Once upon a time, in a city called Brisbane, a secret, open air dinner party was taking place. All throughout the city Kings, Queens, Princes and Princesses were invited to dress in beautiful white gowns and suits, pack a picnic basket and dine under the stars at a magical party.
Sounds like fairy-tale right? Well, this year the fourth Le Diner en Blanc will take place at a new secret location in Brisbane, on Saturday the 17th of October.
The mystical dinner party first began in Paris in 1988, when founder François Pasquier, wanted to find a way to catch up with friends after being abroad. Attendees to the picnic steadily began to increase, so Pasquier decided to move the picnic into Paris, with guests wearing only white as a means to spot each other. Due to the sheer number of attendees, the police began to shut down the picnic, and that is when the secret location was born.
The news of the impromptu picnic between friends steadily spread across the globe, and today over 25 countries annually host chic dinner parties, with Brisbane being one of 20 cities to uptake the event in 2012. According to Brisbane host of Le Diner en Blanc, Amy Grey, the events concept has been heavily adapted here to great success, with the picnics traditional “rules” being maintained. “[We’ve] taken up the tradition of the secret location, of the dressing in white, the French champagne and wine, the food and the great atmosphere,” said Grey.
The strict white-only, elegant theming allows a lot of creativity for attendees to dress up to the nines, with popular dresses including beautiful white frocks, jewelled masks, crisp white suits for men and even allows attendees to re-wear their wedding gowns.
“Every year everyone dresses in some really lovely, smart evening wear... it’s a lot of fun,” said Grey. The popularity of the event is even being translated within Brisbane’s retail stores, with the organisers of Le Diner en Blanc being contacted by boutiques in regards to the date of the picnic so they can have plenty of white garments in store.
"Le Diner en Blanc is such a weird and wonderful event, it always attracts the attention of passers by on the day, as a flurry of people dressed in white make their way to the picnic location, carrying their tables and chairs and neatly packed picnic,” said fellow host, Brooke Williams.
Food trends are also adapted in the event, with many attendees preparing baskets full of cheeses to accompany their wines and decadent desserts, or are given the opportunity to purchase a pre-packed hamper courtesy of Cuisine on Cue when purchasing tickets.“You don’t necessary need to stick to a French fair, we’ve seen people with lovely sushi and Vietnamese rolls,” said Grey.
The ever-changing location of the event is now used to maintain the mysterious ambiance of the dinner party, and breathes new life into an existing location within Brisbane, with last year’s event being held at Roma St Parklands. “Le Diner en Blanc is all about giving a popular public place a new life for just one night, and gathering with friends to enjoy great food and great company for a few hours,” said Williams.
Grey is adamant about not revealing any hints of the secret location until all is revealed on the night of the event.
Attendees are allocated meeting spots across the city where they will be escorted on foot or by public transport to the secret location by a Le Diner en Blanc volunteer. Grey states that when finding the site many attendees post to their social media to reveal the location, allowing attendees and non-attendees to find out where the picnic will be.
“It’s always fun to run around and scout (the location) out on the night, and social media is a great way of updating where the location is,” said Grey.
Attendees to the event must bring a table, two chairs and a white table setting to tie in with the mandatory white-only theme of the event. Beer and hard liquor are prohibited from the picnic, with wine and champagne being purchased in advance from Sirromet Wines. At the end of the event, all attendees are required to leave with all of their belongings, leftovers and litter to ensure no traces of the event are left behind, and to uphold the mystery of the event.
Le Diner en Blanc is quickly becoming one of the most popular pop-up events in Brisbane. The event proves to be a great way to meet new people, enjoy the company of your significant other or friends, and participate in an event which celebrates Brisbane. “It’s fun, everyone is friendly, you get to dress up, you get to eat some lovely food and all round it’s just a magical thing,” said Grey.
Tickets are set to sell out fast, with only 2,000 being available this year. Registration for the event happens in three stages, the first being for members who attended the previous year; the second being for new members who are referred by last year’s attendees; and the final being for people who signed up on the waiting list via the official website.
Words: Jessica Lunan