How to Host a Dating Salon: Step by Step Instructions

Last updated: June 26, 2024

Dating apps are frustrating.

A lot of people are single and miserable.

But I think I found a solution to help your friends get better dates and build romantic relationships.

It’s called a Dating Salon.

You gather your friends to talk about dating for an hour or two.

It sounds simple. And it is.

A dating salon is easy to host, costs basically nothing, and has huge rewards for everyone who attends.

In this article, I’ll teach you exactly how to host your own dating salon.

Important note: These gatherings are not matchmaking events. I’ll talk more about that later.

This is a great guide for anyone who:

  • Wants to help their single friends
  • Wants to host an interesting event
  • Is curious about modern dating strategies
  • Wants to build more meaningful relationships

I’ll walk you through the logistics of hosting your own dating salon.

Then you can turn small talk with strangers into deep personal conversations with friends.

Why you should listen to me: Hi! My name is Nick Gray. When I moved to NYC, I didn’t know many people and I wasn’t good at “networking.” I learned how to host events that people wanted to be invited to. Now I’ve hosted hundreds of gatherings all over the world and made lots of new friends doing it. New York Magazine once called me a host of “culturally significant” parties. I wrote a book about everything I learned called The 2-Hour Cocktail Party. To experiment with new formats, I’ve hosted a few Dating Salons now. People love them. I’ve also taught a dozen people how to host their own dating salons.

Executive Summary

Here are the most important things to do to host a Dating Salon:

  1. Pick a Tuesday or Wednesday evening at least 2 weeks in the future
  2. Text your single friends who are dating and say this: “Hey! I’m thinking of hosting a dating salon for single people on XXDATE. This is NOT a matchmaking event! More like a discussion. If I do it, would you come?”
  3. Get 5 people to say Yes.
  4. Then create an RSVP page.
  5. Then invite more people.
  6. Get 8-10 people to RSVP.

At the event, do these things:

  1. Pass out name tags for everyone.
  2. Vote on topics using the dot voting system.
  3. Do a round of introductions.
  4. Sit in a circle and talk about the most popular topics.
  5. Take a break after 20-30 minutes.
  6. Sit back in a group or break into small groups.
  7. End the event after 2 hours.

Keep reading below for sample scripts, sample questions, topic ideas, and more.

Why You Should Host a Dating Salon

A few years ago I gathered 15 acquaintances to talk about dating.

It was unlike any event I’ve ever hosted.

Each person shared personal experiences about their challenges and successes in the dating world.

We sat in a circle and heard a lot of helpful insights on what has and hasn’t worked for people who are actively dating.

And here’s the best part: The people who entered the room as acquaintances walked away from the event with deep trust for one another.

They felt seen, heard, and a little less alone in their dating lives.

A few people even got some dates out of it from mutual friends.

It is hard to create true connections. But a dating salon works. I’ll show you how.

NOT a Matchmaking Event

Let me first explain what a salon is.

A salon is a gathering of about 6 to 10 people who engage in a guided discussion around a specific topic or theme.

The purpose of a salon is to talk more deeply, not just to mix and mingle.

“A salon is a gathering of people held by an inspiring host. During the gathering they amuse one another and increase their knowledge through conversation. These gatherings often consciously followed Horace’s definition of the aims of poetry, “either to please or to educate”

via Wikipedia

So a dating salon is a facilitated conversation about dating.

When I explained the dating salon event to my friends, several remarked, “Oh, so it’s like a matchmaking event?”


A dating salon is not a matchmaking event.

The goals of these two gatherings are very different. 

At a matchmaking event, the goal is to find a potential date. It is all single attendees and you’re there to meet someone for romantic goals.

This creates a competitive atmosphere and people are often performative in an effort to impress a potential partner.

As a result, people are unwilling to be vulnerable. That reduces the quality of conversation.

I kind of hate singles events for this reason, but that’s another topic.

The expectation for someone attending a matchmaking event is to meet someone they might fall in love with. And that puts a lot of pressure on people and they may feel discouraged if they don’t accomplish this task.

In contrast, the goal of a dating salon is purely intellectual – sort of.

You’re there to share experiences, exchange knowledge, and help each person improve their dating life. 

You’re just there to talk with others. To vent, share best practices, etc.

This shift in expectations makes people feel more comfortable opening up about their dating struggles. And that significantly increases the conversation quality and depth.

