On August 20th, 2009, there was an outstanding picnic party in Montreal. The Dîner en blanc (White Dinner) was imagined by François Pasquier 20 years ago. He ran 20 editions so far in Paris. His son Aymeric, who now lives in Montreal, organized the first edition in Montreal. A bid crowd invaded a large place in the city that is kept secret until the last minute. The goal is simply to pass a good time around a good meal in an unusual urban place.
For this chic affair, guests bring their picnic with a or two bottles of wine. In France, many people bring Champagne. Everyone must wear white clothes and people should dress up. If you own a gorgeous white hat, you should wear it. Besides the guests, the tables and chairs are all white.
Dîner en blanc encourages people to bring white china and to carry their food and drinks in a white basket or bag. Do not forget to bring your wine glasses, white linen napkins and a few tea votive candles for candlelight dining.
I love the concept because it is an elegant party where everybody pitched in. This is a true experience. Everyone that went was thrilled. As I discovered how they organized this large-scale picnic, I thought you could recycle the concept for a big outdoor reunion.
Set Up the Tables and Chairs
A bus brought the guests to the location. This process ensures a steady flow of people, which is key to the set up of the tables and chairs. In France, people bring their own chairs and tables. In Montreal, they were supplied.
The guests reserved as a twosome formed by a man and a woman. This is because the event design implies that you need to be accompanied by someone from the other gender.
Every pair/couple gets a specific place (row and number in the row). Each twosome received an overall floor plan to locate their row and a detailed plan of their section. Then, an orchestrated ballet started. Men picked their folding table and 2 chairs. Women grabbed the white tablecloth. You eyeball the location of your table in the row and as your table neighbors arrive you move to the right or to the left until the long communal table is built. It sounds complicated but it is not. 1200 guests were ready to sit down in less than 20 minutes last week.
All the men sit on one side while the women sit on the other side. The event design is based on symmetry. It is beautiful to see the alternating rows of people all dressed in white.
The food that people bring is fancier than at a typical park picnic. If you do not wish to make it yourself, you can always ask a caterer to prepare the food for you. This way, it is already package to be carried around. With picnic basket on wheels, you can go the extra miles. I saw a Parisian couple who brought their cast-iron fondue pot to eat a cheese fondue.
Like I said, everyone that went to Montreal 2009 White Dinner had a fabulous time. I think that recycling their concept for your party in a park would be a hit. Watch this TV report from Radio-Canada about the first Dîner en blanc that happened in Montreal. Even if it is in French, just watching the images would give you a good idea of the event.