Guessing who’s coming to dinner

Dîner en Blanc expands seats but thousands still unable to get in

Thirty-two hundred Vancouverites dressed in white will be making their way to a secret location Aug. 21 to eat together outdoors. Despite the addition of more seats for the event’s third year, Dîner en Blanc will once again accommodate a fraction of those who hoped to attend. Last year, 12,000 were on the waiting list when only 2,500 seats were available.

Vancouver’s event and many others around the globe are modelled after Dîner en Blanc in Paris, which launched over 25 years ago and assembles over 15,000 diners at a different annual site around the city.

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Registration happens in three phases with priority to friends of organizers and previous participants. The final phase had seats reserved for waiting list members of the public and were quickly snapped up online within moments last week.

Many who were unable to register expressed their frustration to organizers on the event’s Facebook page, citing server issues and a 15-minute clock that implied registrants could take their time.

“By the time I was done looking through the different options and selecting options and went to go pay, it kicked me out saying that it was all full,” said Jason Cheung, a Vancouverite and database architect who failed to register. “The timer gave a false sense of security… I would’ve just rushed through the registration.”

The event admin posted a similar comment to unsuccessful registrants: “…as many guests were trying to register at the same time, the group and table options you saw on your screen must have been picked by the other guests before you could complete that step.”

Crystal Carson, a Dîner en Blanc volunteer, explained that the event is about more than just filling seats. “It’s just the way they’re trying to grow it in Vancouver,” said Carson. “The experience grows quality over quantity… [so that] when we finally get there, it’s not going to be a washed out, overrun event.”

Cheung agreed. “That’s part of the intrigue of the event. To have some sort of exclusivity, just like TED Talks. If it’s open to everyone it would be different.”

For an exclusive event, diners must do much to prepare, such as dressing in white attire and coming equipped with white chairs, square, foldable tables between 28 and 32 inches and bringing their own food if they choose not to purchase a meal ticket. Tickets are $35 with an additional $5 for membership to ensure inclusion the following year.

Carson admitted it’s a lot of work, but the payoff is always worth it.

Jasmine Hoffman, a makeup artist, stressed how the event is beneficial for Vancouver businesses. “I do a lot of makeup for people going to the event and I have a girlfriend that is a dress designer who is already making a bunch of outfits for people, and Indochino, the men’s line, they are doing a custom line of men’s white suits…”

“People want to be a part of something cool and special even though it’s a lot of work,” said Rick Chung, who has attended both previous years to document the experience for his blog. “I’m just surprised it has pulled off at all every year because it’s such a huge thing and it gets bigger every year… When they light up the sparklers, it’s probably one of the best photo opportunities in Vancouver all year long.”

With all the meticulous planning by organizers and attendees, wearing white is paramount.

“It’s not fair to everyone planning their outfits if someone shows up in a cream-coloured outfit,” said Hoffman, who shared a rumour that individuals can be blacklisted from the celebration in white if they do not comply with the dress code.

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