You can regularly celebrate French culture in New York City by spending the afternoon in Soho’s Little Paris or strolling down Lafayette Street, which is named after the most famous Frenchman to fight in the American Revolution: Marquis de Lafayette. But once a year, you can join more than 5,000 adventurous New Yorkers for a spontaneous French-founded culinary phenomenon called Dîner en Blanc.

An aerial view of Dîner en Blanc in 2016.
Photo by Eric Vitale. Courtesy of Dîner en Blanc.

During the exclusive event, which will take place on September 14, participants gather at a mystery location in New York City dressed from head to toe in fashionable white outfits. Organizers say “elegance and originality are key” to mastering the dress code for the affair that has boasted waitlists longer than 80,000 people. Though participants took over Battery Park City’s Brookfield Place in 2022 for the second time in the event’s history, Dîner en Blanc will occur at a brand new location in 2023.

The first Dîner en Blanc took place in 1988 after francophone François Pasquier gathered a few friends in the Bois de Boulogne on his return to France after living abroad. To find each other in the park, they all wore white. The dinner was such a success that they decided the following year, each person would invite some other friends. As the years progressed, the event grew organically into the 10,000-person dinner it is today in Paris.

A glamorous place setting.
Photo by Eric Vitale. Courtesy of Dîner en Blanc.

Today, the urban picnic occurs in 65 cities across six continents. The first New York City Dîner en Blanc took place in 2011. Throughout the years, the event has increased in popularity and occurred in locations, such as Hudson River ParkBattery Park City’s Nelson A. Rockefeller ParkRobert Wagner Park, Governors Island, and Lincoln Center.

“Since my first involvement with the launch of Le Diner en Blanc here in New York in 2011, the feeling of accomplishment and enchantment that the event brings when all guests and volunteers all dressed to the nine in white descend on the then-revealed location is indescribable,” Sandy Safi, President of Diner en Blanc International said in a statement. “We are looking forward to experiencing it again on September 14th.”

New Yorkers traveling to a Dîner en Blanc event.
Photo by Hal Horowitz. Courtesy of Dîner en Blanc.

To participate in the festivities, each group of diners needs to bring their own table, white chairs, a white tablecloth, and a picnic basket filled with their desired dinner. Guests do not know the location of the affair until they arrive, surrendering, rather, to a group leader who they trust to lead them from their corner of the city to the culinary extravaganza.

As guests arrive carrying the equipment for their dinner, the previously empty location turns into a vibrant dining experience. In a photo-worthy display of pomp and circumstance, diners wave their white napkins in the air to signal the start of the meal. As the event progresses, highlights include spotting elaborate outfits complete with larger-than-life headpieces, debating the best table decorations, and befriending other like-minded New Yorkers.

To save your spot at Dîner en Blanc 2023, you can join the waitlist or ask a friend who has previously attended the dinner to sponsor you. Those who have been lucky enough to attend the feast in the past will receive a priority invitation in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can start planning your outfit and try to guess this year’s mystery location!

Next, check out photos from the 2022 event!