White Hot in RVA: Diner en Blanc 2018

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Some parties are fun, some are even wild. But it’s a rare party that can pull off magical.

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Diner en Blanc in RVA this year was preternaturally beautiful, right down to the breeze that swept the humidity out of the city. Richmond was graced with cool air for the first time in weeks. With the haze gone and stars twinkling above, we carried on the tradition that  began in Paris in 1988. François Pasquier had invited some friends to an elegant outdoor dinner at Bois de Boulogne, and asked them to dress in white so they could find one another. Diner en Blanc is now being hosted in 70 cities around the world, including Richmond.

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The event is held in a top secret location, which isn’t revealed until the day of. I was invited by hosts Christine Wansleben, star chef and owner of Mise En Place and Top 40 Under 40 media maven Enjoli Moon. Ayana Obika was also a host, and has plenty of experience throwing large-scale bashes as owner of Gratitude Rising Events. That night, 1,200 revelers marched in, carrying gorgeous displays for their own dinner set-up. There were strung LED lights, Eiffel towers and billowing bunches of white flowers. Upon entering, guests were greeted by dancer/aerial artists from SOUL Aerial and Performing Arts.

Chloe Wines sponsored the event, and their sparkling Prosecco poured all night. There was even an ice luge sculpture, for those who wanted their bubbles extra chilled. The media lounge featured a delicious spread by Croaker’s Spot and Elegant Cuizines, serving classic summer picnic foods. There was crab salad served in crab shells, fried chicken, cornbread, potato salad, kale salad and bread pudding laced with Maraschino cherries.

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The chic lounge area was decorated by Quirk Hotel, with romantic floral arrangements and glassware. Handmade Eiffel Tower cookies graced the tables, made by Melissa’s Simply Sweet. They were almost too beautiful to eat, but they tasted even better than they looked!

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There was a tres French accordion musician playing Le Mer and other Gallic classics as people assembled their stations. One the set-up was complete, diners waved their napkins in the air so they could commence their meal en masse. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts made a noteworthy appearance with their very own Napoleon. True to form, when he announced it was time to eat, he shouted commands in French. But there was one phrase everyone understood: Bon Appetit!

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Dinner was followed by a live band, and a glow-in-the-dark ensemble of performers, including hula hoopers, jugglers and electric fairies. One highlight was when everyone was asked to light their sparklers. Within seconds the entire place was aglow, a sea of smiling, well-fed faces. New relationships were forged, recipes shared. The event hosts certainly took this event to the next level. Francois Pasquier would have been proud.

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With Quiana Davis, Diner en Blanc volunteer

 

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LoBrown Wedding Reflects A Few of Their Favorite Things

It all started with the invitation, where wedding details were engulfed by a swarm of Max and Carol’s favorite things: octopuses, motorcycles, milkshakes, Star Wars characters and more. A friend of the bride drew the original invite by hand. Without realizing it, the theme of this wedding became My Favorite Things.

The wedding ceremony was peppered with references to Star Trek, the Declaration of Independence, Emily Dickinson and other cultural references near and dear to the couple. As was the man who officiated; who is a close friend of the groom’s.

Carol is a local fixture, as she was once a baker at the Richmond institution Dixie Donuts. She literally has an art wall in her home, made of contributions from her admirers. She did not let her guests down, baking an array of home-cooked cakes and tarts. From a churro bundt to chocolate peanut butter cake, every dessert was labeled by a cross-stitched sign.

The groom is a bit of a Renaissance man, and handmade the wedding bands by amalgamating a variety of precious metals in his workshop. He also adorned the altar with a found piece of beach wood, which he branded himself.  Combining their names, it reads: La Casita LoBrown. One of his most popular contributions was a giant BBQ pork, pulled from the on-site smoker. To honor his Mexican heritage, he and his sister also made homemade chips, salsa and guacamole.

Though a backyard wedding allows for more casual dress, the event was not short on style. Refreshingly, the males stood out as statement-makers. There’s Southern rock and then there’s Southern punk rock,  and among the sea of beards and tattoos, there were playful nods to Southern gentlemen everywhere, with pastels and linen suits.

It was a summer wedding after all, and there were 4th of July poppers to explode as the couple made their way down the aisle…and zoomed off on a motorcycle.

There was a gourmet lemonade stand, with flavors like watermelon basil, and lavender – both 100% addictive.

Revelers were free to cool off in the living room, where the TV was removed and the place adorned with displays of the couple’s favorite things.

Friends of the couple learned to play a few songs that were meaningful to Max and Carol. When vows were exchanged, thunder rumbled. At the reception, silent heat lightning illuminated the sky. Never had I been to a wedding so personalized, with the happy couple leaving their signature on every detail. It was truly a night to remember.

 

YSL in RVA

While some designers are known for one signature look, Yves Saint Laurent was a chameleon. From couture gowns worn by Capote’s swans to his “Beat” collection favored by the Haight Ashbury crowd, he was on the front lines mastering every look as if he had invented it. Perhaps he did spearhead a global look with his International collections. He was clearly influenced by his childhood in Algiers and his dream home in Morocco.

His fashions are being showcased by one of the finest museums on the East Coast – the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Get yourself tickets before this first-time couture show vanishes on August 27th.