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Dressed to dine

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Michelle Brisson was in Calgary just after the city held its Dîner en Blanc event, with guests all dressed in white enjoying a delicious three-course meal at elegant tables set up in a open, urban green space. Photos of the event made the front page of the newspaper. “As soon as I read the story, I fell in love with the concept, and immediately knew I wanted to do it and bring it to Halifax,” she says.

She sent an email to Dîner en Blanc International, the organization that sets the guidelines for the event, which traces its history back to the first one held in Paris 25 years ago. About five years ago, the founder of the Paris event brought it to New York and Montreal. Now, more than 40 cities around the world organize their own Dîner en Blanc events.

Within a week of sending that email, she heard back, and got the go ahead to organize one for Halifax for August 23, rain or shine. “I loved everything about the concept,” says Brisson, who owns her own event-planning company, Piknik Events, and who serves as co-host for this event. “The whole experience of it. I want to create experiences for people. This is an experience for people.”

She and the organizers are still finalizing the details of the events, some of which must follow guidelines, including bringing your own dinner, setting the table, and, of course, dressing only in white. Brisson has partnered with Chef Dave Smart of Front & Central in Wolfville and Ratinaud in Halifax to create menu offerings as well.

Tables and chairs will be provided and guests can purchase wine via the event website (bringing your own alcohol is not permitted). A jazz band will perform during dinner, while a DJ will take up music duties after that. The event will wrap up at 11 p.m., with guests leaving the park as it was when they arrived. Tickets are $35 and guests (19 and up) must sign up as couples.

But she can’t tell you the actual location, other than to say it’s a well-known green space in the city. The secrecy behind the location, she says, adds to the element of surprise to the party. But so do the guests themselves.
“Guests have fun showing their personality through their outfits, meals and tablescapes,” Brisson says. “People really go all out. The more elaborate the better.”

The guests who register for this year’s event automatically get an invite for next year. And Dîner en Blanc International is also looking to expand its membership privileges, so those guests who attend in Halifax will be able to get on the lists of Dîner en Blanc events around the world.

And the guest list is limited to 1,000 people and a wait list is currently open for registration. “I feel like people here are craving an event like this,” Brisson says. “We always see these great events and parties in London, Paris and New York and say, why don’t we do that here? So, we’re doing it here. And we’re getting a lot of great reception from people. Everyone loves a good party and I think this is going to be one that people will want to sign up for.”

Brisson says she feels this is an event with huge potential for the city. She only has to draw inspiration from the city that started it all, Paris, which now hosts 15,000 guests in two separate locations. “If we ended up getting to that point,” Brisson says, “that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.” halifax.dinerenblanc.info

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