Hosting Thanksgiving dinner can be an exciting and terrifying experience all at the same time. Having your family and friends over to share this special meal together is what makes this holiday so special, but the pressure of making it “perfect” for everyone is overwhelming.
I speak from experience on this topic because I host Thanksgiving for my family every year. Although it has gotten easier over time, I always worry about things such as burning the turkey or messing up the mashed potatoes.
Over the years of hosting Thanksgiving, I have figured out some tips and tricks to making the experience a not-so-scary one. Whether this is your first time hosting Thanksgiving or your 30th, this list of 10 Things to Know When Hosting Thanksgiving was created with you in mind!
Share the cooking responsibilities.
Don’t feel like you have to do everything all by yourself on Thanksgiving. That is a lot to get done for one person! Even though I host Thanksgiving at my house every year, all my guests bring something to contribute to the meal.
My mom and I end up doing the bulk of the cooking. We will sit down and discuss a menu a few weeks before Thanksgiving and then split up the dishes needing to be prepared. Other family members usually bring things such as bread/rolls, drinks, and desserts. This is mainly because my mom and I enjoy doing the cooking and everyone else enjoys letting us do it 🙂 If you have family members who want to do more, let them!
*Use the free guestlist printable found inside my Thanksgiving Planner to keep track of who is coming and what they are bringing.
Create a meal plan.
Creating a meal plan for Thanksgiving is a must! Not knowing what you are going to cook until the day before your guests arrive is a sure way to sabotage Thanksgiving for everyone. It’s just not feasible. Thanksgiving dinner takes planning. Finding recipes can take some time. I personally like to search through magazines, cookbooks, and my Pinterest boards for inspiration before coming up with my final menu.
Here’s a tip: Don’t pick Thanksgiving as the day to experiment with brand new recipes and twists on dishes. When people think of Thanksgiving dinner they are thinking of traditional items like mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. Stick with the basics!
Having a meal plan also goes hand in hand with what I just mentioned above. Knowing how many guests are coming and what everyone is bringing will help you fill in the gaps as the host when creating your meal plan.
*Use the free menu printable found inside my Thanksgiving Planner to create your menu and shopping list. Also, use the free recipe printable to keep track of all the recipes you will be making for your feast.
It’s okay to buy some store-bought items for Thanksgiving.
Don’t feel pressured to make everything from scratch. Buy that store-bought gravy for the turkey and mashed potatoes. Get a pie from the grocery store for dessert. Pop open a container of Pillsbury crescent rolls. You get the point, right? Don’t kill yourself! It is a holiday after all.
Prepare your tableware one week before Thanksgiving.
It’s a good idea to pull out your tableware and inventory what you have at least a week before Thanksgiving. You’ll want enough tables and chairs for everyone. Also, make sure you have enough plates, cups, and silverware for all your guests. You can pull out your tablecloths and napkins and wash them now as well. Pull out any platters and serving dishes that you will be using. Doing this inventory a week before lets you see what you need more of. You can either purchase what you need or borrow it. I’m the borrowing-type! I am always short steak knives for whatever reason so I have to ask my mom to bring them with her. This year I’m fine because she bought me a set for Christmas last year. Thanks, Mom💜
Make as much as you can ahead of time.
The day before Thanksgiving is a full day of prepping in my house. Turn on some music, wear something comfy and plan on ordering pizza for dinner! I bake all my desserts, do all my chopping, and put together the majority of my side dishes on Wednesday. When I plan my meal, I make sure to include items that can be made ahead of time(Twice-Baked Potato Casserole, Cranberry Sauce, Sweet Potato Casserole) for this exact reason. Plus it saves my sanity! By doing this, I have more time to focus on getting the focal points, like the turkey, perfect on Thanksgiving day.
*Use the free printable for make-ahead items included in my Thanksgiving Planner for this.
Make a timeline for cooking times and final preparations.
Now that you have prepped all you can on Wednesday, sit down and map out how you will finish the rest of your meal on Thanksgiving day. Think about how long you need the turkey to cook, what items need to be heated and at what temperature, and any other loose ends with your meal. Sticking to a schedule will help you organize your time appropriately. Make sure to add in some time to shower and get yourself dressed too. Just saying…
*Use the free printable for a Thanksgiving cooking schedule found in my Thanksgiving Planner.
Set the table on Wednesday evening.
Why not set the table on Wednesday night? Again this is one less thing you have to worry about on Thanksgiving and it gives you one final chance to make sure you have all the tableware you need for tomorrow. You can even give this job to your spouse or kids if you aren’t a control freak like me and don’t mind how it looks 😉
Make sure to have an appetizer ready to go when guests arrive.
This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You can cut up some cheeses and serve them on a platter with crackers. To make it a little fancier, you can add salami and/or an olive mixture. Don’t go too overboard because you want your guests to have room for the delicious meal you have spent all week preparing.
Everyone is always more relaxed with a drink in their hand. Have a couple of bottles of wine ready to go or maybe make a pitcher of sangria on Wednesday while you meal prep. With a cocktail to drink and an appetizer to nosh on, your guests will be content and you can finish up any last-minute things with dinner.
Warm Apple Cider with Fireball is a good choice 🙂
Relax and enjoy yourself!
Once the guests have arrived and dinner is served, you are home free. Relax and enjoy this special time with your family and friends. You’ve worked hard and you deserve to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Don’t rush to clean everything up right away either. I know in my own house that people like to take a little break to watch some football and then they are ready for round two of food a little while later.
After many years of hosting Thanksgiving for my family and friends, I have found that these 10 Things to Know When Hosting Thanksgiving are good pieces of advice. If things don’t go perfect, who cares! Enjoy your company, enjoy your meal, and be thankful for all you have.💜
Happy Thanksgiving! Please don’t forget to get your free Thanksgiving Planner to help you organize your Thanksgiving dinner.