Photo: Vita Images

Diner en…Pick Your Color

“I have to buy a ticket and preorder my drinks – then pack food, table, chairs, flatware and decorations and drag them on foot, dressed entirely in white, across the city to a mystery location?”

My friend usually loves my party invites, but she was struggling with Diner en Blanc.

“In August in the swamp – are you serious?”

But she accepted. And she loved it.

From a spontaneous picnic three decades ago in Paris, Diner en Blanc has evolved into a yearly multicity extravaganza complete with waitlists, hashtags and FOMO.

“It’s the allure of the unknown,” says Bryer Davis, cohost of DC’s Diner en Blanc. “Everything is a mystery until the day of: the location, who you’ll sit next to, the spectacle, the weather.”

And the finished product is genuinely magnificent: a diverse gathering of thousands of Washingtonians clad in white, eating dinner, making friends, waving sparklers and framed by a DC landmark.

But what if your sartorial preferences forbid white? You’re in luck: the last three years, DC has also embraced Diner en Noir (DEN), an evening of feasting and celebration while clad in…all black. But these are not dueling events.

“While there may be similarities, DEN is a community-based event that aims to promote the local arts and business community,” says founder Howard N. Cromwell, who has also attended Diner en Blanc and encourages others to do so.

“It’s a magical, one-of-a-kind experience,” he says of Diner en Blanc.

While Diner en Blanc events around the world feature local artists, the global umbrella organization imposes more restrictions in terms of local charity and small business involvement, which DEN does not have. This year, DEN will make donations to the Northeast Performing Arts Group and the Congress Heights Community Training and Development Corporation.

As for its part, Diner en Blanc offers a global experience with a deep history. Friendships have been formed through the years as enthusiasts travel the world to participate in other cities. Of course, the Holy Grail is Paris, where it all started.

“Diner en Blanc brings people together who want to experience it in as many places – with as many people – as possible,” Davis observes. “Everyone makes the evening uniquely theirs.”

Both Davis and Cromwell attended this year’s Diner en Blanc in Paris on June 6. The evening was also an opportunity to celebrate the 75th birthday of its founder, François Pasquier.

“The night was nothing short of spectacular,” Cromwell says. “We learned a great deal from some of the event’s original European organizers.”

David says he was blown away by the pop-ups, local artists and activations in Paris.

“It gave me so much inspiration for DC,” Davis adds.

I asked both Diner wizards for advice for participants.

“Preparation is always key,” replies Cromwell. “Great preparation prevents poor performance.”

“Pack your patience!” Davis exclaims. “Ultimately, the event is what you make of it.”

Diner en Noir will be held Saturday, July 20; more information available at www.dinerennoir.com/dc. Diner en Blanc is on Saturday, August 24; more information available at https://washington.dinerenblanc.com.