Any kind of dinner party is my kind of dinner party; casual, formal, indoor, outdoor, in celebration of a special occasion or just because. Two weekends ago, some neighbor friends and I co-hosted a progressive dinner party – where we moved from house to house for each course. The idea came about one day when we were hanging out at our neighborhood pool and brainstorming ideas for getting our families together. After casually talking about it for weeks and weeks, we finally got it together and did it! And it was a totes fun. When I shared what we were doing with some friends and family members, I was surprised to learn that many of them had no clue what a progressive dinner was and so I thought I’d share it here for the world to see.
How to Throw a Progressive Dinner Party
Step 1: Decide on the hosts. For maximum good times, I’d recommend selecting at least 3, if not 5 families to participate. 90% of the fun is walking from house to house, so if you’re just a group of two families, then the ‘travel’ part of the evening is minimally exciting. We had 5 families participating in the dinner but we decided to just have 4 families host the dinner that evening because everyone has small children and we didn’t want the evening to end too late. I should mention that we opted to include kids this time around but, obviously, this works for adults-only too (if not better!).
Step 2: Select a Theme. Things are always more interesting when there’s a theme! Plus it takes a lot of the guesswork out of planning and it lends a feeling of cohesiveness to the evening even through multiple changes in setting. Because this was our fist attempt, we went with Mexican, because it’s a relatively easy cuisine to make and HELLO? Who doesn’t like Mexican food? Cheese + Carbs = YES.
Step 3: Select a Date. This was probably the hardest part of the whole shebang. Five families with eleven kids between us? Imagine the schedules going on. Naturally, I double-booked myself and had a slight panic attack when I realized that I had agreed to participate on the exact same day as Oprah’s “The Life You Want” Weekend – I ended up having to miss the first course. We used Doodle to poll everyone for availability and that was super easy to use. Pro tip: check all three of your calendars before committing to a date. (Lesson learned).
Step 4: Assign the Courses. There should be some strategy to this part of the planning because you want the flow of the meal to be in line with the location of your houses. For example, you don’t want to have appetizers at one house, the main course 3 blocks over and then back to the original street for dessert (especially if you have little feet to consider). We started with the house furthest away from the street where the bulk of us lived for appetizers and cocktails, then we followed with the salad and kid dinner course, the main course, and then dessert, all on the same street. Each house had an adult beverage and the kids had toys in each place to occupy themselves with (i.e. throw all over the place). By the time we got to the last house for dessert, it was around 9pm so my neighbors put on a movie to get the kids to settle down.
We spent about an hour at each house and allotted 15 minutes in between each course for travel time.
BONUS! Step 5: Tell Your Husbands. At least two of the 5 husbands claimed to have no idea what was going on and that they weren’t told about the dinner plans. It’s entirely possible. It’s also entirely possible that “they” ignored one of the 11,000 times we told them about it and the entries on “their” iCals. Ahem.
By all accounts, it was a roaring success. In fact, we already have a date and theme for the this month’s: German in honor of Oktoberfest. (see also BEER!)
Talk to Me.