How to Host a Progressive Dinner – Bon Appetit!

Our lives often get busy. Between work, school, and everything else on our schedule, there isn’t always time to spend with friends. No matter how busy you get, occasionally you need to just stop and have some fun. One great way to do this is to host a Progressive Dinner.

A Progressive Dinner is one where four to six friends have dinner together. But instead of going to a restaurant, each person hosts one of the dinner courses at their home.

How A Progressive Dinner Works

a table filled with pizza, tortillas, and other appetizers

A Progressive Dinner is where you move from home to home to enjoy a single course of a meal. Each person who participates is required to prepare the food and drinks customarily served for that course.

For this type of entertainment, you would need to set aside several hours. Instead of enjoying a full meal in one place, there is travel involved – even if it means simply walking from one house to the next.

The host or hostess in each case will also need a few moments to at least store any leftovers, and rinse off the dirty dishes.

How Many Courses?

a yellow plate filled with grilled sausage slices and a bowl of spicy mustard

When you go to a restaurant, the menu often offers several courses. The four most common courses of a meal include:

  • Appetizers
  • Salad
  • Main Dish
  • Dessert

These are the courses for a simple meal. In a semi-formal menu, there would be a soup course between the appetizers and salad. Once the dessert was completed, cheese would be offered.

In a formal setting, there could be as many as 11 courses, one of which would be fish between the salad and main dish. To host a Progressive Dinner of this size would take all day or run well into the wee hours of the next morning.

In keeping with your goals to live a Simple Life, it may be easier to stick to the basic four. However, there could be a fifth ‘course’ you could add if you just want to stretch your fun a little bit later! (Keep reading to find out about this fun course!)

Setting Up Your Progressive Dinner

Menu for a progressive dinner

When you host a Progressive Dinner, determine how many courses you want to offer, and talk with friends who would be interested in participating. These can be single friends, couples, or even family.

Assign each participant a course. Explain that they would be responsible for serving any food and drinks that would be customary for that portion of the meal.

The next step would be to set a menu. Find foods that would work together yet wouldn’t take a tremendous amount of prep and baking time.

The one who has appetizers, salads and desserts have it the easiest. As the appetizers are the first course, the hostess would be on hand to take things out of the oven once the guests arrived.

blue bowl filled with strawberries, spinach, croutons, feta cheese

Salads can be prepared ahead of time and placed in the refrigerator. If you are serving a cold or frozen dessert, these can be kept cool as well.

The hostess assigned to the Main Dish course would need to determine a meal that could be quickly re-heated, cooked in a crock pot, or have someone at home who can attend to the stove as the meal bakes.

Another option is to allow the next hostess in line to leave the previous meal a few minutes early in order to take care of any finishing touches they may need to make.

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Menu Suggestions for a Progressive Dinner

There are quite a few menu options when you host a Progressive Dinner. But rather than have someone step outside their comfort zone and make a Chicken Cordon Bleu when they have trouble boiling water, it may be better to keep it simple.

When planning a menu, keep in mind the skill level of the others in the group. In some cases, you also need to consider their available time they would have to prepare their course. Choose a basic menu and ask for their input as to what course they want, and the food they would like offer.

Here are a few menu options you can serve:

white bowl filled with Pesto pasta on a red and white checked cloth


  • Appetizer – Brushetta
  • Salad – Green with Italian Dressing
  • Main Dish – Lasagna; Spaghetti; Cannelloni
  • Dessert – Flavored Frozen Ices; Tiramisu; Chocolate-dipped Biscotti


  • Appetizer – Chips served with Salsa & Guacamole
  • Salad – Green topped with diced Tomatoes, Grated Cheese, and Tortilla strips; House Dressing
  • Main Dish – Enchiladas; Tamales; Quesadillas
  • Dessert – Ice Cream; Sopapillas

white bowl filled with Crawfish Etouffee


  • Appetizer – Oven cooked Sausage slices served with Spicy Mustard
  • Salad – Mixed Greens with assorted Dressings
  • Main Dish – Gumbo; Crawfish Etouffee; Jambalaya; Rice
  • Dessert – Ice Cream (with or without toppings)

Super Simple:

These are just a few suggestions you can use for your menu. If your Progressive Dinner is taking place in the summer, consider picnic fare. If you are hosting it in the winter, consider doing soups and homemade breads.

To set your menu you only need to consider what everyone enjoys preparing and eating. And be sure to take into consideration any food allergies. If someone is allergic to shellfish, you can easily make Gumbo with chicken and sausage!

The Last Course – Fun and Games!

wooden box filled with dominoes and colorful plastic trains

You may have so much fun with your Progressive Dinner, you don’t want it to end. If this is the case, consider having a ‘Fifth’ course – fun and games!

This is a great course to offer if someone in your group doesn’t cook. Or it may be they want to participate but won’t have the time to prepare a food related course.

Having a Fun and Games course may be the perfect answer! At the end of the meal, the group can finish off the evening playing dominoes, a board game, or even cards.

However – whoever hosts this course will still need to provide some type of refreshment. This can simply be coffee, hot chocolate, or other drink options. The host can also put out small bowls of mints or other assorted candies.

Host A Progressive Dinner and Have Fun!

orange bowl filled with bread pudding topped with caramel sauce

When you host a Progressive Dinner, you are offering a perfect way to have fun with a group of friends. It is less time consuming than preparing an entire meal. A single course is less expensive for each person. And it helps to build stronger relationships with the group.

And who knows? After you host a Progressive Dinner the first time, it may just become a monthly or quarterly gathering. And if it does, consider adding a holiday theme as well!

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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