Having attended three of the previous four Los Angeles events, it is an amazing undertaking with many volunteers, complicated transportation, and unique entertainment! While the event itself is quite magical, it is also a bit of an undertaking as an attendee as well. Attendees are expected to provide everything needed for the dinner including table, white chairs, white cloth linens, white plates, real silverware, real glassware and of course an elegant picnic dinner! And of course a chic all white outfit. A lot to prepare and a lot to transport!
When the 2018 Los Angeles event came along, my friends and I just could not commit immediately and tickets sold out quickly. The theme was "Wonderland" this year and as a big Alice in Wonderland fan, I did not want to miss out on the celebration! Rather than attending the main soiree, I went back to the roots of Diner en Blanc and hosted friends at my own house in "East Culver City". While my house and yard are not large, I was still able to keep the dining location "secret" until just before just like the real event!
So how did I pull off a magical event at my own home without spending a lot of time or money? Read on for all of the details!
The decor was the biggest effort for this event. I knew I wanted to host it outside and while the landscaping in my backyard is beautiful, I needed to bring the "magic" as well as Wonderland to life. In Alice in Wonderland, the playing cards are caught painting the white roses bushes red so I used that as a jumping off point for decorating my own hedges. Of course as it is Diner en Blanc the roses stayed white! I purchased faux flowers from Michael's and inserted those into the hedge and then added strands of white lights to add that beautiful glow once the sun went down.
As for the tablescape itself, I built the centerpiece around the concept of the Mad Hatter's hat. I found a white top hat from Target and added the proper 10/6 sign to tie in theme. To keep it simple, I used more flowers from Michael's and a feather to complete the centerpiece. Real flowers would have been beautiful as well but I was concerned that they would look droopy by the time we sat down as there was no way to place them in a vase. In addition I scanned pages from an Alice in Wonderland book and included a page at each place setting. We all enjoyed reading the passages aloud during dinner though for some they were confusing out of context! I also cut out the various playing card symbols from glitter foam to add some dimension to the table. Finally I used two white tea cups with blooms and "Drink Me" tags to bring our own "mad tea party" together. Classic tea lights from my collection completed the table.
I focused primarily on decorating the hedge and the table however did include some signage in the trees that led back to our dining area and also some croquet set pieces to tie in with the Queen of Heart's rose garden. The signs include "This Way", "That Way", "Up", "Down", "Go Back", and "Yonder" with the Disney animated film as inspiration.
The entire cost for the décor was approximately $20. I purchased the flowers, hat and glitter foam. I already owned the book so used my home printer for the signage and book excerpts. As for the linens, dishes, etc., I already owned everything I needed since they were all basics. I used a table I owned and borrowed the chairs, tea cups and lights from a friend!
The menu was kept simple with everyone bringing a contribution. We started with some appetizers before heading to the "secret" location. Then we enjoyed a three course meal that began with a lovely fall salad. I prepared the entrée and went with this delicious Slow Cooker Mediterranean Chicken. Since we did not have to actually pack a picnic, we had the luxury of a hot entrée. This recipe was great because the cooking didn't have to be hands on until just prior to serving. I made a few minor modifications to this including adding a little bit of chicken stock and substituting pre-chopped white for yellow onions (a great time saver). I also already had chicken tenderloin pieces so used them instead of the full breasts. Once seared in the pan, the chicken cooked for a bit on low before I turned it up to high. I want to say it was less than an hour total. It was cooked through and very juicy. I would highly recommend this entrée for a dinner party or a Tuesday night! I served it with a side of Quinoa and Kale from Aldi. No photo because we were too focused on eating but here is a photo of our sweet ending! One of my guests made delicious vanilla cupcakes (gluten free no less) and put them in cute Alice in Wonderland wrappers! We also had macarons to complete the tea party theme!
I added some other touches like an Alice in Wonderland playlist (happy to share upon request!) and dressed like the White Rabbit!
I also experimented with making a video before everyone arrived. It is a one take, non-rehearsed, selfie video so please be kind in the comments! You will notice in the video I tried out an alternate name "Champagne Parties on a Beer Budget". Possibly a spin off blog? Let me know what you think!