Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending a mass “chic picnic” here in the Bluff City. It was the inaugural Lè Diner en Blanc, translated Dinner in White. I was super excited that our city was able to be a part of this worldwide phenomenon that was started 30 years ago in Paris. I was looking forward to sea of white and mingling with some of my fellow Memphians for an evening of elegance and fun. It was sure to be a good time with my friends and me, just as it was for Mr. François Pasquier and his friends in the beginning. Once I found out the event was coming, I went into research mode so that I would be prepared. Lots of folks were asking, “What’s the big ‘to-do’?” or “Why pay for something you have to bring everything to?” or “You’re paying for a fancy picnic?” It’s about the experience! DUH!!! Touch your neighbor and ask if they’ve ever been to a Diner en Blanc and see what response you get. Go ‘head, I’ll wait. Chances are they haven’t. It was amazing to see people from all parts of Memphis, black, white, other, young, old, in-between, come together for a great time. And there, ladies and gents, is the why.
And that brings me to the first key to a successful experience : PREPARATION. This is NOT, I repeat NOT, something you want to wait until the last minute to begin your prep. There are quite a few rules of which you must be mindful and waiting until the 9th hour can be a bit overwhelming. For example, your outfit MUST be white. Your table decor MUST be white. And YES, you have to lug everything you bring with you. I read quite a few blog posts from people who have attended in other cities before I started prepping, so I felt like I knew what to expect. Here’s another thing, I’ve done this before on lower scale. Dr. Superman and I frequently attend concerts in the park (Levitt Shell – their fall season is coming up) for which we pack a picnic, cooler, chairs, etc. So we had everything we needed to transport all of our ish for DEB (collapsible wagon, small rolling cooler, collapsible bag, picnic basket). I can see this being a hassle for those who have never done something like this before. So, if you’re a first timer, make a list and start early, but don’t overdo it. I pretty much had everything I needed at home for my table, and the few things I didn’t have, I ordered on Amazon Prime. I actually had a mock up in my dining room for about a week (again…preparation). I changed the placement of candles and tried different chargers until I liked what I saw. I went for simple and elegant. But I enjoyed seeing the pretty elaborate set ups too.
Key number 2 : PATIENCE. This is a tough one and something I know most people don’t have. The heat (it’s summer people and that’s to be expected…dress and govern yourself accordingly), the transport process, the instructions upon arrival, and the set up itself, can be a bit much. There were table leaders trying to give directions and others getting those directions filtered 3 or 4 times. It was a bit frustrating for about 5 minutes. But…patience little grasshoppers. Once we got our table and chairs, our chosen spot, and our tablescape in place, all was well. Sidenote: We rented the table and 2 chairs, and you should too if that’s an option. It was one less thing to carry back and forth. Also, bring a fan. Whether handheld or portable, you’ll be grateful for a little extra breeze, and it’ll help keep you from turning into a heat induced diva. In that case, bring some snickers.
Key number 3 : be ready to PARTY! I don’t know about other cities, but we had a partay!!!! The music was on point. We were greeted by a string quartet (I heard them but didn’t actually see them). Then the DJ turned it up when dinner was done. We had a cover band that was amazing. And THEN the DJ closed it out! We truly danced the night away. The purpose is to interact and engage with those around you, and I must say that I loved the energy. I just hate that I didn’t get a chance to see everyone. It was a sea of ethnicities all wearing white and not a bad vibe in site! We were all dancing and waving napkins and lighting sparklers and grooving on one accord and it was lovely. This is supposed to be a good time, so treat it as such! Relax and go ‘head and do the Wobble if you want to.
So, now that I’ve given you the keys, let’s me tell you what I’d do differently.
TOO MUCH FOOD : We had a great, posh little menu planned out in courses. We chose to do foods that didn’t require heat, because duh, it’s a picnic with not a microwaVe in sight. In hindsight, we had wayyyyy too much food. We ate the 1st and 2nd courses and were full. Partially because the rosé had been flowing, and partially because we were enjoying the conversation and mingle time. And thirdly because it started raining! WOMP! I sampled a few of the chocolates eventually, but next time, we definitely won’t have so many courses. Our menu consists of 5 courses : 1st – Meat and cheese tray with pickles and crackers | 2nd – Caeser Salad with mixed fruit | 3rd – Pasta Salad | 4th – Lobster Roll with Broccoli salad and chips | 5th (Dessert) – Phillip Ashley Chocolates and Nothing Bundtinis
TABLESCAPE : My friends and I did a bit of debriefing after the event and said we wouldn’t have separate centerpieces next time. For future events, since our tables are together, we would have one big centerpiece as a focal point with a bomb overall tablescape that would leave us more room to eat, drink, and be merry.
PREPARE FOR RAIN : It started raining, and I had to take cover under a tree. I couldn’t help but think about the 50-11 clear umbrellas I passed in Target and didn’t pick up. You can also do a poncho. Luckily we had a local friend who had them on hand. My hair was curly, so I really wasn’t as concerned as I usually am. The rain passed quickly, but some people packed up and left and missed the entire second half of the evening. Don’t let that be you! It definitely won’t be me next time.
That’s it! We’re there a few flaws? Of course, but it was also the very first time. So, some things I simply chalked up to first time jitters. With an event on this scale (this was quite small compared to other cities), you have to roll with some of the unexpected punches. When planning events, everything isn’t going to go as planned and I’m more of a glass half-full kind of gal anyways.
According to Q, this event is one to attend, whether in Memphis or elsewhere. Goal : Diner en Blanc in Paris! Now I know even more what to expect, I’ll be even better prepared next time, and we can have another funky good time!