Progressive Dinner: How to Get Started & Party Luminaries!

For 5 years now, the same 4 couples have participated in a progressive dinner the first Saturday of every December. I would say it’s become a tradition. When I wrote at (In)Courage about party invitations, readers really shared their hearts. Some really shared gut-wrenching stories of the pain involved with friendships, dinner invites, getting invited or not getting invited. I really appreciated the authenticity and I hope that the advice in my post helped.

Basically, when it’s all said and done, the party starts with us. We need to create our own happiness and invite others in!

The group of friends who have been a part of this progressive dinner tradition are very special people to me. It’s something we look forward to each year because we get to enjoy time in each other’s homes by spreading the food and love over a 5-6 hour timeframe. It’s really wonderful!

How to plan a progressive dinner:

-Find 5-6 friends that you know you’d love to spend an entire evening with.

-After you establish the group, set the time and date and plan who will serve what course.

-Move from house to house for each course and enjoy every moment.

-Be prepared to really get to know your friends.

Today I’m sharing with you Cindy’s special touches for the evening (and her course, appetizers).

Along with serving scrumptious “appetizers,” and a really fun atmosphere and Christmas spirit, Cindy had her walkway lined with luminaries as we walked up.

It totally set the mood for what was ahead!

Luminaries are a classic holiday decoration. They’ve been around for years, and for as much beauty as they bring, they are unbelievably simple to make, with just a few inexpensive items that you might already have in your home.

How to make luminaries:
-Votive candles (for long burning, or if you plan to burn for a short amount of time, which works perfectly for a progressive dinner, use tea lights)
-White or brown paper bags, lunch-sized
-Sand or kitty litter
-Long lighter (like you’d use for the grill)

The first hour of our night was so festive and bright! Stay tuned this week and next as I’ll be sharing 3 more courses that went along with this dinner party.

Do you have a special traditional holiday dinner party (or open house?) that you host each year?

Share the details — I’d love to hear!

Here are the links to all 4 courses. Take a peek and start dreaming of your own party:
Main Course

27 comments on “Progressive Dinner: How to Get Started & Party Luminaries!”

  1. I am planning a progressive surprise 50th birthday party for my husband. There will be about 40 guests . The party will begin with appetizers at one of our daughter’s townhouse , then move along the lighted path about six doors down to my other daughters’s home for the main course , then back down the lighted path to the first location for dessert. Wish me luck!

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  7. I’m going to jump in here, and suggest using your slow cooker for the main course. That’s a great option. Plus, when we do ours, the next person who’s hosting, leave’s a few minutes before the rest of us. It’s so much easier to only be responsible for one part of the meal, rather than the whole thing.

  8. What a wonderful tradition. I love luminaries and put them out along the front walk on special occasions and holidays. So beautiful

  9. I remember going to a progressive dinner a couple times with my family when I was little, but haven’t been part of one as an adult.

    I’m an over-planner and am the type to back away from hospitality because all the details (which would have to be JUST right) are overwhelming.

    Can you explain the logistics of a progressive dinner? It would be easy for the first house, but for all the other houses… how do they get their food ready and everything if they haven’t been there?? Obviously, the table can bet set before hand, but what about the hot food?

    I think a progressive dinner sounds like fun, but I haven’t been able to wrap my head around how to make it go really well. It’s probably much simpler than I’m making it.

    Thank you!

  10. This year we are adding in a whole new family! :) Each year, well actually, each major event we all meet around our gorgeous big dining table and share amazing times together, I grab my trusty marker and write a little para about the event on the underside of the table, date it, mark who was there and what we ate. We have hundreds of amazing events all marked for our memories! Its wonderful! So, I guess this isn’t a holiday tradition, but defo a family tradition we share with our friends and family!

    PS: Love progressive dinners, am mid throw planning a giant progressive dinner for 100 people.

