How to Plan a Progressive Dinner

How to Plan a Progressive Dinner

Written By

Jen Brown

As we gear up for the upcoming holiday season, there’s no better time to reconnect with friends and neighbors—and a progressive dinner is a great and inexpensive way to get everyone together.

Let us first answer the most important question of this post: what is a progressive dinner? A progressive dinner is a traveling dinner party during which each course is eaten at the home of a different host. The great thing about hosting a progressive dinner with friends and neighbors is its versatility.  For example, my great aunt used to throw fabulous formal progressive dinners every year on New Year’s Eve. My family, on the other hand, used to coordinate dinners with our neighborhood and make it a family affair by getting the kids involved.

The goal for my progressive dinners is to make them easy to ensure that expenses are shared equally amongst all involved.  Since the host responsible for the main course tends to shoulder more of the costs than those making the first course or dessert, I usually ask the hosts for the first course and dessert to also provide the beverages for the evening.

Here are some tips and ideas to help you throw the perfect progressive dinner with your friends and family:

  1. Look for menu items that can be made ahead of time and reheated when guests arrive. Pop over to to see the recipe for my mother’s famous pot roast. This delicious, one-pot dish is inexpensive and easy to make in advance.
  2. Keep the home locations close: Try to avoid situations where you have to get in the car. If you do need to drive, make sure to establish a designated driver for the evening.
  3. To avoid the randomness of a pot-luck, I suggest sticking with a theme for the menu like Italian, classic comfort food, or Mexican to help keep the menu consistent.
  4. Make it a family affair by designing a menu that is a series of build-your-own stations, such as pizza or ice cream sundaes, and let the kids make their own.

A classic progressive dinner:

Host 1: (first course) Appetizers and First Course
Host 2: (second course) Main course and Sides
Host 3: (third course) Dessert and Cocktails

A breakdown for a six-home dinner:

If you really want to get the neighborhood together, consider extending the invitation to multiple hosts and take getting to know your neighbor to a whole new level. This requires a lot more coordination, but the payoff is absolutely worth it.

Host 1: makes first course, goes to home 5 and home 3
Host 2: makes second course, goes to home 1 and home 6
Host 3: makes third course, goes to home 4 and home 2
Host 4: makes first course, goes to home 2 and home 3
Host 5: makes second course, goes to home 4 and home 6
Host 6: makes third course, goes to home 1 and home 5

Key: First Course, Second Course, Third Course