Bachelors & bachelorettes in the woods
April 27, 2009 5:13 PM   Subscribe

What are some suggestions for coordinating a "dating game" or fun "speed dating" activity at an outdoor camping event this weekend? The general intent of the activity is to laugh, get people more familiar and comfortable with each other (platonically or romantically), and maybe even make some matches. Attendees will be grown women and men of assorted social persuasions.

Asking anonymously since some of the attendees may be reading this and I'd like it to be a bit of a surprise. I have about 2 hours of time to fill. I expect there will be maybe 20-25 people there at the most, some single, some married & open, some straight, some gay, some looking for lovers, and some just looking for giggles. They'll be a range of ages from 20-60s, all with a spiritual connection to nature, many of them fairly intellectual, and most with a good sense of fun and humor. I have vague ideas that I'd like to get people to meet-&-great amongst each other, pairing off, switching partners, and making the rounds among each other so that by the end of it, everyone will have been able to spend some time with most of the other participants, and maybe even chose one to pursue further. But I can't really come up with a solid plan. (And I don't watch TV so I don't have much of a reference for how the TV classic Dating Game or modern equivalents would go.) It'll be outside in the evening (dark) and we could be located either around a campfire or at a row of picnic tables under a shelter (with lights if needed). I would be emceeing the event. Racy is okay. Funny is good too. I'm open to providing music, prizes, maybe even a little wine to help get people relaxed. I really don't want it to come off as lame, or too much like a little kids' game. So... how & the heck do I get a bunch of nature-loving outdoorsy people into each other?
posted by anonymous to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Given the difference in ages, gender, availability, orientations, and objectives, I suggest not framing it as "dating" in any way, rather frame it as a "getting to know each other" exercise. Speed-friending, perhaps.

Bring a cooking timer, the sort that you wind to set and rings a bell after the time is done. Get them in a circle, count off 1/2/1/2/... and have the 2's step into the circle. Have them sit down facing each other. If there's an odd number, you sit too once ready to begin. Tell them: "Introduce yourself to the person across from you. Tell each other who you are, what your life is like, what you like to do for fun, and what you would like to get from this weekend. There will be questions afterward, so pay attention. When the bell rings, everyone in the inner circle stand up and move one seat clockwise. The bell will ring every X minutes, so don't waste any time. Go!" X = 120 / (N - 1) where N is the number of people, round down to nearest 30 seconds. For 25, 3min 30sec.

At the end of the exercise, ask all to stand up and resume the circle. Pick one at random, ask him/her to point to one person who was a stranger to him/her before the activity, and say one thing that he/she learned about the other person. Have the speaker stand in the middle of the circle. Have the person pointed to do the same, and stand in the circle, etc. Eventually everyone is in the circle, and the exercise is over.

Anyone who wants dating partners, friends, or conversation is likely to get a lot of useful information doing this. The same exercise works for business networking, brainstorming, and a wide variety of other social endeavors.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:34 PM on April 27, 2009

draw names out of a hat & send the couples off into tents to exchange one or more items of clothing with each other. they'll take it as far as they want to.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:20 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Tents! Bring silk throw pillows! We like to play a game called "In The Padishah's Harem."
posted by grobstein at 8:42 PM on April 27, 2009

Well, it wasn't as rife with sexual excitement as your meetup sounds, but when I worked at outdoor schools and summer camps we would often come up with a Mingle Bingo kind of concept. You make a "bingo" type card with a bunch of personal qualities listed on it --anything you like -- "has traveled to an African country," "knows how to juggle," "is wearing cowboy boots" --- pick racy qualities if you like. A 4 x 5 bingo board gives you 19 things you can make up, with the traditional free spot in the middle.

The trick is you need many different boards or the game is not competitive....that can mean creating a lot of boards. You can certainly make 5 basic templates and then scatter them around, or you can make unique ones, one to a player, just reusing some categories.

At game time, explain the gameplay, then give everyone a board. Put some music on. Let folks start to mingle and walk around and find people who meet the criteria for each square, one square at a time. When you find someone who meets one of your criteria, you ask them to initial that square, and you learn their name. Now you've met them and you know something odd about them.

You can give prizes for this. It's more fun to offer prizes for different combinations of wins - first horizontal bingo, first vertical bingo, first diagonal bingo, first four-corners, first full board. If you leave the best prize for full board, people will work harder to meet everybody else.

this game is as fun as you make the categories. Heck, you could even have boxes where people have to demonstrate a skill....
posted by Miko at 8:59 PM on April 27, 2009

You are looking for icebreakers. There are some listed here, although they are generally more tame than you probably have in mind, I'm sure some of them can be modified.
posted by purpletangerine at 6:21 AM on April 28, 2009

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