*This post is part of a Diner En Blanc series! Check out the rest of the series here*
This past Sunday marked Houston’s Inaugural Diner En Blanc. Despite my previous snarky post, I actually had a good time! I am already planning for next year’s event and eyeing traveling to another location for the event, like Miami, New Orleans or better yet Paris where it all started. Here is how it all went. Friday, I picked up my rented tables (more on that mistake later) and coordinated with a friend who picked up rented chairs for us. Leading up to the event, everyone was concerned that it would rain and this elegant event would essentially become a white t-shirt contest. A few people in my group dropped out leaving just my friend Morgan and I. I can always count on her for an adventure like this. Early Sunday afternoon I dressed in my all white after surviving a last minute wardrobe change and headed out to pick up food for the event. The coordinators of the event did offer food for purchase, but we decided buying our own would be cheaper. We stopped at Trader Joe’s and Whole foods for all the good stuff and then swung by Dessert Gallery for dessert. We picked up pasta salad, meat & cheese, fruit, salad and hummus.
Posing at Trader Joes. Love this place, they had the cheapest best selection of picnic type items.
The thing with Diner En Blanc is so much of the event is a secret and with this being the first one in Houston, we arrived at the meet up location not knowing what to expect or even WHERE the event would be. Our meeting location was in the Museum District. Once we arrived, we comically loaded our chairs and table onto my dolly. Just picture two girls delicately hauling this stuff so we don’t mess up our white clothes. We loaded everything onto our assigned charter bus, sat in our assigned seats and reviewed the event timeline provided by our group leader. Everything about this event is very structured.
On the bus headed to the event.
Hauling the items on the way out.
Once on the bus, our group leader announced our event location, Discovery Green. So here’s the thing about my dear hometown Houston, we are not a touristy city so there honestly were not too many exciting options for the event. Discovery Green, a park in the heart of downtown which includes a small waterway, was probably about as nice of a park as it gets, so I was pleased.
Despite the beautiful sky, a small rain cloud came over. All the ladies screamed of course and grabbed their umbrellas. Made for a cute picture.
The event planners were not kidding when they said be prepared to haul your stuff three blocks from the bus to the location. At Discovery Green we unloaded all of our crap and followed our group leader around the venue to get to our assigned area. Think of this whole dance like assigned seats at a wedding. You wouldn’t dare sit at the table that the bride didn’t assign to you for fear of her wrath. That’s exactly how this event felt. Follow the rules or get the boot!
We stuck with the dress code of course, but will go for fancier next year.
We did our whole set up thing, looked around and felt completely basic compared to the creative decorations others brought. I honestly just did not have the time to be that creative especially with the “no glass” stipulation. After the set up, the dinner begins with the ceremonial napkin wave. Due to some transportation issues at one of the pickup locations, the wave started later and honestly most of us had already began eating.
After the set up.
The ceremonial wave.
My dessert. White cake from dessert gallery seemed fitting.
We ate, drank and all that good stuff. The best parts were mingling with the crowd that really exemplified how diverse Houston is. We sat next to a French couple who taught us how to pronounce diner en blanc and chit chatted with others around us. The event also included, a band and DJ for entertainment. Plus they had a super cute photo booth, gave us adorable masks and handed out signature balloons. So okay okay, I see where the $45 fee went! Oh and that wine that I thought they were up-charging for? Turns out that price came with a plastic carafe which made for another great souvenir.
The balloons were a nice touch.
Loved the masks.
At the end, everyone loads up their belongings and treks back to the pick up location in the charter bus to head home. My friend and I saw the potential madhouse that would be so we opted for an uber ride back to our car to beat the crowd. Best decision we made of the night! Overall, it was still a great event and I have every intention of doing it bigger and better next year!
Here are my tips
1) Keep it simple on decorations. I watched people hauling huge tubs of decorations to only spend the first half of dinner setting it up. Some of the best decorations were adorable center pieces that were easily carried and set up.
2) When they say ALL white, they really meant it! Our group leader instructed an attendee to tuck her skirt because it included colored details at the bottom. Don’t test them.
3) Go for lighter tables and chairs like the ones sold at Ikea or Target. Renting our stuff was much cheaper, but those chairs and table were HEAVY. Yes I had a dolly, but I was envious of everyone who were able to carry there stuff without breaking a sweat. I saw several people with tables that rolled up and fit in a convenient bag. That seems ideal.
4) Definitely go for courses with your dinner. We planned courses, but were so hungry once we were set up that we skipped right over the salad and jumped to the main course. So about halfway through the event we were done eating and everyone else was just getting to course number two.
5) Bring a cooler with ice! We used an old school picnic basket, but a cooler or an insulated picnic basket was a better choice for our cold items.
6) Everything about this event says “go with girlfriends” but don’t forget to include the males in your life! There were a lot of men there who seemed to really enjoy it and if anything they are great for the heavy lifting
Since this post remains so popular two years later, I decided to share my shopping list that I have used for the last two years. Click the links below the picture for more details on the items!
1) Foldable Table or Option 2 |2) Fancy Picnic Basket with plates and glasses | 3) Simpler Picnic Basket | 4) Luggage Cart to haul everything | 5) Cake stand | 6) Tiered Dessert Stand | 7) Charcuterie Board or Option 2 | 8) Fancy Plastic Plates so you don’t break your good ones! (bring silverware from home though) | 9) Flameless Candles | 10) Foldable Chairs | 11) Vase, just add white hydrangeas or roses | 12) Drink Container for water or other drinks | 13) Shatterproof Wine Glasses | 14) Pintuck Table Cloth or a cheaper simple option | 15) Cloth Napkins | 16) Eiffel Tower Centerpiece more Eiffel Tower decorations! | 17) Silver Charger Plates
This is a lot of stuff, NOT including the food, so you see why the luggage cart is needed :).