembles to participate in a tradition that began in Paris 25 years ago.
The al fresco phenomenon was originally founded by François Pasquier in 1988. After living abroad for a few years, Pasquier held a dinner party to reconnect with friends in Paris. He asked his guests to convene at Bois de Boulogne, a large public park located along the western edge of the 16th arrondissement of Paris. When so many people agreed to attend, he asked that everyone wear white so they would find each other easily. And thus, a fabulous tradition of feasting on fine food under the stars while wearing only white was born.
About this time last year, I was perched on a patio in Gastown when suddenly dozens of beautifully dressed people in head-to-toe white began passing by, carrying chairs, tables, picnic baskets and other supplies. Dîner en Blanc had officially arrived in Vancouver, Jack Poole Plaza specifically. This year, I was fortunate enough to snag an invite and enjoy last night’s festivities, which I’ve been anticipating now for weeks.
Although it is one of the most magical night’s of the year, the event wouldn’t happen without the careful preparation and organization of it’s guests. When attending Dîner en Blanc, you must adhere to the all-white dress code, pack in all of your picnic necessities – table, chairs, table linens, votives, flatware, stemware, etc – and everything must be white. Naturally. The location of the event isn’t revealed until 30 minutes prior, which only adds to the allure and excitement.
We chose to bring our own dinner, a carefully curated charcuterie with local cheeses, olives, fruit, fresh baguette and macaroons for dessert. Guests could also opt to have their picnic catered by the culinary genius of Chef David Hawksworth of Hawksworth Restaurant and his team, who successfully produced nearly 900 meals.
As the sun began to set over BC Place and the lights of the city flickered, revelers toasted their neighbors, took photos and absorbed the beautiful surroundings. Some women repurposed their wedding dresses while others wore cocktail frocks and mile-high fascinators. Some gentlemen wore tuxedoes and a top hat, while others a more casual button-up dress shirt with white wayfarer sunglasses. The crowd looked sharp.
After dinner, guests were given sparklers to light in unison for one giant, sparkly photo op. A few moments later, large white balloons that had framed the setting were let go into the night sky, some with small lights attached. It looked like a million shining stars overhead and created an even more romantic atmosphere, if that was even possible. We danced to the musical stylings of a French chanteuse before retiring for the evening and toting our portable picnic home. It truly was a night to remember.
Paris’ Dîner en Blanc now brings together over 10,000 people each year in some of the most prestigious locations throughout the French capital. I wonder which fabulous locale Vancouverites can expect to dine and dance on next year?
A huge congrats to The Social Concierge for executing a truly remarkable and seamless event. Thank you for bringing this special tradition to Vancouver and embracing the joie de vivre.
Also published in the Huffington Post.