Throwing a progressive dinner party is less work than a traditional seated meal, but it still requires some effort -- group effort, that is. There will be multiple hosts and homes, so you'll need at least one planning meeting to coordinate the courses and theme.
Recruiting other hosts could be as simple as asking your next-door neighbor to serve cocktails -- or as complicated as convincing a casual acquaintance to dish up a main course. If you have a reluctant host, suggest that he or she cater the first course. This way, the host can prepare the appetizers in advance and simply welcome guests as they arrive.
As for the guests, you could stick to your tried-and-true circle of friends or invite a mix of old friends and new acquaintances. For example, you could introduce fellow employees to longstanding friends or welcome a new couple to your neighborhood. While the typical size of a progressive dinner party is six to 10 people, it could easily accommodate dozens of guests, too. If you've invited a crowd, it might work better to serve appetizers en masse at a central location, then break out into smaller groups that travel from home to home round-robin style.
The invitation for a progressive dinner party will be more detailed than most because it needs to include the time each course is expected to begin, as well as the name and address of each host. If guests are driving or walking in unfamiliar territory, you may want to include cell numbers for each host -- just in case someone gets turned around. Let guests know they're welcome to come for whichever courses they like, but be prepared to serve everyone every course.
To make your progressive dinner party a more cohesive event, plan it around a theme. For example, a romantic theme makes sense if your party is scheduled mid-February, as does a Cinco de Mayo theme around the fifth of May. Or you could ring in the New Year with your mobile party.
A theme that centers on a geographic location may simplify a few of the planning decisions. If you select Italy as your theme, the wine, food and decor all seem to fall into place. However, another very real question still remains: What about cost? On the next page, find out how much each host can expect to spend.