How To Host A Southern Style Potluck Dinner Party

It’s tablescape day friends! Today, I’m sharing how to host a southern style potluck dinner party.

Since I am a born and raised southern girl, I was super excited about this theme.

Getting creative with my table decor is so fun to me, and all the ideas that are iconic of the South were swirling around in my head.

fruit pattern transferware plate with magnolia leaf at top embroidered napkin woven placemat blue check tablescloth for southern potluck dinner

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In case you didn’t know, I am part of a monthly virtual dinner club.

Every month we choose a theme, and myself along with 5 other blogger friends, create a tablescape to go along with our theme.

It’s so fun to see all of the different ideas and interpretations that everyone has for the same theme.

We also create a menu to go with the theme and take turns with different courses of the meal each month.

I want to welcome Heidi from Eleanor Rose Home for joining as our guest host this month.

If you have missed the past few tablescapes you can see them by clicking on the photo below.

what is a potluck dinner?

In the south, a potluck dinner is fairly common, and is sometimes referred to as a “covered dish” supper.

It is basically a meal where everyone brings a dish of their choosing for everyone to enjoy.

It’s more about the fellowship, than the food.

Meaning, the gathering of friends is the focus and not necessarily the planning of the meal.

Potluck parties are great for a family reunion, large family gatherings, or even a neighborhood block party.

It’s a great way to serve a large crowd.

In some instances, like a church potluck, there might be a sign-up sheet for food, so there is enough variety of main dishes, side dishes and desserts.

You don’t want to have a large crowd and only have 1 entree, a few sides and tons of desserts.

A few examples of foods that you would typically see at potluck suppers in the south are fried chicken, green bean casserole, classic coleslaw, pasta salad, sheet cake, apple pie and fruit salad.

These are all classic comfort foods and you get a true taste of the south at a potluck gathering.

I like to make one of my favorite desserts, buttermilk pie, to these types of get togethers.

It is always a crowd pleaser.

how to host a southern style potluck dinner party

The great thing about potluck dinners is that it makes the dinner so much easier on the host.

You can focus more on your table set up instead of worrying about the food.

And the best part, for the guests, is that you bring whatever you want.

Just make your favorite recipe to share with everyone.

It’s all about the gathering and the community of friends than the menu or food itself.

However, you could certainly host a more planned potluck dinner. Invite guests to bring a particular course to the party.

The hostess would typically provide the drinks and tableware, and perhaps the main course.

You could prepare an easy recipe in your slow cooker to make it even more simple.

A potluck is meant to be a casual gathering, so you certainly don’t have to go all out on a tablescape.

But, since you will have extra time by not cooking all of the food, it’s a good time to get creative and have a little fun setting your table.

Potluck dinner parties are a fun way to host a last minute get together, since there doesn’t have to be a lot of planning involved.

place settings with a hint of the south

blue check tablecloth woven placemat transferware plate magnolia leaf topiary white covered dish for tablescape

For this southern style table, I started with a blue and white check tablecloth.

I chose woven placemats along with white dinner plates with a gold rim.

I love layering each place setting for added dimension and character.

These fruit pattern transferware plates seemed like the perfect addition to my southern table.

fruit pattern transferware plate with magnolia leaf at top embroidered napkin woven placemat blue check tablescloth for southern potluck dinner

Vintage napkins with a gold cross-stitched border were placed between the 2 plates.

A set of 6 of these napkins was thrifted a couple of years ago for only a few dollars.

fruit pattern transferware plate with magnolia leaf at top embroidered napkin woven placemat blue check tablescloth for southern potluck dinner

I have a collection of vintage silverware, and my favorite pieces have a monogram on them.

I just pick them up at estate sales, flea markets or antique stores anytime I see them for a good price.

It doesn’t even matter to me what the initial is, I just love the look.

And in case you didn’t know, monograms are a big thing in the South.

Most every southern woman owns something with a monogram!

I’m not a big fan of monograms on my clothing or accessories, but I do love a monogram on some vintage silverware.

iced tea in mason jar glass with ribbon tied on handle

Sweet tea is also a big thing in the south, and what better way to serve it than a mason jar with a handle.

This seemed like the perfect drinking glass for my southern tablescape.

I dressed it up a bit by tying a narrow brown striped ribbon to the handle of each glass.

The finishing touch to my Southern Style Potluck dinner table was a small branch of magnolia leaves on the top of each place setting.

Magnolia Trees are very iconic in the south. I don’t have a magnolia tree in my yard anymore, but luckily have a close friend and neighbor that was happy to share.

magnolia leaves beside transferware plate on woven placemat

southern style table centerpiece

overhead view of tablescape blue check tablecloth transferware plates woven placemats white covered dishes and topiaries and magnolia leaves in center of table for potluck dinner

Since this is a “covered dish” dinner, I decided to use some of my favorite white dishes that have a lid.