  11. I love progressive dinners! We ahve one in the neighborhood but usually in the Spring or Fall. I would love to have a “Tree Tour”!!! What a great idea. Might try this next year!!!!!!!! XO, Pinky

  12. What a fantastic idea! I would love to do a progressive dinner party with my friends. It looks like you’re having such a good time and that you have fostered some lasting friendships – that will happen over good food!

  13. Love the warmth of a lighted walkway. So thankful for people who still open their home for others to gather.

    Merry Christmas! You shine bright.

  14. Wow, are the houses in walking distance? if not does that seem to hamper the spirit? I love the luminaries.. I have some friends in mind.. this could really be a lot of fun! Thanks for the great idea..

  15. This is beautiful Sandy! I have been wanting to do another progressive party for awhile now, thanks for the ideas! I love the luminaries, I’ve always used my mason jars for the same reason. It is so festive!!

  16. What a nice idea! I had never thought of that, or of the “tree tour”.

    For the past few years we’ve been hosting what we call “Thanksmas” – right in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, where I’d cook a traditional Thanksgiving type meal (it all started with the free turkey at the supermarket!) but we’d be celebrating Christmas. It got to be a little much, where I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the party because of all the cooking and cleanup. So instead, this Saturday we’re hosting an hors d’oeuvres and desserts party in order to make life a little easier – I’ll still be providing the food (and, unlike parties past, I’ll be looking for semi-homemade as much as possible), but I hope to be able to enjoy the company this time around! *fingers crossed*

  17. Fun! I love the idea of a progressive dinner party. We have a Gourmet Group in our neighborhood that meets once a month- there are 9 couples! Big dinner- we all bring a dish and take turns hosting and planning.

  18. I’ve always loved this Progressive Party idea. Just haven’t ever done it! So this year I organized it for my bunko group with a little spin. It’s kind of a cross between a tour of homes/progressive party. Since there were more that wanted to participate and we all live on the same stretch of street… we’re going to start at my house at 5pm and just spend 30 mins at each persons house. With each host serving whatever they’d really like… perhaps a fave, family tradition, or just something easy. Most people are all transplants, and we all feel like no one ever sees our homes decorated for Christmas, so thought this would be a good idea.

    I’m nervous to be the one organizing it, I hope it goes well and becomes a tradition.

    I love those luminaires. I thought for our little walk down the street, it would be fun to have something like that to carrying and set outside each house (not sure of the real feasibility of it)… but with 2 toddlers I think that would put me in WAY over my head to pull off before we do this next weekend!

    Thanks for sharing!

  19. Any chance we could get the recipe for the two appetizers? They look fabulous!

  20. My neighborhood Bunco group puts down the dice for the month of December and holds a gift exchange (the Chinese kind, with lots of swapping and vying for the gift you love that keeps getting taken by someone else). Everyone brings an appetizer and the host provides drinks, dessert and the festive atmosphere. It is a lot of fun, no stress as everyone is doing their part. I am hosting this year, and can’t wait.

  21. Love these and who knows- perhaps we can swing one here when the weather gets better (using public transportation to get from one place to the next!! ha!)! Love your friend’s little plate there- how cute!

    • It’s really fun to hear the stories about the decorations/plates/napkins … I loved these little plates, too.

  22. I mentioned our Tree Tour yesterday over at Incourage….I started it several years back as a way for us to see each other’s tree’s over the holidays, and then we decided to break it into a progressive dinner. There are three families and we do about 90 minutes at each place. We start with drinks and appies at the first stop….move onto a main course…usually something in her slow cooker ….then finish with dessert at my place. We all think it’s the best way to entertain. Only having to focus on one part of the meal makes it seem so much more fun, and less stressful. It’s definitely one of our favorite holiday traditions.

    • Jennifer, that’s a fun spin on a progressive dinner – call it a Tree Tour! Sounds like a wonderful tradition. Thanks for sharing and I totally agree with it being “less stressful.” :)

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