10 Biggest Social Events

By: Garrett M. Graff

1. Kennedy Center Honors. Star-studded, black-tie, and televised, the ceremony honors legends of entertainment.

2. Gridiron Club dinner. The winter white-tie event features skits, lots of pols, and bad singing by big names in journalism.

3. White House Correspondents Association dinner and Bloomberg afterparty. The dinner, with comedians such as Stephen Colbert, is now just a prelude to the Bloomberg party, one of the toughest-to-get invites in town.

4. YouthAIDS Gala. The dinner headlined by Ashley Judd at the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner features singers such as Dave Matthews, a pricey live auction, and billionaires (Sheila Johnson, Richard Branson).

5. Washington National Opera Midwinter Gala. The high-culture evening features themed exotic cuisine, scenery, and costumes from places such as the ancient city of Edo (Tokyo).

6. Meridian Ball. The fundraiser for Meridian International Center is the highlight of the year for the diplomatic corps, featuring dancing and dinners at embassies around town.

7. Fight Night and Knock-Out Abuse. These formal dinners—Fight Night for men, Knock-Out Abuse for women—join up for a large afterparty. At Fight Night, there’s boxing, cigars, steak, and Redskinettes. The women’s night features flashy live and silent auctions.

8. National Italian American Foundation Gala. This annual event stars boldface names such as Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia.

9. Best Buddies Ball. Benefiting the Shriver family’s Best Buddies group for the intellectually challenged, the event raises big money.

10. White House state dinners. Traditionally the year’s main events, they’ve withered under President Bush, who has hosted far fewer than his predecessors—and of these, only one white-tie dinner.