It’s also a unique opportunity for people to get to know each other on a personal level.

Sample Topics

It might be helpful if I just tell you some of the topics we talked about.

Here are some of the things we discussed when I hosted my last dating salon:

  • How do people use dating apps?
  • What’s the first message that you send?
  • Examples of first messages that make you want to reply
  • How do you date a friend?
  • How do you transition from being friends to lovers?
  • Who pays for the first date?
  • What are some fun first date ideas?
  • Do you have a vibe check phone call before the date?

Logistics and Setup

I outline how to host and manage a two-hour cocktail party in my book. But here’s a brief overview of how to gather guests, set expectations, and manage the logistics of a dating salon.

Step 1: Date, Time, Guest List

Pick the day of the week, the start and end time, and build your guest list.

If you want people to attend, the first step to planning your dating salon is to select a good day of the week to host it on.

I recommend that you choose a Tuesday or Wednesday evening. Those are the least competitive days of the week, which means higher attendance.

Be sure to set a specified start and end time. This encourages people to show up on time, and they’re more likely to come if they know that it will end at a reasonable hour.

See this article I wrote about picking the perfect date and time.

Another pro tip: host the event at your home. While many newer hosts are reluctant to use their home, there are a few reasons why it’s an ideal venue for your dating salon:

  1. You’ll feel more comfortable in your own home and can control variables like noise level and costs. 
  2. Your home is a very personal venue, and given that the goal of your dating salon is to get people to open up and share personal stories, it sets the right tone.

Warning: If you’re considering hosting this at a restaurant or a bar, please don’t. Read this article I wrote about why your home is the best place to host.

Next, carefully curate who you invite to the event. The group of people ultimately determines the conversation quality, so be intentional.

To get the group dynamic right, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Be mindful of the gender ratio. Inviting both men and women creates a more interesting dynamic as it offers more perspectives on different challenges. However, keep the ratio roughly 50/50. Otherwise, the minority group may feel less comfortable contributing to the conversation, or they’ll feel that the advice is less applicable to their situation.
  • Ensure they’re all single and actively dating. If some people are in a relationship or aren’t interested in dating, they won’t have the same challenges as those who are dating. As a result, they’ll be less invested in the conversation.
  • Ensure the group is respectful. This one may seem obvious, but if you have one difficult or outspoken attendee, it can ruin the group dynamic and people may feel less willing to share vulnerable stories. 

To adhere to these considerations, my dating salon was available by invitation only, and I specifically did not allow guests to invite their friends.

So make a list of five core friends who fit the above criteria and then make a list of 10-20 other “great friends” (acquaintances) who might be interested in attending. 

Step 2: Invitations

Now that you know who you’d like to invite, send a message to five core friends asking if they will attend. It can be a super simple text message like this:

Hi John, I’m thinking of hosting a dating salon on Wednesday the 8th from 7-9pm. It’s not a matchmaking event – we’ll just be sharing stories about dating and discussing what works and doesn’t. If I do it, would you attend?

Once they respond with a “yes,” and you get 5 people to say Yes, then congratulations because you’ve got your core group.

Next you’ll create an event page and then send people a link to RSVP.

Step 3: Collecting RSVPs

To create the event page and collect RSVPs, I used a free event platform tool like Mixily or Partiful and add the following details:

  • What is the event and what can they expect? 
  • Who is the ideal attendee?
  • The agenda
  • An overview of what a dating salon is
  • The venue and parking information
  • The purpose of the dating salon

Clearly outlining the logistics of the event and setting expectations can help increase the number of guests and reduce the number of questions you’ll have to answer.

Here’s what my RSVP page usually says when I host a dating salon:


Keep reading for more info.
Let's talk about dating in Austin!
What works? What doesn't?
Which apps do you like?
What's a great story from your favorite first date?
What are your boundaries?
What helps you find the best matches?

You have been on a few dates recently.
You have a positive attitude about Austin and the people who live here.
You are willing to share a fun story or two about your dating life.

6:30PM arrive, name tags
6:40PM icebreakers
6:50PM salon discussion about DATING begins
7:20PM salon discussion ends
7:30PM mix and mingle
8:00PM the end

More conversation and less binge drinking, basically.

