Death Dinner Parties: the latest wellbeing trend that mixes morbid with your mains.

Image: supplied. 

Mention the word “death” and many people immediately think of doom and gloom. But Ruby Lohman and Clare Woodward are looking to change this perception one Death Dinner Party at a time. Yes, Death Dinner Parties are happening.

What is it exactly? It involves three courses. Two speakers. And one topic: death. And they’re growing in popularity.

“Death doesn’t need to be morbid or cliché – we’re trying to bring the topic of death out into the open. For that reason, we put this conversation about death and dying against a background of beautiful food and wine, and gorgeous table settings with fresh flowers and candles,” Lohman explains.

“We create a warm, intimate environment where people feel welcome and relaxed. And food really is the best way to bring people together and to help facilitate challenging conversations.”

People attend the dinners for various reasons, whether it’s because they’re looking for a meaningful conversation, have recently lost someone, or want to indulge in delicious food, a diverse range of people take part.

So far, they’ve hosted a variety of guests to speak at the dinners. From a grave-digger, to a funeral director, to a grief counsellor to a Tibetan Buddhist. The pair don’t seek out professional speakers, but rather, people who are passionate about talking about death in an open and warm way. The dinners encourage storytelling, rather than lecture-like talks.

(Image supplied.)

"Generally the people who come to Death Dinner Party are open-minded, intelligent, interested and wanting to connect with like-minded people. At the end of a Sydney dinner, one of our guests said something like, “I don’t know anyone here, but I feel like they could all be my friends,” Lohman says.

"Our intention isn’t for it to be a counselling session, and so I think that this intention attracts people who are responsible for themselves, those who are curious and those who are just looking to have a unique night out," Woodward adds. (Post continues after gallery.)

So where did the concept come from?  Lohman is a food writer and had been wanting to run a dinner party event for a long time and after talking to Woodward about Death Dinner Party in the US, where it's popular, they teamed up to create the unique company.


The pair both have unique backgrounds, which may have also contributed to them coming together to create Death Dinner Party. Woodward is a Kinesiologist and Life Coach and work closely with clients coming to terms with things ending, whether that be relationships, careers or aspects of themselves.

"In my research, I had read that all our fears apparently stem from our fear of death. If this was the case I wanted to understand it further," Woodward says.

She was also faced with her parents mortality when in December last year, her Dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer.

Lohman grew up with a little more insight into death than most, her stepdad, who is a funeral director, would tell her a lot of stories and often bring home flowers from strangers’ funerals.

"Death is something I’ve always been interested in, but never really felt like it was socially acceptable to talk about it. I’m also big on questioning the status quo and I feel like there’s a lot about death and dying that we just passively accept, which frustrates me," Lohman explains.

Clare and Ruby (Image supplied.)

The pair seek to not change the conversation about death through Death Dinner Party, but rather to start it. For many, the conversation about death hasn't even begun.

"Clare and I aren’t experts on death – ultimately our aim is to get people talking and sharing, to spark new ideas and to encourage curiosity. Death is a huge part of our lives, it’s the one thing we all have in common, yet in our culture, we’re great at ignoring it. This ignorance translates into fear, which affects the way we live our lives – and the way we die."

"Understanding death and being okay to talk about it is also really important in being able to connect with loved ones and be there for them when they’re unwell, dying or grieving." Lohman explains.

(Image supplied.)

There is a fear of death in western culture, and Woodward and Lohman seek to offer a new perspective, and an alternative way to understand it.  To ultimately alleviate the fear around it through education.

"I know for me personally, it’s got me more present to life. I don’t sweat the small things as much, my relationship with my parents is stronger, I’m more open with them. I also take time to see the miracles in each day. I notice things with more patience and catch myself when I’m not. Having death at the forefront of your thoughts isn’t morbid, it actually makes life so much richer." Woodward explains.

The night itself is generally a hugely positive experience.

"Honestly, there’s so much laughter on the night – it’s always a lot of fun. Our events have all sold out, and we’ve got a waiting list for future events, which we’re really excited about – and very grateful for," Lohman explains.

The next Death Dinner Party event will be in Sydney on 7 November, and will be a new drinks format that Lohman and Woodward are trialling. They are also planning events in Melbourne and Brisbane for early 2016. You can read more about Death Dinner Party events here.

Would you attend a Death Dinner Party?