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How to Host a Progressive Dinner Party

Created April 28, 2020
A progressive dinner is simply a party where each course is eaten at a different host’s house in the same evening. In other words, the guests progress from house to house. Think of it like a potluck but extended across three or four locations.

Progressives are fun because they allow several guests to showcase their homes or cooking skills. And giving your dinner party an “itinerary” transforms a basic meal into an engaging activity that invites participation.

Here are some ideas on how to plan this festive evening of food and friends.

Logistics

Try to have at least four houses involved. The first home opens the evening with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, while the second home continues with salad and soup. The third home presents the entrée, and at the fourth house, you close with dessert.

Progressives work best when guests can walk or easily drive between locations, so hosting them within neighborhoods is ideal and very popular. Not an option for you? See if everyone can pitch in for a van or taxi to safely take you to and from each destination together.

Schedule the stops—and stick to the schedule, both out of courtesy to the hosts and to make sure all food is served in a timely manner.

Prepping meals or dishes beforehand is key to enjoying time with your guests, and enables you to be a guest as well. You wouldn’t want to miss the other stops because you’re still assembling your salad or entrée!

Keep the guest list minimal. Take into consideration all the houses involved. Can they comfortably host the same amount of people? How many guests can efficiently move between houses and not upset the schedule? You want a lively group, but also one that can pick up and go when it’s time to move on, i.e. invite your responsible friends.

Invitations

Progressives are about movement and participation. Take your invitations a step up from everyday email and get clever! For example, on a blank piece of cardstock, sketch the front entrance of each house, and below each print the address and what will be served at that address. Gently roll the cardstock into a scroll and tie with a decorative ribbon before delivering to guests.

Decorations

Minimal is the way to go. The real decoration comes from enjoying each home’s style and the way hosts present the food. If you’re feeling ambitious, each house could have a different palette of color to entice creativity, but the focus is on the friends and food for this type of party.

What to Serve

Here are some perfect meals and nibbles for your progressive dinner party.

House #1: Cocktails + Hors d’Oeuvres

What to drink:

And what to eat:

House #2: Soup + Salad

Soup’s up!

With a side of fresh salad:

House #3: Entrée

Here are some sure winners:

House #4: Dessert

Don’t get too full before this last stop! Try these mouth-watering treats: