Throw a Progressive Dinner Party
There’s nothing swankier than a fabulous dinner party – but from the food and drinks to the decorations, the cost can add up quickly. What’s a poor party lover to do?
Plan a progressive dinner party! In a progressive dinner, each guest signs up for a single meal course (appetizer, entree, dessert, etc.) and then hosts the course in his/her own home. The guests move from one home to the next as the meal progresses.
Progressive dinners are a terrific way to spend an evening with friends, while reducing the expenses and time commitment to you as the party host. Instead of buying food for several courses, you commit to only one. And instead of cleaning up after a seven course meal, you’re only stuck with one course of dishes.
To organize a progressive dinner, contact your friends (3-7 individuals or couples works best) and set a date. Plan the number of courses according to the number of confirmed attendees. To avoid squabbles, ask each guest to provide a specific course – think, “Fran, I just love that pineapple upside-down cake you make. Could you handle the dessert course?” Asking everyone to pick their favorites may result in 3 entrees and no salads!
Also consider logistics when assigning meal courses. You may need to eat two courses in one location if an attendee lives more than a half hour away from the group – don’t let distance deter you from inviting fabulous people. Certain courses, like soup and salad, lend themselves to such pairings. You may also want to assign the final course strategically, ending at the home with the best entertainment system, hot tub or other special amenity.
After the courses have been assigned, devise a rough schedule and print out fun programs on your computer. Leave plenty of time for mingling at each location, but be sure to keep the evening on track. It’s also nice to arrange carpooling – especially given current gas prices. If any of your attendees drive SUVs or vans, ask if they’d be willing to drive guests around, perhaps in exchange for a few dollars of gas money.
With the logistics out of the way, get down to planning your course. An ideal dish for a progressive dinner is a simple one that requires little in the way of preparation. You don’t want your guests to wait for an hour while you put the finishing touch on your fancy French-sounding fish entrée. Think simple gazpachos, pasta dishes that can be left to warm in the oven and easy frozen desserts like parfaits or berries and cream.
On the subject of beverages, it’s nice to offer simple beverages like water, soda, iced tea or lemonade at each stop throughout the meal.You may request that all attendees make these available in their homes or request that guests bring a water bottle or travel mug to carry with them. If an attendee has a flair for bartending, you might request that he/she prepare a course of cocktails and mixed drinks. A wine connoisseur might help supply a bottle of wine complementary to the main entrée as his/her course of the meal.
Above all, a progressive dinner should be an opportunity to spend quality time with friends in an innovative (and inexpensive) fashion.
Go with the flow on the night of your event and don’t stress out over the little details. Sit back and enjoy a night of friends, food and fun.