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

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 »