The excitement reached a fever pitch at Vancouver’s fourth annual Le Diner en Blanc. This elegant but somewhat select picnic sold out quickly to an eager 4500 participants.
Although the event has gained more prominence each year, it is not been without its detractors. Some people have criticized the exclusivity of the event. A little background history will explain why there are rather strict rules to follow.
It should be noted that Le Diner en Blanc was not started as a public event. Twenty-seven years ago, while residing in Paris, Francois Pasquier conceived the idea of “Le Diner en Blanc”. He began this unique tradition through his friends and family, and their respective social circles. There were no political movements or crusades to spotlight, and he had certainly not intended to create a business model.
The vision caught on, and in 2009 Pasquier’s son Aymeric decided to launch his own “Le Diner en Blanc” in Montreal. This successful repast became an instant favourite. With some urging from friends, he was then encouraged to open the concept in New York. Serena Walker, a prestigious event producer from New York City, was one of the friends he first contacted regarding the concept. Through their combined efforts, New York became the first US city to host a Diner en Blanc. Now residing in Vancouver, I had the opportunity to catch up with Serena to find out the inside scoop on how Le Diner en Blanc got started in North America.
Le Diner en Blanc finale!
Originally, together with a team of friends, the founder was responsible for all of the details. This still could be considered a casual event as it started with friends and family. The intent was to continue the tradition as close to the original as possible. While the Diner en Blanc is governed by rules, transplanting those rules to New York did raise some controversy. For example, if all men had to be on one side of the table, what about same-sex couples?
Obviously this required evolving a picnic that was appropriate for diverse venues. “Each city had the chance to bring its own flare, politics, and cultures to the table, while still recognizing and doing their best to keep as close to the original ideal as possible.” says Walker.
Serena then informed me that the franchise aspect was started in 2012. To accommodate the associated spectrum of social norms, it was deemed reasonable to relax a few of the stricter rules. Importantly, however the original objectives remain the same. Friends are invited by friends, who then are able to invite their friends. This system supports a higher quality and caliber of attendee especially as each person is responsible for the actions and behaviour of their invited guest. Troublemakers are placed on a blacklist and never invited back. The organizers typically utilize public spaces that are not generally intended for gatherings such as these. A strict protocol and etiquette are adhered to in order to ensure that Diner en Blanc maintains a positive standing in the community.
Given the growth Vancouver’s event has experienced in only the last 4 years, it is clear that this fine affair will continue to grow as more guests are invited annually.
This article for BLUSHVancouver contributed by Leeta Liepins. Follow Leeta on her website!