How it works
Here is a good explanation of how to do it as a dinner date with friends:
This party style works especially well for friends who live close to one another. It's even better if you are actually neighbors because then everyone can walk from home to home without worrying about organizing cars and designated drivers. It also facilitates digesting between courses!
When planning your dinner, you should schedule no more than 3-4 courses. Beyond that the logistics become too complicated with too much time wasted on traveling. Plan on at least a three hour evening, in order to allow for 45 minutes to an hour at each stop.
Here are suggestions for potential courses:
Hors d'oeuvres and cocktails
An appetizer course
A first course such as soup, salad or pasta
The main course
Make it Fun
Some groups hold monthly Progressive Dinners with a different theme each month. Each dinner courses responsibilities can be rotated among participants, or everyone can always be responsible for their favorite course. You can pick holiday themes, seasonal themes or different cuisines for each dinner. Tie-in your decorations with the recipes, asking each host home to use decorations representing the nationality of the course they are serving, or picking up on your seasonal theme. Or make the menu items challenging by preparing alphabetical dishes, e.g. the first home prepares an appetizer beginning with the letter A, the second home prepares a main dish beginning with the letter B, and so forth. The next month continue with the letter where you left off in the previous dinner. Good luck to the host who gets the letter X! Whatever you do, have fun with it!
Large Group Suggestions
If you are doing this with a large group maybe a group of women from church the hors d'oeuvres course could be held with everyone gathered in one home or location such as the church. Then the group splits off into small groups for the next two courses in volunteers' homes. At the end of the evening the whole group reconvenes in a large home or facility to share dessert. If this is the case, some people might be asked to bring appetizers and a side dish, others might prepare a side dish and dessert. The members hosting the main course have no other responsibilities.
Drawbacks and Tips
From my experience, and after checking with friends who have participated in progressive dinners, there are several drawbacks to this plan. Unlike a potluck dinner where everyone brings food to one location, every host has to prepare his home for receiving guests, as well as having the cleanup afterwards. Also, it can be difficult to move people out of a home to go to the next course when the party is really rolling along. Finally, unless you pick the right recipes, the host for the subsequent course generally has to cut her current course short to run home and get ready for the next round. With all of that in mind, here are some final tips for hosting one of these dinners:
2.Never plan on more than three changes of locale.
3.Choose recipes that can be made ahead and simply reheated and served when the guests arrive. There's no time to fuss in the kitchen when everyone needs to get up and leave within the hour.
4.Set your table prior to leaving your home for the first course.
******some ideas from entertaining.about.com