Were you one of the 45,000 people on the waiting list? Probably.
In the likely event that you weren’t among the lucky 5,000 attendees of this exclusive annual NYC bash, don’t be sad. Frenchly is here to tell you what you missed.
Eager party-goers arrive at predetermined meeting points with carts of folding tables, chairs, and decorations in tow. They chatter about the dinner’s possible locations, their outfits, and the things they forgot at home. The group leader is the only person who knows the location of the soirée. They follow him blindly, like ducklings. One person occasionally falls behind due to a stiff cart wheel or a centerpiece of flowers fallen to the sidewalk.
Adorned in white, they pack into the train. Anyone not dressed in white changes subway cars, agitated by mounting confusion and FOMO. At the Rector Street station, the conductor announces that it’s the last chance to get into one of the first five cars that will exit at South Station. Group leaders raise their arms and point out the door. “First five cars! Group nine, let’s go, we’ve gotta get in the first five cars!” A flood of white pours out from the doors and rushes down the subway platform to the front cars, already crammed with party-goers.
Back above ground, everyone feels deeply relieved they aren’t walking alone. Wearing all white elicits staring in a way that wearing all black never does. But being in a crowd wearing all white indicates that your white attire is righteous, and you are not abnormal.
You are the cool one in the know, headed to an exclusive dinner. That the guy in $1,000 sneakers and Ramones t-shirt can take a back seat tonight.
At the entrance to the Battery Bikeway, the march of white morphs into a line before a closed gate. Most people peel off to snap a quick glamour shot.
Here, you may notice that men are dressed mostly in white pants and white button-downs, with an occasional cape or pair of funky plastic sunglasses. Women, however, have gone all out. There are spandex bodysuits and body-con dresses, princess gowns bedazzled in rhinestones, hot pants and crop tops, pant suits and top-hats. Most of it in a bright, printer-paper white. Some of it in cream, occasionally in ivory.
Through a path lined with trees and left under the archway of Gigino’s restaurant, guests arrive at a skyline so jaw-dropping, they instantly know that this is Diner en Blanc.
In Robert F. Wagner Jr. park, tables prop up and folding chairs shake open. There is an unspoken competition for who can have the best table setting and decorations, like suburban moms at PTA bake sale. Two men set up plastic scaffolding to go above their table like a trellis. Three-tiered serving trays hold delicate finger sandwiches, and take-out containers are emptied quickly and covertly onto glassware. Nothing is as beautiful as the sunset over the Hudson, glazing Jersey City in orange and framing the Statue of Liberty with pink.
Once the sun has drops beneath the skyline, the M/V John J. Harvey Fireboat arrives at the front of the park. A swarm of napkins twirling in the air, five jets of water erupt from the fireboat, shooting high into the sky. The jazz band plays on, and everyone cheers. The earth turns away from the sun, changing the sky from yellow to orange, to pink, purple, gray, then black. One bottle of champagne becomes two, and groups of two become parties of eight as everyone befriends their neighbors. The jazz band provides a lovely soundtrack, but everyone wonders, “when does the party start?”
The moment the jazz band heeds the stage to the DJ, everyone rises to their feet. The patios, the walkways, and the low cement wall, all become surfaces for dancing and selfies. How can anyone stay seated, with the bass thumping and people dancing between the tables?
Spaces hole out in rows where couples, who “really need to be rested for work tomorrow”, packed up and left. The decorations that were so stunning at the beginning were falling, eaten, or charmless outside of the glow of magic hour.
Leaving, however, isn’t done in a group. On the way home, the solo white-clad subway passengers smile at each other, fondly remembering their ephemeral camaraderie.
For that one night, they were among the chosen ones, with 4,999 best friends.