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Dîner en Blanc 2013: the year’s most elegant flash mob

Diner en Blanc 2013
(Image: Renée Suen)

Dîner en Blanc, the pop-up party where diners don bridal whites and picnic en masse, has a dark secret: the appearance of spontaneity takes planning. Grueling amounts of planning. Not just for organizers—although their task is certainly tricky—but for participants, too. The rules are notoriously strict: dress must be suitably elegant; cream and ivory garb is forbidden; and tables (which attendees have to supply and haul around themselves, along with white chairs, white dinnerware, white cloth napkins, cutlery, wineglasses and a multi-course meal) must not exceed 32 x 32 inches. It can feel like a bit of a slog, but this finicky attention to detail is, after all, what makes the fête a success. The second annual Toronto event, held on Thursday night, transformed a grungy parking lot at Queen and Church into an elegant, 1,600-person banquet, complete with crystal champagne flutes, multi-tiered seafood trays and a pregnant woman harnessed to an elaborate fabric swing (we’re still confused). Here, a play-by-play of how the night came together, plus a slideshow of some of the most ambitious meals, decked-out participants and raucous party scenes.

5:30 p.m. The super-secret venue has yet to be divulged (but a suspiciously white-clad crowd is setting up a tent in the parking lot across the street from the Toronto Life offices at Queen and Church. Hmm…)

6 p.m. At St. James Park, a meet-up point three blocks from the parking lot in question, the scene is chaotic: harried group leaders, clumps of confused would-be revelers and enough off-white garb to have transgressors sharing relieved smiles over their brown belts and nude flats.

6:20 p.m. Still waiting at the meet-up. Women adjust their feathery white fascinators, floor-skimming gowns and lacy short-shorts. Bystanders become curious. One man ambles up and asks, “Are you guys an orchestra?”

6:30 p.m. We’re off! A (mostly) white-clad caterpillar of attendees marches northward along Jarvis.

6:36 p.m. Arrival at the parking lot venue, which is now populated by uniformed cops, black-suited security guards and a statuesque Marie Antoinette perched atop a wooden block.

7 p.m. Table set-up complete. One particularly ambitious group begins assembling a multi-tiered seafood tray heaped with oysters and lobster tails. (Other tables’ charcuterie boards look slightly less impressive by comparison.)

7:34 p.m. Diners leap out of their chairs to take photographs with a professional showgirl decked out in a bunch of white balloons…and very little else.

7:40 p.m. The banquet begins! As per Dîner en Blanc custom, diners wave their white napkins and cheer.

8 p.m. The balloon-garbed showgirl begins popping her costume, one balloon at a time, while gyrating down a nearby aisle (there’s a spangly silver bikini underneath).

8:40 p.m. We marvel at the most inventive dessert of the evening, a bag of marshmallows toasted with a miniature blowtorch.

9:30 p.m. The night’s most magical (and fleeting) moment: diners wave 1,600 sparklers in the air as Katy Perry’s Firework rings out over the crowd.

See photos from the pop-up picnic »

Diner en Blanc 2013
Diner en Blanc 2013
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Diner en Blanc 2013
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Diner en Blanc 2013
Diner en Blanc 2013
Diner en Blanc 2013
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Diner en Blanc 2013
Diner en Blanc 2013
Diner en Blanc 2013
Diner en Blanc 2013
Diner en Blanc 2013
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Diner en Blanc 2013
Diner en Blanc 2013
Diner en Blanc 2013
Diner en Blanc 2013
Diner en Blanc 2013
Diner en Blanc 2013
Diner en Blanc 2013
Diner en Blanc 2013
Diner en Blanc 2013
Diner en Blanc 2013
Diner en Blanc 2013

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