Potlucks and Potluck Etiquette


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Potlucks and Potluck Etiquette

This is dedicated to my friend Renee´ because if not for her suggestion I never would have thought of this topic.


You may be talking to yourself saying things like “Where do I begin? I mean I really do want to have several people over and have them bring a dish but, how do I go about it?”

Well I hope you find your questions answered in this book.

Let’s begin.

To start with you need a date, time, and guest list. Secondly you need a menu. This is where a lot of people get stuck. I find it easier to plan a menu when you have a theme, for instance, Christmas.

Now that you have a theme you can plan the menu. Below I’ve given you a sample menu.


Roasted nuts

Potato chips

Dips (onion, ranch, spinach)

Vegetable tray

Fruit tray


Christmas dinner:




Mashed potatoes




Tossed green salad

Cranberry sauce

Green bean casserole

Jell-O salad

Sparkling cider



Apple Pie

Pecan Pie

Cheesecake bars

Cookies (especially if there’s a lot of kids)


As the host/ hostess it’s your place to supply the main dish(es), and tableware (plates, cups,  flatware, napkins, table cloths), at least some of the appetizers, and the basic condiments (butter, salt, and pepper).

if you decorate according to So for Christmas dinner you would supply the turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, butter, salt, pepper, plus the items listed above.

It's also fun to have a theme.

You may even want to have people dress in costumes, if it’s appropriate.


After you’ve made your menu, when you get RSVP’s you just write down their name next to the item(s) they’re bringing.

After that’s done you may find that you’ll need to revise your menu a bit and fill in the gaps.

For church or club potlucks it’s best to break up the last names by

Groups, such as A-D, E-H, I-L, M-P, Q-T,U-Z. Now you can assign each group a dish to bring (appetizers, main dish, side dish, bread, beverages). The church or club would be responsible for all tableware, condiments, coffee, and pitchers of water. If it’s a small group they may also put out a main dish and a dessert just as a buffer. Main dishes and desserts are probably the two most important items to be sure there’s plenty of to keep everybody happy.


Themes are a great way to help plan a menu. This is especially nice for church or club potlucks. It helps people to be able to come up with a dish to bring. I’ve found that if there isn’t a theme then you end up with a huge amount of desserts and not nearly enough of main or side dishes. This makes for a lot of grumbling adults and very hyper kids.

Here’s a list of different themes you may like to try:

All American


Family Heritage



Soup and Salads


There’s an etiquette associated with potlucks? Officially no, but in “my book” there is.

Just look back to the potlucks you have been to in the past.

One question that gets tumbled around is “Who goes to the front of the line?”

Here’s the answer.

Pregnant women and their families along with the elderly.

Why? You ask.

Here’s why.

Maybe you’re pregnant and by the time you get to the food you’re about to pass out from low blood sugar.

It’s hard enough for many elderly people to stand very long. They lose their balance easily so getting bumped into by someone running into them can cause them to fall and possibly break something. Besides they deserve to have some respect shown to them by letting them ahead of the line.

How many times have you been waiting in line and a couple of kids take four pieces of fried chicken that you know they’re not going to eat only to have them take a bite out of one and throw the rest away?

Maybe you’ve finished your real food and are ready for some dessert. So you go to get the one you’ve been waiting for only to have someone ahead of you take three or four desserts, and of course there’s nothing left of the one you wanted. Walking back to your seat you see several people have loaded up on desserts leaving several people without any?

To solve this problem parents of children nine years old or younger should dish up what they expect their child(ren) to actually eat for the meal before they get dessert. When their child(ren) is/are done with their food the parents should get some dessert for their child(ren). This way the kids eat a meal, get some dessert, and provided there was plenty of food and desserts brought in the first place everyone benefits and is happy.

In Closing

This is meant to be a guideline for those putting on or in charge of potlucks.

I did not include recipes.