Monday, August 10, 2015

Diner En Blanc in Hampton Roads

Several years ago, I learned of Diner en Blanc, a traditional pop-up picnic held in Paris for 27 years. It has lots of rules: attendees must wear white, must bring their own tables and meals, and the location is kept secret right up until the guests arrive. This year, the international party came to Hampton Roads and we decided to attend the inaugural event!

We piled onto buses with no idea where we were going, but we had lots of guesses. All of them faded away as we traveled out of Norfolk, taking all roads toward Newport News and ultimately stopped across from a field off Warwick Boulevard, just a stone's throw from my workplace. I'm not going to lie: the location was a HUGE disappointment, especially knowing how many more beautiful locations exist in Newport News. But, the core points of the party — dressing up and being fancy with a tribe of people aiming to do the same — certainly didn't disappoint. Here are some pictures of our set-up and our group:

I bought the pretty placemats at Table Seven Antiques, the faux flowers from Dollar Tree (I created my own arrangement) and got LED tapers for my favorite Crate & Barrel candlestick holder. 

We put together a beautiful cheese tray with grapes and figs (from my backyard!). 

The ever-important selection of wines and champagnes, plus my trusty St. Germain.

Our group each brought dishes to share, so we had sandwiches with ham, apple and brie; brisket; a delicious bowtie pasta dish with feta and sun-dried tomatoes; a beautiful cucumber, tomato and feta salad; and caprese stacks.

A toast to a lovely night!

The best parts of the event, in my opinion, are the pomp and circumstance! The event begins with a ceremonial wave of white napkins, and that was fun and pretty. In some cities, sparklers are lit before the dance floor opens; we were given glowsticks.

I took some time to explore and see how other people had decorated, and it was very inspiring to see how creative people were! If I ever do it again, I definitely might get a little more daring with it. This table had gorgeous flower arrangements and a beautiful silver ice bucket.

This table was by far the most creative, with a beachy theme and a mannequin lamp! Their centerpiece had driftwood. 

We finished our meals with beautiful French macarons from Hummingbird Macarons in Norfolk.

Our lovely group of friends at Diner En Blanc.

After dinner, we busted into the champagne and St. Germain, which was clearly very exciting...

As the sun set, I finally got to see my LED lights in action! I wound battery-operated copper strands of fairy lights into my bouquet for some extra nighttime glow and it was magical.

We finished the event on the dance floor and probably ruined our white dresses forever with sweat stains. LOL!

The Verdict
Many people were deterred from attending because of the expense ($42 a ticket, plus $12 to rent chairs) and the hassle (hauling a table, a meal, decor, white linens, etc. to a remote location). In addition, registration involves getting an invitation code and signing up within a certain span of time before they turn to the wait list.

The hassle part was much easier than expected. I bought an inexpensive handcart, piled my picnic basket and table onto it, and everything was packed into the bus's cargo bay by the bus driver, meaning I only had to carry my stuff to and from the bus. Not too bad. 

The expense was a little murkier...I'm still not totally sure what that money pays for, except presumably the DJ, lighting, generator, and facility rental. Since the location was basically a field on the side of the road, I'm not sure where that money went. 

Would I go again? Surprisingly, I probably would. I certainly hope some elements will be a little better organized (the whole timeline was off by an hour, and those who ordered catered meals had to wait a really long time to get their food), but I found myself already thinking about future outfits and decorating ideas. More than that, I hope we can incorporate some of the inspiration and joie de vivre into our own parties and events from now on! Surprise location birthday party, anyone?

1 comment:

gina-mom said...

um, somebody I know is turning 55 next year and loves surprises... and loves all of your friends... and parties and stuff