How To Host Thanksgiving

A step-by-step guide to host Thanksgiving.

How To Host Thanksgiving Dinner

There are three phases:

  1. Plan – determine the guest list, menu, decor, etc.
  2. Prepare – everything from cleaning your house to setting the table the night your guests arrive.
  3. Party – host and have fun! 

Phase 1: Plan For Thanksgiving Dinner

The planning phase of hosting Thanksgiving dinner includes:

  1. Invite guests
  2. Determine the menu
  3. Plan decor

Task 1: Invite Guests

Thanksgiving is all about inclusion, so make sure you consider significant others and friends of friends.

Once you’ve got your guest list, make it official by setting up a Facebook event or sending e-invites.

The invite should include when, where, and the RSVP date.

Also, be sure to request they let you know

  • if they are bringing a side dish
  • if they are bringing other friends
  • any dietary restrictions

Task 2: Set The Menu

Now that you know how many people will attend, along with any side dishes or desserts they are bringing, and dietary restrictions, you can determine the rest of the menu.

The number of apps, sides, desserts, etc. depends on the number of guests.

As a rule of thumb, choose:

  • 1 – 3 appetizers
  • 1 – 2 main dishes
  • 3 – 5 sides
  • 2 – 4 desserts

For more specific guidelines, check out my related post: How Much Food To Serve At Thanksgiving.

Task 3: Pick Decorations

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I used to never decorate for events.

However, I finally realized (better late than never, right?) that a little decor goes a long way, it doesn’t have to be expensive or take up too much storage space after the event.

Now, I choose 3 – 5 easy and affordable decor ideas and recommend you do the same. 

Pick them up from the store, set them up, and get them out of the way as early as possible, so you can move on and focus on food.

Affordable and practical decor ideas include:

Phase 2: Prepare For Thanksgiving Dinner

The preparing phase of hosting Thanksgiving dinner includes;

Task 1: Get Organized And Clean Up

This step can be broken out into 3 parts:

  1. Clean out the fridge and pantry
  2. Clean your house
  3. Decide on disposable or reusable tableware
Part 1: Clean Out The Fridge And Pantry

Go through your fridge and pantry and throw out anything that is expired, or no longer editable. 

Prioritize eating your leftovers. 

If you have nonperishables that aren’t expired, now is the perfect time to donate to your local food bank.

You’ll need all the fridge and space you can get.

This is a great activity to do before you go grocery shopping because it’ll help you determine what you already havea at home.

Part 2: Clean Your House

This is probably the least fun part when it comes to getting ready for Thanksgiving, but it must be done.

Tackle a few chores at a time, beginning at least a week in advance for efficiency and effectiveness.

Here’s what I recommend:

  • 2+ Weeks Before
    • Any home improvements on your to-do list
  • 1 Week Before
    • Dust
    • Wash bedding
    • Clean bathrooms
  • 3 Days Before
    • Vacuum
    • Clean kitchen (yes, it’s going. to get dirty again, but trust me, it still makes a big difference)
  • Night Before
    • Quick vacuum to get any new/big stuff since Monday
    • Quick kitchen whip down
Part 3: Decide On Reusable Or Disposable Tableware

Will you be serving dinner with paper products? If not, make sure you have enough dinner plates and silverware for your guests.

Do you have enough casserole dishes, serving platters, etc. for all your recipes? If not, make sure you add disposable aluminum tins or reusable glass casserole to your shopping list.

Task 2: Go Grocery Shopping

I recommend two trips to the grocery store.

The first trip should be about 7 – 10 days before Thanksgiving and should include picking up the turkey and nonperishables.

The second trip should be 2 or 3 days before Thanksgiving and should include picking up the perishables, and anything you forgot during your last trip.

Try to pick up the bread on Thanksgiving day so it is the freshest.

Why You Should Make Two Trips To The Grocery Store For Thanksgiving.
  • It may take up to 4-6 days to fully defrost your turkey.
  • Having the bulk of your groceries ahead of time will help you feel less stressed the week before and allow you to prep in advance.
  • You probably forgot something. You made your list and checked it twice, but somehow you forgot the vanilla extract, which you need for your sweet potato casseroles and mini pumpkin pies.
    • Of course, it’s not the end of the world, and you may be thinking to yourself, does it really make a difference if I don’t add vanilla extract in these recipes?” (the answer is yes), so you’ll probably need a second trip even if you try to avoid it.

Task 3: Cook And Bake

I recommend cooking whatever you can in advance to save you time on Thanksgiving morning, as long as you don’t jeopardize freshness.

  • 2 – 3 Days Before
    • Prepare pie fillings (but don’t prepare the pie crusts yet).
    • Prepare cookie dough (but don’t bake them yet).
  • The Day Before
    • Prepare casseroles (but don’t bake them yet).
    • Prepare pie crusts and bake pies.
    • Bake cookies.
  • Thanksgiving Day (in chronological order)
    • Cook turkey
    • Cook ham
    • Bake mac ‘n’ cheese
    • Make mashed potatoes
    • Warm casseroles
    • Prepare salad
    • Slide bread
    • Warm up dishes at the last minute
    • Serve dinner and enjoy!

Task 4: Set Up

Set up primarily includes setting the dinner table (or buffet table), dessert table, and bar cart.

The great thing about these tasks is they can be done in advance. 

Phase 3: Party Time

The planning phase of hosting Thanksgiving dinner includes:

  1. Welcome guests
  2. Serve appetizers and drinks
  3. Serve dinner and dessert
  4. Closing the night

Thanksgiving Recipes You May Like

I Want To Hear From You

Have you ever hosted Thanksgiving dinner before? What is your favorite and least favorite part about hosting the event?

Share your feedback in the comments section below!

Picture of Sam
Samantha is the founder of the lifestyle blog, Lifestyled By Sam. She has been cooking and baking since her childhood and now loves hosting family and friends for the holidays. Lifestyle By Sam is dedicated to being your one-stop-shop for recipes and hosting your favorite holidays and events.

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Hi, I’m Sam

Thanks for stopping by my blog, Lifestyled By Sam

My goal is to be your one-stop-shop for recipes and hosting guides for your favorite events and holidays. Learn more about me.

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