How To Do The “Pop-Up Dinner Party” At Home

July 29, 2020

Picture this: you and your closest friends sign up to attend an event on a warm summer evening and the only thing you know is the day it is happening and the dress code. The decor, food, and of course, wine are all up to you and you have two hours day-of to find out where the venue is and bring your beautiful tablescape to life. Once put together, you and other groups have the rest of the night to be inspired by other tables, enjoy music, and each other. 

That my friends, is a Pop-Up Dinner Party. 

While found around the world, pop-up dinners have been popularized in the United States by Handmade Events. In an interview by Christa Youngern of She Stories, founder Nicole Benjamin describes her inspiration behind creating Pop-Up Dinners:

The idea was born when Nicole’s husband and business partner read about a similar event in Paris. With a desire to bring that relaxed simplicity to the states, she began her journey. Her first event, hosted in San Francisco, had over 4,000 guests. With eight years in the rearview mirror, she now hosts events in up to twelve cities annually. (pre-Covid) Whether she is in Brooklyn, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Minneapolis, her aim is to inspire a sense of connection and spontaneous community. In times where various forces seek to divide us, what Nicole offers the country is a return to the personal. It is a welcome salve to the unpleasantness that characterizes the upper echelons of our government. It reminds us that we are far more similar than different. That the simplest lessons are perhaps the most valuable: treat others with kindness, listen deeply, and enjoy every moment you are given for the sake of joy itself. 

While spontaneity is a little harder to find these days, the core sentiment of Pop-Up Dinners is still a possibility: bringing people together to create joy and a sense of community. When asked how to plan a quarantine Pop-Up Dinner, Nicole said this: 

“Pre-shelter in place, I would always tell people to keep it simple since you would have to haul everything to the unknown location, but if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that sometimes you need to change. When planning it for your backyard, go above and beyond and make it special with treasures from your home.”

With this advice in mind, we’ll show you how to create your own Pop-Up Dinner Party and curate a special moment with your quaranteam!

What to Wear

Nicole’s classic Pop-Up Dinner dress code was white, but self expression was always greatly encouraged! When thinking of what you want to wear, think about what reflects your personality. Is it a classic silk jumpsuit, a funky-textured button down, or maybe even some daisy sunglasses? Whatever will make you most comfortable is what you should do (you do you!) One easy way to add more character to your outfit is to look for pieces that have different textures and layering. Here are some examples of fun outfits and accessories for inspiration!

  1. Blazer 2. Silk Jumpsuit 3.Lace Dress 4. Bryr Slide 5. Leather Sneaker 6.Textured White Shirt 7. Light Trouser

  1. Hat  2. Ray-Bans 3. Daisy Sunglasses 4. Headpiece  5.Fedora  6. Earrings  7. Mask

How to Decorate

Want a beautiful/full tablescape without blowing the bank? The answer is layering! Utilizing objects with different heights and patterns immediately creates depth and a sense of sophistication. For example, layering two plates like these compostable white and palm leaf paper plates from Oh Happy Day makes it appear as if you have a beautiful charger minus the rental fees. Putting vases at different heights like these from Etsy will also help to create depth on your tablescape. Don’t want to cover your beautiful outdoor table? Use a linen table runner to frame your tablescape! Want to make your table more sentimental? Add picture frames with images of your quaranteam as place cards!

1.Flatware 2. White Compostable Plate 3. Palm Leaf Plate 4.  Pampas Grass 5. Disco Ball Cups 6. Linen Table Runner 7.Ceramic Vases

For those wanting to curate a more elevated feel, keep an eye out for neutral pieces like those you can find at Encore Event Rentals. To break up the tablescape even more, utilize an  assortment of glassware like these coupe glasses that bring the perfect amount of simplicity and elegance. We also recommend adding customized wooden place cards like these offered by Studio Noel (no longer does custom order but try our good friend Blushtype) that match perfectly with the dried florals used in these centerpieces by Scarlett and Grace!

 1.Cream Flatware  2.Plate 3.Elm Charger  4.Glass Coupes 5.Custom Place Cards 6. Napkin 7. Napkin Rings 8. Floral Arrangement 

Elevated Rentals

While you might not be able to surprise your quarateam with the location of your dinner, you could surprise them by transforming your backyard. With the help of  Shelter-Co and Found Rentals you could create the warm, inviting space that is guaranteed to facilitate a good time. Really feel like going the extra mile? Try renting a set of lounge chairs and coffee table for you and your quaranteam to sit 6-feet apart and play games after dinner. Heads Up anyone?

  1. Tent 2.Folding Chair 3. Pillow Set 4.Coffee Table 5. Fur Rugs 6. Lounge Chairs 7.Woven Rug 8.Rustic Table


Here are images from Danielle Gibson Events’ past Pop-Up Dinner Parties we attended for Inspiration!

Plants @soulflowersf, flatware and glasses @encoreeventrentals, napkins and linens @latavolalinen, macrame runner and rattan chargers @worldmarket, wooden names @studio.noel

Food & Beverages

While we discourage a potluck-style meal right now, we do encourage sharing wine. A warm summer evening like those we’ve experienced in
Pop-Up Dinners past calls for Lewis Cellars’ Napa Chardonnay and Debbie’s Sauvignon Blanc, or if you’re feeling like looking at life through rosé colored glasses, the always delicious Fearless Rosé. To pair with your delicious wine, we once again recommend single serving foods like individual charcuterie boards, sandwiches or some delicious deviled eggs

For those more interested in dessert, we recommend making yummy chocolate chip cookies. They are the perfect individual dessert for a beautiful summer evening!

  1. Turkey Sandwich 2.Chardonnay 3. Sauvignon Blanc 4. Deviled Eggs 5. Rosé 6. La Croix  7. White Cosmopolitan 8.Cookies 9.Mini Cutting Boards 

More inspiration from Pop Up Dinners we attended.

Table design Danielle Gibson Events

Terrariums with florals and flower crown @soulflowersf, Linens, napkins and seat cushions @latavolalinen, flatware @encoreeventrentals, leather string for napkin rings @amazon


To see our past Pop-Up Dinner visit our blogs here and here!

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