Wikipedia says: "A salon is a gathering of people held by an inspiring host. During the gathering they amuse one another and increase their knowledge through conversation. These gatherings often consciously followed Horace's definition of the aims of poetry, ‘either to please or to educate.’

Dating can be fun. It's even more fun when you talk about it with friends.
Nick thought it would be neat to get some smart friends together.
To share best practices, ask questions aloud, or just swap stories.

Thank you for wanting to bring a friend!
But no, not yet.
We want to keep this small with only 10 people.
So we all can share and have a good conversation.

I know this seems like a lot of information.

But it helps to set the expectations for a successful event.

This is important because you want people to show up to your dating salon with the right mindset and a willingness to share stories, challenges, and experiences in modern dating. 

Once you’ve made the page to collect RSVPs, send the link to your core friends and be sure that they actually RSVP. This adds social proof when you start inviting other people to your event.

After your five core friends confirm, you can send the invitations to your great friends.

A simple invitation message like this is sufficient:

Hi David, I’m hosting a dating salon with a few friends on Wednesday, June 11th from 7-9pm. It’s not a matchmaking event – we’ll just be sharing stories about our experiences dating and what works and doesn’t work. Do you want to come? If you’re interested, I can send you more details.

If they reply with a Yes or a Maybe, then send them a link to the RSVP page.

One bonus thing you can do is create a Google Form that allows people to anonymously submit questions before the event begins. Or, if you use Partiful to collect RSVPs, you can add a question to the RSVP asking people what topics they’d like to discuss.

Step 3: Reminder Messages

It’s easy for people to forget about your event.

Even if you send a reminder the day before, they may have booked something else and can no longer attend.

To increase attendance, I always schedule the following three automated reminder mesages for my events:

  1. Seven days before the date: This is a short, lighthearted message that includes logistical information (time, date, venue, etc.) and a fun image. 
  2. Three days before the date: Send a message that includes brief bios of the guests who are attending. People are more likely to attend if they see that other interesting people will be there.
  3. Morning of the event: Send a final reminder with logistical information and clearly state your phone number and address.

The event platforms I recommended earlier automated reminder tools that make it easy to schedule these reminders in advance. While mass messages are poor form, they are excellent for sending reminders.

Step 4: Supplies

Buy name tags. Please.

Requiring name tags reduces social anxiety and makes the overall experience much more enjoyable for attendees. People can focus more on the conversation than trying to remember a person’s name.

Finally, name tags also place everyone on a level playing field (even celebrities) and make people feel more comfortable approaching strangers.

Follow this link to see the exact name tags that I recommend purchasing for all my events. Be sure to purchase double the number of name tags that you think you’ll need as some people will “lose” their name tags and you may need to give them a new one.

Some other supplies that you’ll want to get include:

  • A small amount of alcohol and mixers
  • Non-alcoholic drinks, like seltzer water, soda, or juice
  • Simple snacks, like chips and salsa and nuts

You can see my party supplies checklist for a more specific list of supplies.


The original structure I planned for the dating salon was:

  • 6:30PM: arrive, name tags
  • 6:40PM: icebreaker  
  • 6:50PM: salon discussion begins
  • 7:20PM: salon discussion ends
  • 7:30PM: mix and mingle
  • 8:00PM: the end

Starting the first activity 10-15 minutes after the event begins encourages people to arrive on-time and reduces the “awkward zone” where the first two or three guests are standing around waiting for everyone else to arrive.

I also always start each event with an icebreaker. While icebreakers may seem cheesy, they give people a chance to learn something new about others at the event, which can act as excellent conversation starters later during the mix and mingle sessions.  

Keep your icebreakers super simple. If you make them too deep (i.e., “what’s your biggest fear?”) people may feel uncomfortable. The conversation will get deeper when you begin the salon discussion, so use the icebreaker to make everyone feel comfortable and learn something fun about the others in the room.

Here are two of my favorites:

  • What’s your favorite breakfast food?
  • What’s something you like to do for fun?

After the icebreaker, you’ll take a short break then begin the salon discussion.

Unlike my cocktail parties, the salon discussion is a facilitated group discussion led by the host.  

It will be up to you to read the room and decide how to steer the structure of the event.

This is deceptively challenging, so in the next section, we’ll discuss the mechanics of facilitating a conversation around dating.

Picking Topics and Dot Voting

Dot voting is where you give stickers to your guests and let them use the stickers to vote for the topics they find most interesting.

