The Art of Inviting Anyone In

Bethany Edwards created Flourish Supper Club — a monthly dinner gathering around a beautifully-adorned table in her grandmother’s backyard — to celebrate women, to support them and to encourage personal growth through friendship. At Flourish, all are welcome to attend.

In the ever-growing city of Nashville, Bethany saw many women moving to the city alone, desiring community but unsure of where to find it. So she took initiative and took to Instagram, using the platform to announce each dinner with photos of pretty table spreads, doughnuts, homemade cakes and a joyful gathering to invite others to join, using the captions to encourage women to attend who may not know anyone and to explain the heart of the dinner. She encourages friends to invite other friends, whether through the social media platform or personally, and Bethany has seen many dear friendships formed around the dinner table.

Beyond a thoughtful table and an amazing menu, Bethany shares how connection and vulnerability can take place in this space where women gather and anyone is welcome.

 DM: Why did you start Flourish Supper Club?

Bethany: I had just returned from India where I was studying abroad the first semester of my senior year. I had already been feeling like I was changing career paths before then, and was kind of going through that there. I felt like I had been ignoring what was going to make my heart happiest, what was more natural. My background is in psychology, but when I was in India I knew that was not what I wanted to pursue at that time.

There was a part of that that was very relatable to how Flourish came about. I love helping people come to their fullest potential. I was looking towards being a counselor and asking, “How can you help people feel loved in who they are and where they are going?” Coming back from India, I had never been more myself. I was so embraced by the people — they didn’t care what I did, what I looked like — it was the most freeing thing. I had opened myself up to letting people love me for who I was and in turn, that’s what happened.

As I was looking into what I wanted to do job-wise, this jumped out at me. I had seen similar events happening in Nashville, but they were very exclusive or had a large price point to get into. That is not to diminish what goes on at those dinners, but for me it would feel more real, more like a true community if everyone was invited. Flourish doesn’t require much of anything — just bring whatever you have to contribute and come be a part.

DM: Where did the name Flourish come from?

Bethany: In India, this word kept coming up: Flourish. The director of my study abroad program used it a few times, I came across it on Pinterest in really pretty handwriting. I thought, How weird that this word keeps coming back up? Coming from that time in my life (in India) where I was able to see myself flourish as a person, I wanted to create that same sort of feeling for other people.

DM: What elements go into creating an inviting atmosphere for friends and strangers alike?

Bethany: I’ve come from a family of really supportive, nurturing women. I take a lot of inspiration from my own family and how I was raised and transfer that into how I want Flourish to feel. For someone who maybe did not grow up in the same way, they could see that it is possible to find acceptance, love and support from other women who also want the same thing.

It takes the intentional thought of, If you were a complete stranger, how do you make this feel welcoming and warm for people who are probably like me and not apt to show up to something if they don’t know anyone? I have really tried to be outright with social media about Flourish’s purpose. This is meant to be a place where you can be comfortable to be yourself.

It is also about creating a space that is visually beautiful because people are drawn to that. And then larger than that there is so much comfort through food and the senses. I try to create an environment of home.

DM: What makes food and entertaining a good way to foster relationship?

Bethany: I have found so much inspiration from grandmother, who is the ultimate hostess. She has always had people over to her home and I saw that kind of hospitality modeled to me. I grew up with the example that being a hostess can connect people and foster growth. And, food is the perfect connecting point because everyone has eating in common, everyone is on board for it.

I’ve watched how something truly as simple as a beautiful table and a lot of good food can make the most amazing friendships. People have become dear friends or found roommates through meeting at a Flourish dinner.

DM: Can you describe the joys that have come out of Flourish dinners?

Bethany: For me, it comes down to the very end of the dinner, when there is only a few girls left and we’re all sitting around and talking. That is when the conversation always reaches its deepest.

That is the ultimate joy for me — the end of the night with incredibly beautiful women who are letting their walls down. You can tell they feel safe and comfortable. You can see that for them and for the people listening it is so freeing. To be like, ‘”Oh my gosh, you too?” It’s such a sigh of relief. That end moment to me is total joy and I love it.

DM: What advice would you give to someone who want to start something similar, but is overwhelmed with where to start?

Bethany: If I were to start over, knowing what I know now, I would say to don’t plan to do it all on your own. It is so much better if you have people help you. For Flourish, that is part of the goal, working together. It’s important to use everyone’s gifts and abilities to make it come together.

And keep the focus on the people joining you. Don’t get overwhelmed with the details or the food. Yes, you need food, but at the end of the day it’s about the intention. If that means that at every dinner you order takeout or a pizza, it won’t matter as much as knowing you’re creating a space for people to find friendship and good, authentic conversation. There’s nothing wrong with a beautiful table, but I’d much rather the focus be on the people and what we’re talking about.

Who would you like to sit around the table with that you haven’t in a long time?

Photography by Megan Cencula

Aleah is a writer and photographer living in Nashville, Tennessee. She loves photographing people, learning their stories and traveling often.

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