REGINA NEAL HAS BEEN planning her second Diner en Blanc for the past year, adding a miniature white Eiffel Tower picked up at Orly Airport to a tablescape of white flowers, white feathers and white pearls. She also towed along friends Fleur Ristorph, Yune Lee and her husband, Jordon Welty. Grinning ear to ear, they all said they’d be back next year.
They are all dressed in white, as are their several thousand fellow revelers. The tables are draped in white, the plates and napkins match. There’s silver and crystal and candlelight. All of this, plus food and drink, is brought along by the guests who each pay $37 plus an $8 membership fee to cover the live band, DJ, permits and such for the sold-out event.
And these small groups are joined together, tables in rows across the lawn, like so many small boats in a giant yacht party.
If the clothing is white, from head to shoe tip, the faces are every shade of human — and every single one is smiling. Together. Even the guys. It’s a young crowd, capable of schlepping so much stuff on public transit; not many parental types around, to put it gently. If you are one such, as I am, you’ll be pleased to know the kids know how to dress up and behave with no supervision.
As darkness fell, and the last bon bons were devoured, fingers elegantly licked to protect the white napery, sparklers flared into the night, Piaf gave way to rock, and the dancing began.
To those so jaded they sniff at such a scene, we say — Honey, you are missing something incredible. Outside of Obama’s inauguration, I don’t recall ever seeing so much joy in one location.
The venue changes from year to year; guests have no idea where they’re going until the last minute, which keeps gawkers and possible crashers to a minimum. But the spot is always public and choice.
This year, the event’s third in D.C. — though it’s a world-wide phenomenon, started 30 years ago in Paris — was at Henry Bacon Park, which felt like an “Amazing Race” clue when the message arrived. This is a green space we never knew had a name alongside the Lincoln Memorial, with a view through the trees of downtown Rosslyn, and brilliantly positioned for a glorious sunset.
Diner en Blanc is held rain or shine. If it rains, white umbrellas are de rigueur, a notion that seemed impossibly pretentious when we read the directives — but the idea is positively enchanting once you’ve seen the scene.
— Stephanie Cavanaugh
Stephanie Cavanaugh is MyLittleBird’s new Capitol Hill and D.C. Green Acre columnist. Her last post was on Capitol Hill’s tropics.