Essential Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving for the First Time

Essential Thanksgiving Tips

Has the Thanksgiving Host baton been passed to you this year? Don’t panic! Hosting Thanksgiving can be daunting but we’re here to help! Maybe you pictured hosting holiday dinners when you were searching for your new home and now it’s your time to shine. Follow these essential tips to help you pull off the holiday festivities like a seasoned pro.


Make a Plan

Planning is the key to success (which is why most people tend to follow the same steps year and year!). Now is the time to sit down and figure out how you want your Thanksgiving to go. Figure out how many people are attending, where the meal will be served, what you’re serving and, if you’re hosting guests at home, where they will stay. This is also the perfect time to find out if any of your guests have dietary restrictions so you can adjust your menu if necessary.

Set Your Menu

Decide what you’ll be serving, whether it’s your standard Thanksgiving fare, or if you’re looking to introduce one or two new traditions (but don’t try a completely new recipe!). While you’re setting your menu, take note of cooking times, methods (oven, cooktop, crock top, etc.) and any items that can be made ahead.

This is also a great time to create a Day-of-Timeline that breaks down the cooking order for the dishes. Start with the time you’d like to be eating and work your way backward. This will help keep your dinner on schedule and keep your guests from getting hangry.

Confirm Your Guest List

Get definite confirmations from your guests so you can prepare accordingly. Don’t accept “We’ll try to stop by” as an answer! You’ll end up with either too much or not enough food. Once you’ve confirmed your guest list, be open to asking or accepting help! Don’t feel the need to tackle Thanksgiving completely on your own! It’s not unreasonable to ask guests to bring a specific dish and often they’re happy to oblige.

Order Your Turkey

Place your order for your turkey ahead of time, whether you’re picking your turkey up from the grocery store, butcher, or online. This will ensure you have a turkey for dinner. A good rule of thumb is ordering three-quarters to a pound of turkey per person.


Take Inventory

Take stock of what you have on hand. Do you have the essential cooking tools? Enough serving dishes? Plates and cutlery? Do you need extra chairs and tables? Take the time to make sure you have everything you’ll need for Thanksgiving.

Go Grocery Shopping

Make a grocery list (and check it twice) of everything you need and start shopping. There’s nothing worse than realizing you need to make a last-minute trip to the store on Thanksgiving.

Prepare the House

Start the holiday with a clean house. Clean and organize your home in preparation for guests, secure any valuables and set up guest rooms. If you need to move furniture, start now so there’s less to do the day of. Give your kitchen a thorough cleaning: clear out the dishwasher and trashcans, and toss expired food from the fridge.


Set the Table

Setting the table ahead of time serves two purposes: it will leave you with one less thing to do the day off but it’ll also help you identify any additional gaps you may have missed during your initial inventory check. Also assign serving items for each dish (keep track by placing a Post-It note in the dish) so you’re not running around the day of on wondering where to put what where.

Thaw the Turkey

Don’t be the one who pulls out the turkey on Thanksgiving morning only to find that it’s still frozen! If you’re unable to get a fresh bird, leave enough time to thaw the turkey. Plan to allow a full day for every four pounds of turkey.

Do the Prep Work

One of the major stressors on Thanksgiving is keeping track of all the dishes that need to be prepped and cooked, especially if you’re running against the clock. Reduce some of the stress by preparing as much as possible ahead of time. Make what you can a day or two beforehand (like cranberry sauce) or simply prepare portions of the dishes, like toasting bread for dressing, washing and cutting vegetables or baking desserts (if you haven’t purchased them or asked a guest to bring them).


Follow Your Plan

Remember that Day-of-Timeline you created a couple weeks ago? Now’s the time to put that plan into action! Use your established timeline to make cooking less overwhelming and don’t forget to be flexible! Sometimes plans fall through but don’t like that discourage you! Ask and accept help to get things back on track. You’ll appreciate that you did.

Have Fun

It’s easy to forget when you’re in the middle of the holiday whirlwind! Be mindful that Thanksgiving is all about being grateful for what we have so make sure you take time to enjoy your family and friends who have come to celebrate with you in your new home.