Hit the road for an evening of creative eating and fun.
Beef Bourguignonne with Egg Noodles
Credit: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Melanie J. Clarke and Celine Chenoweth

If your supper club or group of friends is looking for a different way to entertain, try planning a progressive dinner. At this type of get-together, each course is served at a different home, so the party moves from one place to another during the course of the evening.

Here's how it works: The group splits into three teams--one for appetizers, one for the main course, and one for dessert. One person from each team hosts that group's course at his or her house. The evening begins with the entire group meeting at the first location for appetizers, then walking or driving to the other homes for subsequent courses.

Progressive dinner parties often spark a sense of friendly competition that can motivate each team to try to outdo the others. Plus, with a progressive dinner, everyone takes part so that one person isn't stuck with all the hosting duties. Best of all, it's easy to orchestrate. We've provided all the tips to get you moving.

How to Plan a Progressive Dinner Party

1. Teams

  • Divide your friends into three teams--one for each course. Limit yourselves to three changes of locale; it's too hard to visit more spots in one night.
  • Draw names out of a hat to determine teams. Or have three people volunteer to be hosts, and let them choose teams.
  • Split couples into separate teams to keep things interesting.
  • Keep teams to a manageable size (about three to six so you don't end up with 30 guests to feed.
  • Choose individual themes for each team or a single theme for the night. Entertain according to cuisine (Indian, French, etc.), culture (retro, book, or movie themes), or whatever members come up with. Or allow each team to choose a separate theme--like Mardi Gras appetizers (serve shrimp remoulade and Hurricane cocktails), mystery theater main dish (stage a murder mystery), and Love Boat desserts (mimic the midnight buffet on a cruise ship).

2. Locations

  • Pick homes that are close together and involve the least amount of travel time. Walking distance is ideal.
  • Though a progressive dinner works best for people who live in the same neighborhood or apartment building, you can also stage this type of party in one house. Visit a different room or location within the home for each course (for example, appetizers on the patio, main course in the dining room, and dessert on the upstairs deck).

3. Timing and Travel

  • A weekend night works best for this type of party because people will have all day to prepare and won't be rushing home from work.
  • Set specific times for each course, and try to stick to them. Once you get off schedule, it's pretty hard to get back on track.
  • Allow extra time for appetizers at the first stop (people will want to talk more when they first come together) and dessert (folks will linger at the finale).
  • Allow for travel time between houses.
    6:45 to 8:00--Appetizers at Lauren's
    8:10 to 9:10--Main course at Craig's
    9:20 until ?--Dessert at Emily's
  • If you need to drive between locations, assign driving duty a day or two ahead so you don't waste time making that decision the night of the party.
  • Provide a map, if needed.
  • The main-dish and dessert teams need to leave a little early to get to their stations for last-minute touches before the rest of the group arrives.

4. Housekeeping

  • Divide the recipes among team members so each person handles everything for one or two recipes.
  • Ideally, each team should get together the night before, or at least earlier in the day, and set the table.
  • Save receipts, and split costs among team members.
  • Figure out clean-up duties ahead of time. Either plan to get back together at the end of the night to help your team's host clean up, or do it first thing the next morning.

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