On the evening of Oct. 8, some 1,000 people dressed elegantly from head-to-toe in all white will gather at a secret location in Sacramento. They will then head en masse to another location, to be announced only an hour beforehand. Debatably the most exclusive event to come to the city, Le Dîner en Blanc is a pop-up posh picnic, designed to celebrate friendship and community — trés chicly.
Originating in Paris nearly 30 years ago by François Pasquier — who upon returning from traveling abroad, planned to rendezvous with old friends using the concept “bring a meal, and bring a new friend” — the picnic is now celebrated in over 25 countries and 70 cities worldwide. Thus far, Los Angeles and San Diego have been the only cities in California to host an official Le Dîner en Blanc.
In each city, the event is coordinated by a group of local hosts who are passionate about community engagement. This May, D.E.B International reached out to Maritza Davis of Unseen Heroes — the events marketing agency that has brought us Gather, Midtown Farmers Market and The Market at Power Inn — expressing interest in Sacramento as a potential location. From there, Davis contacted local communications consultant Christine Ault and the two were later joined by Bobbin Mulvaney of Mulvaney’s B&L and local placemaker Tre Borden.
“We were all pretty excited to come together in this organic way, and all held the same belief that it would be really cool to bring this event to Sacramento,” Ault says. “We agreed to submit a proposal because each of us holds a strong commitment to the growth and vitality of our region in both our personal and professional endeavors.” Davis submitted a PowerPoint selling the city as one of the most prolific agricultural regions in the world, and one of the most diverse cities in the nation.
Since the announcement of the inaugural event in late July, Le Dîner en Blanc has attracted more than 2,859 individuals to the waitlist, many of whom won’t ever make it off that list. So what does it take to le dine in style?
Admittance: There are three phases of admittance into Le Dîner en Blanc. The first phase includes guests of the host committee, as well as an automatic invite to guests who attended the previous year, which won’t apply here until next year (if the event returns). However, any member of D.E.B International is welcome to attend any of these picnics worldwide. Phase one is already in progress; 350 invitees have been notified and registration opened Sept. 13. If all should commit, which is unlikely, 700 of the 1,000 seats would already be filled
Individuals who have been invited during the first phase will then sponsor one additional couple to attend — phase two. Lastly, the host committee will invite everyone on the the overloaded waitlist on a first-come, first-served basis, for the last installment of guests. If you don’t know someone who knows someone, this is your chance at getting in.
Regulations: According to the official Le Dîner en Blanc International press kit, “Le Dîner en Blanc wishes to emulate the same gallantry and noble values that were at the foundation of French high society.” Generally men are seated on one side and women on the other, to reflect the French court society. Attendees must also come bearing their owns gourmet meals (three courses of fine artisanal foods are encouraged) in picnic baskets, with their own white table (24” x 32” x 32”) two white chairs, white tablecloth and white dinnerware (no plastic allowed).
Guests must dress from head-to-toe in all white and carry themselves with “decorum, elegance and etiquette” as spelled out in the official rules. In addition, “no ivory, no off-white and no beige … originality is always encouraged, as long as it stays stylish and tasteful.” If any of the above regulations are not followed, individuals may not be allowed on the departure buses and could even get blacklisted for future events. Attendees are required to meet at designated places where they will be escorted to the event by Le Dîner en Blanc volunteers. This year, there are about 70 volunteers total and if you don’t get an invite, donating your labor at next year’s event may be your best chance at future admittance. Guests are required to remove their leftovers, litter and all other rubbish brought to the location upon departure.
Price and Economic Impact: Tickets cost $45. All other costs are subjective. If you decide you don’t want to prepare your own meal, local restaurants including Mulvaney’s, Fat’s Bistro, Empress Tavern, Ettore’s, Nugget Markets and Karen’s Bakery will provide pre-packed picnic baskets for two to be purchased in advance. Ault estimates a starting point of $65 dollars per pre-packed picnic basket.
Attire: One look at photos from any previous Le Dîner en Blanc can provide insight into just how high the bar for elegance is set. In alignment with the values of the French court, guests must come dressed to impress. So, if you already have an entirely-white, couture outfit, then you’re set; otherwise plan to spend a sou or two on your evening’s attire and remember the sky’s the limit. Ault estimates that each couple will spend roughly $675, (the projection includes costs for hotel, child care, new attire, etc.) for an overall economic impact of $337,500.
Local wedding photographer Geoff Bardot of The Goodness traveled to Paris in 2015 with his wife for work and received an impromptu invite from a friend to Le Dîner en Blanc. The couple attended with their toddler son, who was the only child in attendance. (Throughout the evening, Bardot says, the child was referred to as “Bébé en blanc.”) Bardot disagreed with Ault’s price estimation, and based on his experience, he estimated the cost per couple to only be a few hundred dollars. So, the price can be fickle to pin down.
The local host committee is adamant about keeping the event diverse, which was a large selling point in bringing Le Dîner en Blanc to Sacramento. “Diversity was an explicit element of the application,” Borden says. “The event will only be as diverse and cool as the organizers.”