A Night to Remember – My Experience at Sacramento’s First Diner En Blanc
By Laine Himmelmann
We arrived at the Cosumnes River Light Rail Station in Elk Grove at approximately 4:30pm. Gussied up in all white (from head to heels) while dragging a dolly filled with a collapsible two-person table, two white chairs, and a white picnic basket full of champagne glasses, plates, utensils and, you guessed it, white linens and plates – you would’ve thought we’d look out of place – but this was no ordinary day on the light rail. This was the day Diner En Blanc officially descended on Sacramento .
On Saturday, October 8th one thousand Sacramentans, dressed all in white, joined at regional transit stations across the city to travel to a previously undisclosed location ( the new Golden 1 arena- should’ve guessed!) for what can only be described as the fanciest flash mob picnic party I’ve ever seen and won’t soon forget.
What is Diner en Blanc?
For those of you unfamiliar with the infamous “Dinner in White”, it is an international event that takes place across six continents in over seventy cities (2016 marked the first year in Sacramento). The locations kept top secret until boarding pre-arranged transit that takes everyone to the meeting spot (we found out literally as we were getting off the light rail) at which time guests clad all in white gather to sit down and enjoy food, wine and each other’s company.
Each guest is responsible for their own picnic set-up (chairs, table, tablecloth, plates, utensils, napkins, food, champagne, etc.) and everything (with the exception of what you consume) must be white. At the end of the night (much like a fancy schmancy version of burning man) you leave no trace and take everything (including your trash) with you when you leave.
The tradition began in France twenty-eight years ago by a man who invited a few friends to meet him in a park for a picnic. To find each other, he asked that they all wear white. The dinner became a tradition and grew to the worldwide phenomenon.
The Rules/Preparing for Diner en Blanc
When I first found out about the event, I was admittedly skeptical about the level of commitment and participation required by guests – I didn’t own a white dress, (off-white maybe, but not white and off-white was apparently not allowed) and I certainly didn’t own white shoes or a white purse.
Additionally, guests must bring with them a table of certain dimensions, two white chairs, white linens and napkins, and their place settings. You also had to pre-order your alcohol, and you could opt to pre-order your food from a variety of vendors or attempt to stick it into your picnic basket with everything else you were lugging with you.
Admittedly, it was more preparation than I’m used to, but I’m always down for a new experience so I decided to give it a go. I’m so glad I did because it’s the most fun I’ve had on a Saturday night in Sacramento in a long time. I’m so glad I got to experience it with my best friend, for no other reason than to treat ourselves to a great night out of dancing, eating, drinking champagne, and making new friends.
For the Skeptics
I’ve heard some chatter the last few days about the event being maybe too “exclusive” with its limited ticketing… or that it should’ve been a charity event… or that the organizers were too rigid on the rules.
I will say this in Diner en Blanc’s defense. Though a friend of mine kept jokingly referring to it as “the snob party”, the event was $45 to attend.
The Crocker Ball, in contrast, is a Sacramento staple event that no one would dare call exclusive, despite the fact that only a very small portion of the Sacramento population can afford to attend due to the $1,500 ticket price.
With only 1,000 tickets for Diner en Blanc – and due to the space in the courtyard of the arena – the demographic of guests was actually pretty diverse with everyone from elected officials to nonprofit workers to students. The only thing they could’ve had more of is heterosexual single men – Diner en Blanc organizers please take note. 🙂
Others expressed concern that the dinner didn’t benefit anything charitable, but as someone who spends their life devoted to raising money for nonprofits, I actually found it refreshing to go to an event that wasn’t for charity. It’s nice every once in awhile to just do something because it’s fun (just my 2 cents!).
My nonprofit colleague pointed out that at only $45 a ticket – plus the cost of marketing, permit fees, security, organizing – there wasn’t exactly a pot of gold left over.
Lastly, in terms of the all-white rigidly enforced dress code, I look at it this way – if you go to a halloween party and you get super into it and only half the party dresses up, how much fun is that? Seeing everyone so engaged, excited to be there, and in theme really added an element to the Diner en Blanc unlike any party I’ve ever been to before.
Diner en Blanc event is an experience and, like most experiences, you either have to embrace it 100% or it’s probably not for you – and that’s ok! They threw a great party, gave Sacramento a unique experience we’d never had before, showed off the new arena and gave 1,000 people a reason to experience our local regional transit – many of whom had never ridden before.
All in all, between my ticket, diner, a few bottles of wine, my white dress, white shoes, white picnic basket, table, chairs, napkins, etc. my Diner en Blanc experience cost me $150. Sure it was more expensive than my typical Saturday night out, but for me it was a rocking good time and a truly memorable experience that I feel lucky to have been a part of.
Plus, with the exception of the food and wine – they’re all purchases I will use again hopefully next year for Diner en Blanc Sacramento 2017 – an event I am genuinely looking forward to, lugging tables, white shoes, and all!
For more information on diner en blanc or to see photos from the event visit http://sacramento.dinerenblanc.info. #DEBSacramento