This allows you to have a group conversation which is most interesting to your attendees.

First, make a list of topics that people might want to talk about.

Write out each topic on a sheet of paper or large index card.

Then tape them to a wall.

Sample Topics

Here’s a list of sample topics from a recent dating salon that I hosted:

  • Intention and Relationships- Do you know why you’re dating? What does it take to build a meaningful relationship?
  • D.T.R.’s- Define the Relationship: How? When?
  • Who Pays on Dates?
  • IRL- How to confidently approach or ask out someone in public?
  • Polarity- What is it and how to use it in dating?
  • Screening- Do you FaceTime before a date? Phone Call?
  • First Dates- Great date ideas in Austin, Favorite first date stories
  • Feedback After the Date- What would you want to know?
  • Ghosting- How to respectfully reject someone?
  • Dating apps- Best practices, what works/ what NOT to do?

You can see the topics that I wrote out taped to a wall behind me.

When the guests arrive, I give them each five stickers to vote with. Then I tell them to place a sticker on the card that they want to talk about.

If they feel particularly passionate about a topic, they can add multiple dot stickers to the same card.

Here’s a picture of the topics and you can see which ones got the most sticker votes. 

Facilitating the Conversation

Now that you have your topics, it is time to sit down and have the salon discussion.

The goal of this gathering is to help people create more meaningful connections by sharing vulnerable, personal experiences. 

However, creating a safe environment while still adhering to time constraints and ensuring the conversation stays balanced is tricky. 

Here are a few things to think about as you facilitate the conversation:

  1. Don’t let a single person monopolize the conversation
  2. Set a timer to limit the intro rounds and cut people off if they go over. If you’re not cutting people off, you’re not doing your job as a moderator.
  3. Ask the group questions. I wish I had done a better job of this at my salon. I wrote down the questions people asked in the intro, but we never had time to go back and revisit those questions later in the discussion.
  4. Take breaks. Don’t remain seated for more than 40 minutes. Give people the chance to stand up, stretch, use the restroom, and grab snacks.
  5. Call on people. This is an advanced facilitation skill. Be mindful of shy people and those with social anxiety, but if you feel confident that you can read body language and know a little bit about your audience, you can draw interesting insights from quiet people by asking questions like “Janine, what are you thinking about? Tom, how does that land with you?”
  6. End on a high note. It is easy to have a session where everyone complains. Try to think how you can end your discussion on a positive note. For example, I wish I ended my last dating salon by asking everyone to share what they like and love about the experience of dating. 
  7. Leave time afterward to mix and mingle. There will have been things said that people will want to have smaller conversations about. Give them the time and space to approach others and have those conversations.

Chatham House Rules

One thing we did was express that the conversation should generally be private, especially since I wanted folks to be vulnerable.

Chatham House Rules are a set of guidelines established by the Royal Institute of International Affairs to facilitate open discussions while maintaining confidentiality. The rules emphasize anonymity, forbidding the disclosure of participants’ identities or affiliations.

So if Janine said: “I only want to date tall guys, but they’re mostly all jerks!”

A participant could later say to a friend: “One person said they only want to date tall guys, but she found they were mostly all jerks.”

You would just never give identifying information about who said it, and try to keep it vague. No attribution!

Small Groups 

Following the group discussion, you can split the group into small groups of 3-5 people for breakout discussions. 

The benefit of this is that it gives the other people more time to talk and go deeper on topics of interest.

One recent salon I attended gave the small groups handouts with questions and prompts that they could use to stimulate these small group conversations.


Hosting a dating salon is a great way to develop deeper connections with other people and have more interesting conversations.

Because dating should be fun! And from my experience, a dating salon is a great way to go deeper than apps or typical dating events.

If you want to host your own dating salon, start today by selecting a date and sending your first five invites.

Want more tips like this? Subscribe to my newsletter where I provide insights on how to make friends and build deeper relationships to level up your career and personal life.

Hello, My name is Nick Gray. In my book, The 2-Hour Cocktail Party, I provide helpful guidance on how to host a great party for any event. I wrote this book to support anyone attempting to meet new people and develop closer bonds with their community.

When is your party? Send me an email and I will give you some bonus tips, including a pre-party checklist that you can print out. Plus I’ll answer any question you have, free of charge. I love talking about parties and I’m on a mission to help 500 people host their first party.

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