When it comes to the District’s vaunted Diner en Blanc summer party, guests may be thinking more about their all-white get-ups than about what goes on their folding tables. But if you’re one of the lucky 2,500 who snagged a spot, note that the latter shouldn’t be neglected: This is an event where your choice of plates is considered as important as that old-fashioned frilly hat.
This is only the second year that Diner en Blanc is coming to the District, but the Parisian-born tradition has been occurring elsewhere around the world for nearly three decades. The high-fashion gathering brings together guests dressed in white (along with their dinnerware and food) en masse to a location that isn’t announced until that evening.
Only previous attendees and friends of previous attendees were eligible to get tickets for the event this Saturday.
But even if you aren’t on that exclusive list — and you don’t care to join the hundreds on the waiting list — what’s to stop you from putting on a Parisian show in your own back yard? Sure, the location won’t be a surprise, but the intimacy may make it all the more charming.
No matter your venue, Regan Billingsley of Regan Billingsley Interiors in Kensington has ideas that will help you stand out from the crowd. We asked Billingsley for her advice and ideal table setting, and then checked with some retailers for their best bets. For ease of transport, Billingsley said, most things should fit into a wheeled cart. The key is to make sure that the items are protected, so she suggested using tablecloths and runners to wrap the breakables.
● Personalize your design: With traditions such as Diner en Blanc, it’s easy to feel encumbered by the obligation to match everyone else’s look (especially because event rules say that, just like your outfit, most things on your table need to be white). But that doesn’t mean you can’t put your own stamp on your table design. “I wanted it to be a bit contemporary in aesthetic to make it feel more personal,” Billingsley said of her design suggestions.
● Use natural (or natural-looking) materials: For an outdoor event, it’s a good idea to choose items that will look natural amid greenery and foliage — especially because the white will already be so stark.
● Diversify your shapes: “I tried to mix shapes so that not everything was round or square,” Billingsley said. Accessories such as shells or votives are a great way to add interest.
● Layer your textures: Billingsley especially likes linen because it wrinkles and forms textures on its own, adding some depth to a one-color palette and giving it a more casual look. She also recommended placing a runner below the place mats and napkins for a visually interesting combination.
● Be prepared for bugs: A big bottle of DEET isn’t quite the look you’re going for on an elegant table, so you’ll want white tea light or votive holders for the citronella candles that will ward off mosquitoes.