It's a summer evening in Philadelphia, where 27-year-old Shavyra Chambers, sporting all white, is diving into a bowl of pasta placed on top of a white folding table. Seated on a large grass field with her boyfriend, the couple is part of a 4,500-strong group partaking of both food and pictures destined to land on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
It's all part of the Diner en Blanc experience, an organized secret pop-up picnic that began in 1988 and requires guests to wear white and bring supplies of the same color. Taking place once a year on varying dates in 60 cities, the specific location of the event is held secret up until the very last moment.
Participants who are able to score a ticket from the highly sought-after event must bring their own food, tables, chairs, dishes and tablecloth—with nearly everything in white. It's an unorthodox concept that is expected to draw 100,000 people globally this year, and by all indications it's one of the hottest tickets around. The organizers say more than 20,000 people compete for a place at the table.
So what's the objective of this fete, other than to create a critical mass of dinner selfies? To spark new relationships among total strangers, the event's organizer explained to CNBC.
"To make friendships, you need to share moments," Aymeric Pasquier, executive director of Diner en Blanc, told CNBC in a phone interview. "You don't just have them by having them on Facebook. You call them friends but they're not really friends."
Pasquier is the son of François Pasquier, who began the tradition 27 years ago in Paris with his friends. It's only grown to the United States in the past few years.
Michelle Homscher, a 33-year-old scientist, recently attended Philadelphia's dinner as a means of injecting a little mystery back into her daily routine.
"There's very few surprises in everyday life now," Homscher said. "The suspense leading up to it is wonderful. You see pictures on Facebook of people getting ready and posting tablescapes."
During the Philadelphia event, many guests held a phone in one hand to take and post photos throughout the evening on their social networks. For her part, Chambers posted at least five photos to Instagram during the night.
"I enjoy it because of the exclusivity of the event," she told CNBC. "A lot of people wanted to come but they couldn't, so I decided to share all my photos on Instagram. I just like to share my life."
Her photos ranged from different scenes of the night and some included her, "It's just me; I haven't posted a photo with anyone else," she said as her boyfriend interrupted her.
"She doesn't care about posting a photo with her boyfriend," he laughed.
The exclusivity of attending is certainly felt at the party. Chambers says she had been trying to get in for three years, but wasn't able to get a ticket until this year. While 4,500 guests attended the party in Philadelphia, there were more than 30,000 on the wait list.
It's so popular, it's not uncommon for other groups to organize alternative parties for those who couldn't get in. In Vancouver recently, with more than 30,000 on the Diner en Blanc wait list, two locals organized an event the same night asking guests to wear all black.
The Vancouver event was free, while tickets to Diner en Blanc start at $35, and depend on the city and membership.
Many Diner en Blanc guests, however, ultimately end up spending several hundred dollars once they factor in the cost of clothes, accessories and food. However, most say that after first-year initial upfront costs, it becomes more affordable.
Homsher, who has attended multiple years, said each year she becomes better at planning. "You learn after the second year. You buy yourself a cart for everything because it's heavy to carry yourself," Homscher said. "But it's money well spent."
Pasquier admitted that guests who only attend once will find the costs not worth the experience. They encourage attendees to reuse items year after year.
Pasquier said he has pondered banning cellphones from the event, but ultimately said people will do whatever they want.
"I share photos with family that can't attend to show them how beautiful the event is," Pasquier said. "You don't always do selfies, sometimes you really want to share the beauty of the moment."