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The pop-dining phenomenon heading to Auckland

Featured in Viva by Fiona Ralph.
Parisian tradition turned global pop-dining phenomenon, Le Diner en Blanc is heading to Auckland in March.


Imagine you're dressed in your finest white threads, gourmet picnic basket in hand, champagne flutes, chair and table too - all white of course. You don't know yet where you're headed, but there's a frisson of excitement in the air, as you spot numerous similarly-clad picnic-goers converging en masse at a beautiful, public location - it could be Paris's Champs-Elysees, the sands of Bondi Beach, or Central Park in New York.

Lining your table and chairs up in perfect order, you unpack your picnic basket, pop your wine cork, and, after the waving of a cloth napkin, proceed to take part in the world's poshest picnic.

The idea of Diner en Blanc is for guests to take over a public space, have a perfectly orchestrated, absolutely elegant picnic, before packing up their baskets, leftovers and rubbish and leaving the space as it was found. The evening follows a set of rules in keeping with the court-like tradition it has become renowned for.

Attendance is mandatory, come rain-or-shine, as is keeping the location a secret and following a precise seating plan - ladies on one side, gentlemen on the other - and waiting for your entire row to arrive before taking your seat. Other traditions include the waving of a cloth napkin to mark the beginning of the dinner and the lighting of sparklers to signify to guests that it is time to mingle and dance.According to the website, guests are to "conduct themselves with the greatest decorum, elegance, and etiquette", and to keep within the core values of secrecy, friendship, equality, elegance and gallantry. Plastic or paper plates are forbidden, as are any coloured or black items of clothing.

Originating in Paris in 1988 when Francois Pasquier hosted a picnic in the Bois de Boulogne, asking each guest to bring a friend and dress in white so as to be recognised, this unusual but fabulous "White Dinner" has swept the world, popping-up in such diverse places as Singapore, Mexico, Canada and Rwanda; by the end of 2014 it will be in 40 cities around the world.

While Pasquier continues to organise the Parisian picnic with the same group of 200 original guests - along with 10,000 other guests these days - his Montreal-based son Aymeric Pasquier runs the global movement as executive director.

Having delighted Australia since 2012, the dinner is set to grace our shores this March courtesy of event professionals Vinny Sherry and Anna Hood. In the spirit of word-of-mouth that pervades the event, the two directors of Campbell & Co heard about the concept and thought it would be perfect for Auckland.

Visiting Sydney's picnic in November for inspiration and to "understand what the event was all about from an experience point of view but also from an event management point of view", Sherry says, "we knew the event inside and out, but we tried to experience it as if we didn't. You really do build this amazing sense of anticipation and camaraderie ... 3000 people on a beach, all dressed in white, under the stars - the experience was amazing."

There is a three-part registration process, open first to friends and family, then to one nomination from each guest. Lastly, those on the waiting list are invited. Though there is no shortage of gorgeous Auckland locations that could host the event, the spot will need to accomodate nearly 1000 people and their picnics ... let the guessing game begin.

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