It’s Diner en Blanc season and everyone has tips. Most articles have a similar story: background on the Diner en Blanc concept, basic checklist, and maybe a few notes about vendors, expected crowds, and previous turnout. Not many articles actually cover other details that are just as important as the basic Diner en Blanc checklist. So let’s discuss!
When you choose a section leader and meetup location, you still don’t know the final destination. Not only is the destination unknown, but you don’t know how you’re going to get there and what’s involved in the journey. Ask yourself, have you figured out a system to maximize the portability of your items? Will you be able to get on and off escalators and public transportation? Is everything tied down neatly, compact, and tight? When I attended Diner en Blanc DC, I heard the stories (and saw the pictures on social media) of carts breaking in metro stations and items falling by the wayside. Figure out a system that will work for you and your unknown journey. What if you have to walk several blocks with your items? You know what doesn’t work so well – long flatbeds. I watched several Diner en Blanc mates struggle with their flatbeds because they are no match for DC sidewalks – or the crowd you’re traveling with behind your section leader. And for goodness sakes, please keep up with your group.
Ideas: Use a table that rolls-up/folds-away and fits in a carrying bag over your shoulder. Use a file cart that allows you to carry everything in a compact way, and will fold flat when not in use that you can stick under your table while you’re dining.
Similar to portability, weight is key. My Diner en Blanc partner had a nice big tote bag to match her outfit – then the straps popped due to the weight. So now – to stay mobile – she had to balance her tote bag on our cart which was already full. Other people had heavy chairs and tables that weren’t quite portable (for a 10-15 minute walk or longer journey) by design, and the weight exacerbated existing portability problems. Which would you rather manage – a table you can sling over your shoulder, or a card table? Also, think about if you really need EVERYTHING that you’re bringing. Does your table décor have to be that elaborate? Do you need porcelain dinnerware or can you make tempered glass dishes work? Do you need glass stemware or can you find acrylic stemware?
Ideas: IKEA is your friend when it comes to lightweight items, be it dinnerware or chairs. And great prices too!
You’re wearing white, and just about everything you’re carrying is white. The last thing you need is to get dirt on something. Anything can happen. Aside from dirt, there’s the possibility of additional stains, crack a shoe heel, breakout into a “personal summer”, etc. Think about if you’re the unlucky type when it comes to wearing white. Or do you need travel shoes for the journey, and switch them out at your final destination. And then there’s your setup. Did you take the time to iron your tablecloth? Why go through the effort of setting up a beautiful table to be ruined by a wrinkled tablecloth you had folded up (instead of on a hanger). No need for a white chair cover to get a dirty hem from the ground when you can get a white chair. Plus, chair covers can get wrinkled too.
Ideas: Think about having a personal kit to help you freshen up. For example, Diner en Blanc DC is usually late August – hot and humid. Your personal kit would contain those items you think you’d need to ensure you look and feel your best (you know, polished and poised). You don’t want all of your preparation efforts to go to waste – it’s all about presentation preservation. Be it how you present yourself and/or your table. After all, this is Diner en Blanc.
It’s Dining for Two – Not Peekaboo
Table decor can be simple or elaborate. If you’re leaning towards elaborate, ask yourself the following questions: Will I be able to carry all of this? Will I be able to set it up quickly or is it potentially going to be a struggle? Will it stay upright (on its own)? And most importantly, “will this obstruct the view of my dining partner?” I don’t know about you, but I like to see the people I’m dining with.
|Photo courtesy of P. Lyons|
Ideas: Table decor doesn’t necessarily need to be centered – put it to the side of the table. Bringing a vase of flowers? Setup your floral arrangement and fill it with water after you setup the table. Last year, I saw a young lady drop her vase the moment she got out of her car – glass and water all over the sidewalk. Using PVC pipes to setup a canopy – make sure you have weights to stabilize the base. Using lightweight materials, the wind is not your friend.
|Photo courtesy of P. Lyons|
Do your research – and practice. Whether this is your first time or fifth time, ask yourself if there are ways to be more efficient for the journey. Look up videos and photos of other Diner en Blanc guests to see lessons learned and get ideas. Practice setting everything up at home; don’t wait until you get to Diner en Blanc to figure out how to execute a plan you’ve kept in your mind all this time. The event is not the time and place to figure out how to unpack your table. You want to get there with no issues, set up with no issues, enjoy-enjoy-enjoy, and leave with no issues. Key word: ENJOY!
Hope this was a little food for thought – and we’ll see you soon!
Kimberly Pope is a certified Protocol and Executive Etiquette professional.
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