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Hosting Thanksgiving dinner is a ton of work, and you want it all to go smoothly.

However, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming and stressful. Whether this is your first Thanksgiving or you’ve hosted too many to count, you’ll want our Thanksgiving hosting guide to make your event a breeze.

Read on for our tips and ideas to host an unforgettable Thanksgiving and thoroughly impress your guests!

Get Organized and Create a Plan

Since there is so much that goes into hosting a big Thanksgiving dinner, you’ll want to create a detailed plan in advance.

Create a checklist of everything that needs to get done for the big day. 

Include things like…

  • Send out invitations
  • Confirm guest list
  • Take inventory of supplies
  • Create a theme, decor, and color scheme
  • Plan the menu
  • Go grocery shopping
  • Set up decor and table settings
  • Prep dishes

Get out a calendar and figure out what days you’ll take care of each task to keep yourself ultra-organized. Below we’ll cover in more detail the things you’ll want to include on your checklist and calendar.

Keep in mind that it’s ok if not everything goes to plan. Still, it’ll prevent you from forgetting or overlooking anything, and you won’t be left rushing last minute.

What’s Your Theme?

The best events often incorporate a theme. You may be thinking that Thanksgiving is a theme on its own, but to determine the aesthetic of your event, consider a few questions.

What do you want the mood and atmosphere to be like? How do you want your guests to feel?

Your answers might be…

  • Casual and comfortable
  • Elevated and elegant
  • Kid-friendly and fun

The theme can revolve around a specific aesthetic – like coastal or rustic – or it can be inspired by a pattern, material, or color pallet. This will help you plan the rest of the event, like your decor, table settings, and menu.

Have fun with this process, and think about what represents your style and personality.

What Can You Do Ahead of Time?

When you’re putting together a calendar and checklist, you’ll want to think about what you can do ahead of time. You certainly don’t want to be scrambling to get everything done the day of.

Here are some of the things you can prepare in the weeks and days before Thanksgiving:

  • Holiday Decor
  • Table settings
  • Shopping for groceries and supplies
  • Food prep – chop and measure everything in advance, which will save you a lot of time when cooking
  • Make room in your fridge

Also, ask yourself if any dishes can be made the day before. Cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, casseroles, certain dips, spreads, and salads can be made a day in advance. Also, consider buying some things pre-chopped or pre-made to save yourself cooking time.

Get Your Home Ready for Hosting Thanksgiving

Aside from planning your Thanksgiving dinner, you’ll also want to make sure your home is ready for guests.

You’ll want to consider a welcoming entryway and fall decorations throughout your home. These will help set the tone and atmosphere of your event. Think fall branches, pumpkins, and autumnal florals to create a festive mood.

Will you have guests that stay overnight? 

If so, you’ll want to make sure your guest room(s) are ready with fresh linens, towels, toiletries, and extra blankets – all the necessities your guests will need to be comfortable.

Do you have all the supplies you’ll need like serving platters, utensils, and dinnerware? You’ll want to do inventory a week or two beforehand, so you’re not running to Pottery Barn the day before.

If you have a larger group, consider if you need to rent anything like extra tables, chairs, linens, plates, glassware, or silverware. Sometimes renting is the way to go rather than having to buy everything and then store it to use only once a year.

When you send out invitations or follow-ups, ensure your guests know what to expect – what time they should arrive and the basic itinerary for the evening. This helps you plan the flow and timeline of the event.

Know if your guests have any dietary restrictions, allergies, or special needs you’ll have to accommodate. And if you don’t want them in the kitchen while you’re still preparing dinner, then make sure they have something to do. Have a bar area ready, games to play, or the football game on TV.

Plan Your Thanksgiving Table Setting

Another element you’ll want to plan in advance is your Thanksgiving table setting. A table setting is one of the components that can take an event from ordinary to memorable.

Consider questions like… 

  • Will everyone fit comfortably at one table or will you need multiple tables?
  • Where do you want people to eat, and how will the food be served?
  • Will they be indoors or outdoors?
  • How will dinner be served?

This will help you decide the number of tables you’ll need and where they should be located.

Think about how to enhance your Thanksgiving table to impress your guests, while showing off your taste and personality.

Do you like a traditional floral centerpiece with autumn hues, like rich crimson, burnt oranges, and golden yellows?

Or perhaps you like a minimal setting with clean lines, simple candles, and accents.

We love Rachel Parcell’s table setting with a stunning centerpiece of faux eucalyptus branches, gold-rimmed lanterns, pumpkins, and gold candle votives. Simple and sophisticated it pairs perfectly with elegant dining ware.

Planning out dining and seating before the big event will also help you identify if you’re missing anything – like if you’ll need more serving platters, glasses, or silverware.

Plan Out Your Thanksgiving Menu

One of the most important elements of your Thanksgiving dinner is the food! (and drinks, of course).

Here are our tips to ensure you’ll serve a dinner that’ll please everyone.

Keep it simple. Don’t go overboard and make 3 types of potatoes, or soup and salad for your starters. Remember that each dish requires more groceries, prep, and planning.

Be sure to create a plan that’s realistic for you to execute.

We recommend cooking tried and true recipes that you’re familiar with. It doesn’t mean you can’t get creative and try something new; just avoid being too adventurous. If every dish you make is an experiment, then it could end up a disaster. Try 1-2 new things, like a signature cocktail, appetizer, side dish, or dessert.

Compare what dishes you’re making versus what dishes people are bringing – making sure there is a good balance and no overlap. If you have a large group, it’s fun to have variety, like 2 types of stuffing, but you don’t want to end up with 4 different kinds of sweet potatoes and no stuffing.

If you’re feeling stuck, here’s a sample menu that’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser:

Once your menu is set, divide your grocery shopping list into perishables and non-perishables. Non-perishable items can be purchased 1-2 weeks in advance while perishables can be picked up 1-2 days before Thanksgiving. Don’t leave your shopping to the day of because most stores will either be closed or out of essentials.

When deciding what size turkey to buy, the rule of thumb is to have ¾-1 lb per person. Also, ensure you have enough drink options for everyone in both nonalcoholic and alcoholic options – wine, cocktails, beer, soda, sparkling water, etc.

Don’t forget to plan for leftovers. If you want to send food home with your guests, make sure you have enough to-go containers.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help

Hosting any meal is a lot of pressure, not to mention a major holiday like Thanksgiving. But you don’t have to do it all on your own. Accept help and be sure to delegate tasks or dishes to others. If you have kids, get them involved!

Even if you want to do most of the cooking yourself, you can still enlist others to bring drinks, ice, appetizers, dessert, or backup serving dishes.

The more you plan ahead and delegate, the less stressful it’ll be.

Don’t forget to, relax, have fun and enjoy yourself! You can’t control everything, and some things may not go as planned. But don’t stress and go with the flow.

Happy hosting!

Marlaina Teich Design is a full-service interior design firm serving Long Island and the New York City Metropolitan area. If hosting Thanksgiving has made you realize you’d like to update the design of your home, get in touch with us.

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