What is (and How to Throw) a Progressive Dinner Party

Has someone recently brought up a progressive dinner part and you had no idea what they were talking about? Don’t worry, we your best progressive dinner ideas.
progressive dinner party fun

When we first moved into our new house one of my neighbors suggested throwing a Christmas progressive dinner party (which has become an annual event in our hood). 

At first I had no idea what a progressive dinner party was.  So, I got my computer out and sat down at the table and started looking for progressive dinner ideas. 

Let me tell you right off: it’s all the fun of a dinner party without all the work and cost on you!  

So, what is (and how to throw) a progressive dinner party?

Be sure to check out our extra little goodie – free printable invitations to personalize!

Simply put, a progressive dinner party is a dinner party shared among houses and families.  The dinner can be as many family or friends as you want; five courses will about cover it.  

If you invite four families to participate you will be going to four different houses over the course of a party, including yours.


First, figure out who you are going to invite.  I know, duh.  I suggest walking distance if you are serving alcohol, which is going to happen in my circle of friends.

progressive dinner party fun

Second, pick a theme.  Here are some progressive dinner ideas:

  • Christmas/December
  • New Years/January
  • Valentines/February
  • St. Patrick’s Day/March
  • Easter/April
  • Cinco de Mayo or Mardi Gras/May
  • End of Year (school)/June – who doesn’t love that!
  • Forth of July/July
  • Back to School/August
  • Labor Day/September
  • Halloween/October
  • Thanksgiving/November

Think of it like this: holiday themes are times when you find yourself having dinner with friends and family.

Progressive dinner parties are those times too, but can also be anytime you want to have a get together.  

Throw a progressive dinner for a girls night or any sports like Super Bowl.

Be sure to check out our extra little goodie – free printable invitations to personalize!

Third, assign meal courses.  One of my neighbors is deserts and another is appetizers.  I’ve tried to bid for those in the past; it doesn’t work, so I usually end up with a side(s) or soup and salad.


  1. Appetizers
  2. Soup & Salad (combine with house one for “Starters & Spirits”)
  3. Main Course
  4. Sides (bring to number threes house)
  5. Deserts
progressive dinner party drinks

Drinks are optional.  I find cocktails with Number One, Three and Five to work well.

A five course meal can last for hours especially if you are visiting and plan to play a game/gift exchange.

Laughing Games Only, which is where I first learned to play Cards Against Humanity

White Elephant Gift Exchange (you can find great gift ideas under $20 on there site too.)

Cocktails Only (e.g., a set of wine glasses or a nice bottle of wine, etc.)

Finally (optional), throw in a gift exchange.   There are ideas for all occasions; limit gift giving to households/couples.  For Christmas you can do a themed gift exchange like:


progressive dinner party gift exchange
  • Host a small Adult Easter egg hunt during April
  • Beads and More during Marti Gras
  • Super Bowl t-shirt Exchange and so on….

Keep if fun and plan around gift ideas that you know all the participants will enjoy.


Because you are cramming a lot of “together-time” over several hours the dinner needs to be organized or you will start to lose track of time.

Games or gift exchanges are time extenders….like children when you are trying to watch a movie.

The first year we had our Christmas progressive party we spent most of our time chatting and eating ALL the appetizers.  

If you are planning the dinner, it will be your responsibility to keep things moving!

Backstory: a neighbor of ours has a Bocce court.  As a result, after a few hours of cocktails and eating, we are more than willing to blow off desert after being caught up in a game of Bocce Ball.  

That being said, be mindful of the time and pad some time for games or gift exchanges.  Gifts and games work best at the end if you don’t want your guests to feel rushed.

Here are some cute invitations or print your own free Progressive Dinner Party Invitations by signing up below, you’ll also get access to all of Domesticating Scout’s project ideas and resources!

If you’re have a kids party coming up, check out our Star Wars Theme Birthday Party Ideas.

Be sure to check out our extra little goodie – free printable invitations to personalize!


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