How to Throw a Progressive Dinner Party

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We are coming up to one of our most anticipated family events of the year – the annual Progressive Christmas Dinner! It’s like your average holiday dinner party, only less work and more fun!

Have you ever heard of a progressive dinner party? It is so much fun it’s really quite simple to plan! I remember doing one back in my teen years when my parents attended a local church; we went from home to home, eating and socializing, then we sang carols in the last host’s neighborhood.

Well, I didn’t sing carols…I lurked in the back of the crowd and listened to Soul Asylum on my Discman.

Yeah, it was the 90’s.

What is a Progressive Dinner Party?

A progressive dinner party is a party where each course is eaten at a different host’s house — the guests progress from house to house. Hence, the name progressive dinner party! It’s a great way to keep one person from being too overwhelmed with all of the different aspects of hosting a big dinner party. Because each host only has to worry about one course, it becomes less stressful and more enjoyable!

And of course, party guests who don’t live close enough can always come and assist one of the hosts that is participating with their portion of the party.

How do you Organize a Progressive Dinner Party?

  • Divide courses over 3 or 4 homes that are relatively close to each other.
  • Options for the different homes:
    • cocktails
    • hor d’ourves
    • the main course
    • dessert
    • coffee
    • games, caroling, tree trimming
  • Design simple menus! Self serve buffet or finger foods are the easiest option, but you can do a sit down dinner if you want to! I always do a sit down dinner menu when I have the main course at my home, and with the right meal choice, it isn’t very difficult.
  • Easy Menu Ideas for Main Courses:
    • Crock Pot Beef Stew with salad and rolls
    • Finger sandwiches, veggie platters, fruit platters, cheese & crackers
    • Pinwheel sandwiches and petite Quiche
    • Baked Ziti or with salad and rolls
  • If you are having young children participate in the progressive dinner, have a table set up with easy holiday crafts, or make sure that there is a holiday themed movie or show on the television to keep them entertained!
  • Decorate your home! It’s so much fun to go from house to house and see all of the different decorations!


This year, the appetizer course will be served at my cousin’s house. Meanwhile, my great-aunt really wants to participate, but she lives in the next county over – it’s an hour drive away. So she plans on helping my cousin throw the appetizer portion of the party.

The main course will be served at my mom’s house. One of my sisters is going to head over to mom’s early and help her with the main course.


The dessert course will be served at my house. I love baking – especially holiday goodies – so it’s just the kiddies who will be helping me prepare for the “Quillen’s Sweet Shoppe” as I like to call it!

If we all aren’t too tired after three courses, we may head over to my aunt’s and uncle’s home across the street for a quick cup of joe at their “Coffee Shoppe.”

Have you even thrown a Progressive Dinner?

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  1. says

    Oh my gosh I LOVE these!! We joke that it is the “Baptist Way to Eat” LOL I loved seeing it on Desperate Housewives too… hmmm… I wonder if I can get enough neighbors together here in my little ‘hood… lol

  2. says

    I’ve never heard of a progressive dinner party, but it’s an interesting idea. Instead of one big mess at one person’s house – everyone gets a little bit to clean up afterwards 😉

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