Dinner in the Park with 17,000 of My Closest Friends

©Lisa Anselmo

I just had dinner in the park. With 17,000 of my closest friends. Okay, so the park was the Esplanade des Invalides near the Eiffel Tower. And the dinner was Paris’s annual Dîner en Blanc—a pop-up formal alfresco über picnic. It’s my third year attending. Diners came from all over the world for this year’s Dîner—their biggest ever—to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the event. And it was a blow-out to end all blow-outs.

Before I attended my first Dîner en Blanc (as the guest of an invitee), I always imagined it to be a stuffy affair of who’s whos, uptight and pretentious. But it’s actually quite the opposite. Sure, it looks glamorous, but it’s also playful, relaxed, totally inclusive, and totally fun.

One of the most notable features of the dinner is that the location is a complete surprise. We show up at a meeting place wearing white head to toe, loaded down with our gear—tables, chairs, linens, china (no paper or plastic allowed!), food—and await our instructions. Then, we thousands in white parade en masse towards the mystery site through the streets of Paris, taking bets amongst ourselves where we’re headed. This year, it was the great lawn (Esplanade) in front of Les Invalides, where Napoleon is buried.

In a matter of minutes we transform the site into the world’s largest and most elegant outdoor dinner party, lining up our tables in rows, scrambling to lay on the linens, china, glassware. Never mind we have to carry it all; people still spare nothing, serving six-course meals. I even saw a three-tiered cake. The most ambitious diners create enormous light fixtures and elaborate tablescapes, which is no mean feat when you figure you have only about 10 minutes to set up your table before the official opening toast. But nothing is understated about a dinner the size of Dîner en Blanc. It’s the perfect excuse to let loose and celebrate life (in style) under the skies of Paris.

Highlights en Blanc

Following our team leader through the streets of Paris (that’s him holding the flamingo aloft), hauling our tables, chairs, china, and food. We had a vague idea of where we might be headed but we still weren’t sure. ©Lisa Anselmo

A sea of diners in white; the Invalides in the background. ©Lisa Anselmo

Fun at Dîner en Blanc. Some people wear fanciful costumes. (The dog was dressed as himself.)  ©Lisa Anselmo

Caught doing my social media, keeping everyone up to the minute.

My dinner group clinks glasses as the sun sets. ©Lisa Anselmo

This ain’t no little picnic. People really go all out for this dinner. Here, a specially made bread marks our team leader’s table. ©Lisa Anselmo

Just one of the elaborate tablescapes. ©Lisa Anselmo

Sparklers in front of the sparkling Tour Eiffel. This signifies the official end of the dinner. ©Lisa Anselmo

For more info on Dîner en Blanc, click here.


Learn more about the journey that led to My (Part-Time) Paris Life in my memoir of the same name,  ON SALE NOW! Nominated “Best Paris Book” by Expatriates Magazine.

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12 responses to “Dinner in the Park with 17,000 of My Closest Friends

  1. Hi Lisa
    What a fun night! Just curious, who organizes this? Is there a “Diner en blanc” committee?


  2. Salut Lisa ,
    How does one get invited ? Is there some kind of “contrôle ?” Or can you get gussied up in white and crash the party ? Looks fun !

    • Hi Patti. Absolutely no crashing allowed. It is invitation only, and in fact, you can’t just show up since the location is held a tight secret until you actually arrive, as I mentioned in my post. Plus you are put in groups and accounted for, so each table is planned for. This year, they created a wait list on their website, and I know a few who got in thanks to that. Not sure if that was just for the 30th anniversary or not. It is fun, for sure. Hauling the stuff is a bit stressful but once you’re all set up, then you can relax!

  3. I’ve been hearing about this event for years, but I’ve never heard a first-hand account of what it’s like to actually attend — and yours is WONDERFUL! Thank you for letting your readers tag along vicariously, and for your beautiful photos.

  4. Lisa, you are a golden girl! thank you for letting us live our dreams through you – tres merci! Fran

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