Saturday evening, 3,500 Washingtonians dressed head-to-toe in white and ascended onto Henry Bacon Park for Diner en Blanc. Steps away from the Lincoln Memorial, tourists in open-top buses got a unique perspective of the District, as they watched locals partake in the exclusive dining tradition that began in Paris in 1988 and is now celebrated across five continents.
At first glance, it’s easy to judge Diner en Blanc as pretentious – I’m guilty of it myself. It’s hard not to make this assumption after watching large groups of people dressed in white cocktail attire carry all white picnic baskets, chairs, and tables. It feels exclusive and to a certain degree it’s the truth. To attend, you must be invited by someone who has been to a previous dinner. You can sign up at your own volition but the event sells out in minutes and the wait list is in the thousands.
Yet the event was diverse and the mood celebratory. People didn’t attend this event to merely be seen but to be apart of something bigger – a flash mob of foodies and culture junkies that seek an escape from monotony.
At 6:00 pm, guests set up their tables and elaborate displays, which included everything from a light-up eiffel tower to a white sail boat to a bedazzled chuppah. The expression “go big or go home” has never been more fitting for an event.
All the food is brought by guests and the array of lobster tails, cheese boards, and dips was as impressive as the table settings themselves.
Before digging into homemade feasts, the dinner commenced with the signature wave of white napkins.
Live music played in the background, marked by the clink of champagne classes and jovial laughter from thousands of guests. With the lincoln memorial as the backdrop, Diner en Blanc felt more like a movie than real life.
As the sun went down, dinner concluded with the lighting of sparklers.
But the evening wasn’t over yet. A DJ took the stage and diners formed conga lines and dance circles until it was time to pack up and prepare for next year’s Diner en Blanc.