Thirty years ago, in 1988, after moving back to Paris from Tahiti, François Pasquier planned a picnic with friends in Bois de Boulogne. In order to better find one another, everyone decided to dress in white. The dinner ended up a great success and another was planned for the following year. This annual event continued to grow in scale, and Le Dîner en Blanc was born!
Every year in June, between 8,000 and 12,000 guests are invited to join what has become a festive tradition in Paris. The secret location is disclosed only hours before the dinner, which is carefully coordinated between group leaders. Not even the police know of the planning. Settings in past years have included the majestic square in front of Notre-Dame Cathedral, regal Place des Vosges, the gardens of Palais Royal, Place Vendôme, Esplanade des Invalides, the square of Hotel de Ville and all along Paris’s bridges. Having been a dinner guest for the past five years, I must add that half the fun is the surprise location!
So how exactly does Le Dîner en Blanc work? The process itself is no secret. Every group is responsible for setting up their own table and chairs, and all tableware and food must be white. Flowers and candles are often added for décor, not to mention the elegant attire! Women arrive sheathed in long flowy dresses while men don white linen shirts and tennis shoes, hats optional. When it comes to this highly anticipated event, there’s no lack of whimsy.
As soon as all the teams are in place, the set-up is immediate, and the largest outdoor Parisian dinner party kicks off. The scene is electric, with live music setting the stage for dancing in-between courses; guests at neighboring tables mingling with one another; white napkins being waved in unison. The feeling is one of lightness and revelry and no matter where you are from, for this one evening, smiles are exchanged equally and generously.
At the stroke of midnight, the party ends. Leaving no traces of frivolity behind, thousands of white clad partygoers pack up their wares and return home. The only remnants of a fabulous evening are the hundreds of empty champagne bottles overflowing the recycling bins.
This year marks 30 years of Paris’s Le Dîner en Blanc and François is finally ready to hand the reigns over to the younger generation, ensuring they continue his tradition of “sharing, gaiety and elegance.”
With the grand success of Le Dîner en Blanc, François’ son Aymeric began organizing similar dinners all over the world, from Singapore to Los Angeles. But it’s the Paris version that takes the cake, a white one of course.