At elegant pop-up French dinner in Vancouver, everyone will wear white

The demand for white suits and dresses in Vancouver clothing stores is about to go way up.

That’s because 1,200 people, all dressed in white, will be converging on Vancouver’s first Dîner en Blanc event on August 30.

Dîner en Blanc is a social event that was started in France by François Pasquier and his friends almost 25 years ago. Today, thousands of people attend the dinners each year, which have been held at locations such as the Eiffel Tower site and on the Champs-Élysée. The dinners are also held in 20 other cities, including New York and Montreal. They’re defined by elegance and mystery.

Here’s how it works. The location is kept a secret until just before the event, when participants meet at designated rallying points and are led to the site. Participants are required to dress completely in white and bring their own table, chair, and white table linens, which they set up in a pre-assigned spot. They also bring their own dinner. (Or, in Vancouver, they can pre-order a three-course meal in a white picnic box prepared by ensemble chef Dale MacKay; this option is $50 per person, or $40 for vegetarians.) All diners must bring their own non-disposable dinnerware and crystal--no plastic or paper allowed--and may pre-order wine to have with the meal.

After dinner, all guests are given a sparkler to light simultaneously, indicating the opening of the dance floor. As a celebration of all things French, there will be French music during the evening, and Les Noces Gitanes will perform its brand of world music. At the end of the event, everyone packs up what they came with, including their trash and their tables and chairs, and leaves en masse.

Tyson Villeneuve, a partner with the marketing agency Social Concierge, is organizing the event. In a phone interview with the Georgia Straight, he gave a hint at the location: “It will be an iconic Vancouver location. When you look at the pictures of the global dinners on the website, you can always tell where Paris is. It will be somewhere that you can tell is Vancouver.”

He acknowledged that the logistics of setting up a secret-location, pop-up event are challenging, but said that “the city’s really in favour of this event and they’ve been really supportive.”

While you need an invitation to attend the event, Villeneuve says that it’s open to everyone on a first-come, first-serve basis and is not meant to be exclusive. The Vancouver event is just following the protocol of the Dîner en Blanc organization. “It’s very French, so you get a formal invitation to register,” he explained. Those who want to attend should go to the website to get on the guest list .

An email invitation will be sent to you inviting you to register. You must pay a $5 fee to become a Dîner en Blanc member, after which you may attend the events worldwide with priority registration.

For the Vancouver event, members must sign up to attend with one guest: the fee is $25 per person, which goes towards logistics and entertainment, plus tax and a $4 Paypal fee.

According to Villeneuve, word of the event has spread by social media, and it’s now two-thirds sold out. But anyone can still get an invite and register to attend.

As for the dress code, “It’s white white, no colour accents,” he said. He acknowledged that in casual Vancouver, people aren’t likely to have white shoes, and organizers will be “more forgiving on the pants for gentlemen”. But definitely, attire must be “as light as possible”. Participants in France go all-out elegant white, judging by the photos on the website.

The dinner starts at 6 p.m. on August 30 and will take place rain or shine.

Follow Carolyn Ali on Twitter at twitter.com/carolynali

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fabulously white
sounds fun, count me in
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