I don’t know why I was invited to Diner En Blanc. 1. I can’t say the name out loud and even two days after the event I’m still not sure how to pronounce it. Every time I try to say Diner En Blanc, it sounds like I’m having a stroke. 2. I’ve never written a nice thing about it. In fact, I’ve purposefully gone out of my way to cover it in our daily DC News column, just so I can write mean and snarky things. If it makes you happy, that’s great. Follow your bliss forever and ever amen. But I think it’s dumb. I
think know it’s expensive. And it feels like a total waste of time.
And yet, I had to take that bait. We say no to covering certain events all the time at BYT. Sometimes it’s because it doesn’t fit our schedule and sometimes it’s because it doesn’t fit our audience. Very rarely is it because we have actual hate in our heart for the event, but for Diner En Blanc, I have hate in my heart. Now, I’m not saying there’s a good reason for that hate, there isn’t. I enjoy my fair share of frivolous things, but hating Diner En Blanc is fun. It’s a very bougie, very over the top and at the end of the day, we all have that one thing (or in my case more than one, because I’m a professional hater) we love to bitch about. Which is why I had to go. I had to walk the walk. I had to figure out if my hate was entirely misplaced, or if every eye roll and sarcastic comment was right on the money.
That’s why at 5 p.m. on Saturday I was browsing that high end couture boutique known as Forever 21, trying to find an outfit a scant 15 minutes before the event officially started. I was also low key freaking out, because I hadn’t received any information on where Diner En Blanc was going to be held this year (Diner En Blanc is basically one of D.C.’s most exclusive house shows, you have to message for the address). So I tried on some pants, wrestled myself into a bodycon dress that looked (and felt) like a straight jacket and finally settled on the ugliest pair of white jeans I had ever seen (Reader, I love them). I might have been breaking some Diner En Blanc rules with my cork wedges and my silver clutch (thanks, Granny!), but I looked 75% like I belonged there. As they say in college, C’s get degrees.
After finally getting an email with some answers, it was time to jet over to the secret location, Nats Park. For the first time since I received my press invite, I was excited. As I got closer to the stadium, I couldn’t help but think how incredible it would be to dine on the field at Nats Park. Some of that Diner En Blanc magic was working its way through my brain. All I wanted to do was kick back with a drink and some perfectly cut cheese cubes and watch the night unfold. I could see the hero shot in my mind, the field absolutely covered in a blanket of white outfits, tablescapes and glasses glittering with pale, cold champagne. I could absolutely see what all the hype was about. The vision in my mind was down right delightful. I don’t need to tell you that wasn’t what happened, because I’m sure you can feel my ironic foreshadowing in your bones (and because you probably saw everyone’s Instagram stories).
In high school, one of my English teachers assigned us a persuasive essay assignment and then ripped us all a new one for turning in mediocre work. Clearly tired of trying to motivate us (shout out to public school!) he leveled with us, explaining that he was just trying to teach us how to win an argument. The backbone of his speech was that if we always had three solid examples of why we were right, we were always going to win. Keep it simple, keep it strong.
I have more than three examples that showcase why Diner En Blanc was a thoroughly disappointing event. I’ve always been a bit of an overwriter after all.
The first (and most obvious) disappointment is that dinner didn’t take place on the field. Instead, tables were spread along the mezzanine of the stadium, with a few lucky people seated in the stands. I understand why they had to do this. The Nats have to play and so they have to keep the grass as impeccable as possible. It’s simply a limitation of the venue, but as I asked myself time and time again throughout the course of the night… Why would they pick that venue? Setting up expectations you can’t meet is a poor way to kick off any event, nonetheless a 5th anniversary celebration.
I think it’s also important to note that everyone pays basically the same amount of money to come to Diner En Blanc. There are no good seats and bad seats, all members are welcome to equally shell out $52 —$43 for tickets (plus that $9 member fee), however, due to the limitations of Nats Park, there were clearly much better seats and much worse seats. Some people had a gorgeous view of blue skies and a mostly empty field, while other people had the scenic view of a closed down beer stall. I was under the impression that one of the best things about Diner En Blanc was having everyone dine together. This was truly the opposite of that.
On reflection, I’m not sure if the poor organization and complete lack of crucial event elements (we’ll get to those soon) were the fault of an oversized venue, or if Diner En Blanc is this slipshod every year. Either way, I was angry on behalf of the folks that shlepped tables, chairs, food and drinks to Nats Park and were met with a complete lack of signage and unhelpful maps. I heard more than one group of people deciding out of frustration to sit their table down wherever. Even as someone invited to the media tent, I was given little to no information. Another writer and I had to team up to figure out where we were supposed to go and when we got there, we were given no information on the run of show. Someone mentioned that there would be a group photo around 7:30 p.m., but that time came and went and I never heard another thing about it. There was no announcement when the dance floor was open, or when anything was happening ever. You’d think Nats Park has a pretty solid PA system. It must have been broken that night.
And speaking of the dance floor, its constraints were perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the event. While the dancing itself took place on the field, because no one could be on the grass, you could only dance on the infield dirt. Which meant that a party of 5,000 people had a dance floor with a capacity of 500. I know because I asked one of the bouncers in charge. If dancing is one of the major elements of your event and your dance floor can only accommodate one tenth of your guests, I don’t need to tell you that you’ve fucked up. You should already know that.
I know I’m never going to be invited back to Diner En Blanc and I’ve made peace with that because unlike Diner En Blanc, my front porch never runs out of champagne. I can’t say the same for their media tent.