Some of them are just traditional casserole dishes and some are from my ironstone soup tureen collection.

I randomly placed the covered dishes down the center of the table.

To add height to my centerpiece and add a little uniqueness, I used some of my topiary collection sprinkled among the white dishes.

A couple of my topiaries are real and some are faux.

And to finish of my topiary and white covered dish centerpiece, I added several branches of magnolia leaves throughout the tablescape.

If you want to see how to make your own faux topiary, I have photos and instructions here.

faux topiary in clay pot

I’ve made lots of topiaries over the years using different types of greenery.

I’m not typically a fan of faux greenery, but I have found some that looks very realistic and sometimes that’s just the best option.

Especially if you are keeping them inside the house and don’t want to bother with live plants.

One way to create a very realistic topiary is using live boxwood branches. They will eventually dry out, but look very nice for quite a while and certainly looks more realistic than faux.

You can see photos and instructions on how to create your own topiary out of boxwood branches here.

boxwood topiary in weathered terra cotta pot on entry table display

ideas for setting a dinner party table on a budget

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to entertain and to set a beautiful table.

Hosting a potluck or covered dish dinner is a perfect way to save some money since you won’t be responsible for all of the food.

If you enjoy hosting often, it’s a good idea to start collecting things that you would often use in your table settings when you see them for a good price.

I like to do this by picking things up at thrift stores and flea markets.

The only things in my Southern style tablescape that were not purchased second hand are the woven placemats, the topiaries and one covered casserole dish.

I have a collection of white dinner plates that I have collected over time at thrift stores.

I don’t ever pay more than about $2.00 per plate.

The white dinner plates will go with any season, theme or color scheme, so they are a great thing to have on hand.

I like to use patterned or seasonal salad plates layered on top of the white dinner plates to add character to my tables.

Those can often be picked up at second hand stores, as well.

Here are a few examples of patterned or seasonal plates I have used for past tablescapes.

Table linens, fabric napkins, vintage silverware and serving pieces like covered dishes, platters and serving bowls can often be found at second hand shops or estate sales.

Vases and vessels for flower arrangements for a table centerpiece are also easy to come by.

And don’t underestimate what a $5.00 bundle of grocery store flowers can do.

By adding some fresh greenery or branches from your yard, you can create a beautiful and budget friendly arrangement for the center of your table.

our dinner club southern style potluck menu

Here’s a peak at the menu for our Southern style potluck supper this month. Be sure and check back on Saturday for all of the amazing recipes.

Refreshing Watermelon Crush

Southern Deviled Eggs with Bacon

Southern Shrimp and Grits

Easy Potato Salad with a Southern twist

Easy Cornbread with Cake Mix

Microwave Coconut Cream Pie

things you should know about the South

Sweet tea is a staple.
Barbeque is a food group.
The phrase “bless your heart” is not a compliment
Saturday’s in the fall are for college football.
Ya’ll is actually a word.
And porch sittin’ is therapy.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these ideas for how to host a southern potluck dinner party.

Be sure and stop by and see all of my friends for even more inspiration for hosting your own southern style event.



If you enjoyed the post, be sure and Pin It to remember it…

fruit pattern transferware plate with magnolia leaf at top embroidered napkin woven placemat blue check tablescloth for southern potluck dinner


  1. Oh my goodness, Michele! Your tablescape is stunning! I love every single detail, especially the magnolia stems. Just gorgeous.

    1. Thanks so much Renae! I really enjoyed this southern theme.

  2. Your table is so gorgeous Michele!!! Every detail is stunning from the tablecloth, napkins, plates, and magnolia leaves. You really thought of everything! I also loved how you shared a few fun facts about the south, I learned a few things I didn’t know. Thank you for including me in this month’s supper club, it’s an honor!

    1. Thanks so much Heidi! And I’m so glad you could join us. Your table was beautiful!

    1. Thank you so much Rachel! Such a fun theme this month.

  3. The color scheme of your table is so pretty Michele. I love how you used the magnolia leaves around your tablescape. Pinned.

    1. Thanks so much AnnMarie! I really enjoyed creating this southern theme table.

  4. Stacy Ling says:

    Michele! Your tablescape is beautiful! So southern and cozy!

    1. Thanks so much Stacy! This southern girl enjoyed this theme.

    1. Thank you sweet friend! I really appreciate that!

  5. This just has Southern charm written all over it, Michele. I love the contrasting colors with the blue and the brown. The plates are beautiful, and the magnolia leaves are the perfect finishing touch. Pinned!

    1. Thanks so much Jen! I really enjoyed this theme.

  6. Hi Michele – I am sharing this on my monthly Sky Lark House Unboxing post. Love the idea!

    1. Thanks so much Anna, I really appreciate that. I’m so sorry I am just now seeing this. I have been traveling the past couple of weeks and I am so behind.

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