About 2 years ago, I remember scrolling through Eventbrite and coming across an informational meeting/preview party for something called Diner En Blanc. After doing some research through social media on the hashtag and asking some friends in other cities, I decided that if nothing else the preview party was worth my time.
In order to shorten the story, I went to the meeting and discovered that this international affair would be making its debut in Houston, and even with all of the mixed reviews from friends that had attended in other cities, I rounded up willing participants and waited patiently to receive my invite. Diner En Blanc requires that each guest brings one other attendee, whether it be your significant other or BFF. For weeks leading up to the day, I watched videos and read blog posts of this fabulous, all white event, affectionately called DEB for short (when I wasn’t on Pinterest pinning decor and fashion ideas).
Invites to Diner En Blanc are issued in three phases, with the first phase being dedicated to friends of the organization, past attendees, etc, all the way to Phase 3, where a limited number of slots are opened to those on the Waiting List. Needless to say, Diner En Blanc goes the extra mile to keep the crowd exclusive, and did I mention that the event is held at a secret location that’s only announced as ticketed guests are in transit.
As with most inaugural events, the first Diner En Blanc in Houston had its issues, and while I missed last year’s event, this year I had an absolute blast. Here are my 5 tips to making your first Diner En Blanc a success:
1) The Phases- If there is a Diner En Blanc in your city, you can go on that city’s DEB website, select register to become a new member, and enter your email address to be Wait Listed for the next event. Remember, Diner En Blanc only happens once a year, usually in the summer. (Yes, I know this year’s DEB was in November, but that is not the norm for most cities). Unless you are a special invited guest or friend of one of the organizers, you will most likely be in Phase 3 for your first Diner En Blanc. My advice if you are in Phase 3 is to be ready to book as soon as Phase 3 opens for ticket purchases. And you guessed it, Phase 1 opens first, followed by Phase 2, and final slots are for Phase 3. On the DEB website for your city, you can find the exact date and time for each Phase to buy tickets once a date has been set for that year, and you will get email reminders with your unique invitation code prior to your date. My newbie DEB friends were so anxious on the day that Phase 3 spots opened that when tickets went on sale at 10:00am, I honestly had 3 friends on conference call, one friend on my work phone, and 2 texting me to make sure that they did everything right, ALL at the same time. When purchasing your tickets, you will have to choose a bus location to catch your ride to the “secret” location and a table leader. Friends that want to sit together will need to choose the same bus and table leader.
DEB Tip: Ticketed guests have the option to sponsor a guest, meaning, they can send out one special invite to a non-member. This allows guests in other phases to purchase their tickets sooner and not have to risk all spaces being sold out. Be advised, sponsored guests aren’t automatically invited back the next year.
2) The Preparation- I’m going to be honest and say that securing your spot is probably the easy part. The preparation is where it gets real. Diner En Blanc has very specific rules for its attendees and failure to comply could result in your being turned away from the entrance and forfeiting your fees. Here are the rules in a nut shell:
Your outfit must be ALL white from head-to-toe. No pops of color, unless that pop is on your lips. The Houston organizers allowed nude or beige shoes, but they made it clear that was the only exception to the rule.
You have to bring your own table and chairs. The table must be square and between 28 and 32 inches. Your table doesn’t have to be white, as it will be covered by a white tablecloth, however, your chairs must be unless you plan to bring chair covers. You can click here to view the easy to carry table I bought for the event and here to view the chairs.
You will need to bring a multi-course meal (unless you pre-purchase from the e-store), trash bag, table linens, tabledecor, silverware, plates/bowls, glassware (not plastic), and all white napkins for the signature napkin wave before dinner. Outside alcohol is not permitted, but you can purchase wine and champagne from the e-store.
DEB Tip: If you’re not into cooking multi-course meals or know that you will be running short on time, you can always pick up food from your favorite eateries. I was tempted to pick up a lobster bisque from 51Fifteen and one of the pre-made dinners from HEB, but since my group divided and conquered, I decided to take one for the team. And that leads to #3. It sounds harder than it is, I promise.
3) Where 2 or more are gathered … The inaugural DEB in Houston wasn’t perfect, but I still had such a blast, that there were 7 friends (8 of us total) that were down for the cause this year. 8 willing able-bodied ticketed attendees, meant that we were able to divvy up the menu and tasks. You know your friends strongest assets (and their weakest ones), so we had one table take on the task of table decor for our 4 tables, one table that tackled dessert (meaning went to Nothing Bundt Cakes and Omazing Occasions), one group that made salad (because anyone can make or buy a salad), and my group was over dinner. Since the boudin stuffed chicken was such a hit at the first Diner En Blanc, we decided to run it back with bacon wrapped asparagus. The key to picking your food is choosing foods that are still delectable when lukewarm. Every group had to be responsible for some things on their own, like the tables, chairs, trash bags, plates, etc, but for the most part, we divided up the tasks leaving us with less to carry and less to stress over. Even if you are just going with your one guest, find ways to simplify your life, and don’t try to do everything. At least wait until your 2nd Diner En Blanc to hang the wisteria from the vase and down your table… Unless you’re just good like that. I’m not.
Our simple, yet elegant, table decor.
DEB Tip: While unpacking the decor and decorating our tables, we realized that we had somehow left our wine glasses. If I have not learned anything else in life, I have learned that ish happens and that there’s usually always a solution to “fake” serious problems. Instead of panicking or using all of my favorite four and five letter words like I tend to do under pressure, I grabbed my purse and proceeded to walk to find the nearest store or something. That “something” ended up being the restaurant across the street that let me borrow a few glasses for a $10 holding other people stuff fee. They were not as cute as the ones that we had initially planned to use to adorn our tables, but the Moet flowed from them just the same.
4) Pack Light(ish)- I’m not sure if that’s a word, but let me explain. Yes, you have to bring your own table and chairs and channel your inner Martha Stewart, but the goal is to condense as many things as possible and to pack smarter, not harder. Ideally, you would bring a white picnic basket to Diner En Blanc, because it is essentially the fanciest picnic in the world, BUT that’s not a requirement (as long as your storage items can fit under your table). The first year we brought card tables, because they fit the size requirements, but we didn’t take into consideration how heavy those tables are in dress clothes and heels. This year, I got on Amazon and ordered a light table in a carry bag that slung easily over my back. The best thing is that after your first DEB, you won’t have to purchase these types of items again. Remember, whatever you bring, you have to carry, and it’s hard being cute and working for a moving service at the same time.
DEB Tip: Go with a man or pair with a friend that has one. They might not help decorate the table, but they are great for carrying the heavy stuff (especially since they most likely won’t be wearing heels).
5) Remember, you did all of this to have fun … I’m still trying to figure out where DEB Houston found the DJ, because even with the mishaps like the catering company not showing up until extra late with half of the orders missing, I didn’t see one person sitting down or not looking like they were having a great time. If you don’t believe me, search the hashtag #DEBHOU17. I saw one caption that read, “My food never came, but Diner En Blanc owes me absolutely nothing.” I think I might have Swag Surfed so hard I almost broke my shoe. The food mishap might have been something that could have ruined the entire night for some guests, but between the full refund given to ALL those that paid for a catered meal and Simply Pho’s takeout menu (the same restaurant that let me borrow the glasses), most of us were full (of food, libations, and cheer) and are waiting for the next, “Dinner in White.”
DEB Tip: I swear that ish was as fun as it looked.
You can follow my stories on Instagram @toniatheauthor and check out our group Swag Surf if you don't believe me.