First time hosting Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving this year and not sure where to start? Learn how to host a Thanksgiving dinner that everyone will love with these simple tips.

Not hosting this year? Check out my Thanksgiving hostess gift ideas at the end of this post.

Do you host Thanksgiving dinner? It is my favorite holiday and we host it every year.

We get together with our large extended family and have the best time. It’s a great opportunity to reconnect and catch up with one another.

But the other reason it’s my favorite holiday of the year is that my birthday typically falls on or around Thanksgiving.

So we have even more to celebrate!

Anyway, I’ve been hosting Thanksgiving for over 25 years and have the day down to a science. From what to serve to how to accommodate guests with comfort ease, I got you.

Oh and if you aren’t hosting this year, I’m also sharing some great ideas about how you can support who is hosting and ways you can help them.

Are you ready to celebrate all things Turkey day with me?

Here are my best tips for hosting the best Thanksgiving dinner ever.

(Posts on stacyling.com may contain affiliate links. Click HERE for full disclosure.)

Setting the Stage for a Cozy Thanksgiving Dinner

Before we get to hosting the big day, it’s important to decorate your home for fall and create a cozy, welcoming atmosphere for guests because it lays the foundation for a memorable and harmonious gathering.

Beyond the practical aspects of planning, such as organizing the menu and seating arrangements, creating the right atmosphere sets the tone for gratitude and togetherness.

Because let’s face it, Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to come together, express life’s blessings, and create long-lasting memories.

Thus a well-prepared and welcoming environment can foster that sense of warmth, comfort, and belonging, making everyone feel appreciated and more connected.

So pay attention to the details like the decorations, ambiance, and your hospitality to ensure that Thanksgiving is a celebration of both food and gratitude.

And by the way, these tips apply to hosting a Friendsgiving dinner too!

close up of mcintosh apples in a ceramic bowl

Create a Festive and Welcoming Front Entry for Thanksgiving

Before we even talk about hosting the big day, I can’t stress enough how important it is to create a welcoming front entry.

Because first impressions are everything!

While you don’t have to go crazy, even a few pumpkins and fall flowers like chrysanthemums, pansies, or celosia, can go a long way.

Here are a few ideas on how to decorate your front entry for Thanksgiving Day.

While you don’t have to do everything on this list, choose decorations that match your personal style and the overall aesthetic of your home.

Front porch steps decorated for fall with outdoor planters and hydrangea wreath.9 Simple Fall Front Porch Decor Ideas for fall
Front Porch of My Former Home Fall 2020

I’m a more the merrier kind of gal when it comes to decorating the front porch for fall, so when you drop by my house, there will always be an abundance of flowers, plants, and festive seasonal decor.

Can you really have too much? LOL

And because it’s the end of the fall season, you can get leftover pumpkins and flowers for a steal close to Thanksgiving too!

So if you are looking for a bargain with late fall decor for Thanksgiving, hold out until after Halloween because the savings will be big as retailers and nurseries clear things out for Christmas.

front porch with fall flowers and cornstalks with white porch rockers
Front porch swing in fall with heuchera, chinese evergreen, zzz plant, fall throw pillows and area rug in fall

9 Simple Tips for Hosting the Best Thanksgiving Dinner Ever

Whether you’ve never hosted Thanksgiving before or you are a pro, there are lots of ways to streamline the big day to make things easier for you.

Follow these simple tips for a stress-free Thanksgiving Dinner.

Plan Ahead

Plan ahead of time and don’t be shy asking for help. If you have a lot of guests, divvy up the dishes. Ask guests to contribute a dish to lighten the load.

Just because you are hosting doesn’t mean you have to cook the whole darn thing!

Planning the Guest List

Determine how many guests are attending and create a dinner table configuration that fosters conversation with everyone.

9 Simple Tips to Hosting The Best Thanksgiving Dinner

Making Room at the Thanksgiving Dinner Table

Planning ahead to ensure there are enough seats around the dining table for Thanksgiving dinner is paramount to the success of the gathering. Because everyone needs a spot to enjoy the meal and chat!

A well-thought-out seating arrangement allows everyone to feel included and comfortable while promoting a sense of togetherness and harmony.

Without proper planning, the absence of adequate seating can lead to feelings of awkwardness and inconvenience for guests which may potentially detract from the joy of the occasion.

But it also reflects the host’s thoughtfulness and consideration for their guests. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be the one not offering comfortable places to sit and enjoy the meal – even if I have to squeeze them in there!

And believe me – we have squeezed tightly so everyone is together at our dining table. We enjoy a sit-down Thanksgiving dinner every year, and sometimes our crowd is well over 20 guests.

But how do we do it with such a large crowd?

Easy Fall Centerpiece Idea

Table Configurations

It’s all about the table configuration. And I like a configuration that fosters conversation with the whole group. Not just with the people sitting across or next to you.

Now my dining room is not the largest, but we figured out a way to extend our dining table to make extra seating without using folding tables.

Aren’t those tables annoying sometimes? They are all different heights, awkward and unstable.

So a few years ago we addressed this very problem so we could seat more guests at our dining table without using folding tables.

And we love the result!

You can check out here how we made a DIY dining table topper for extra seating.

We re-configure our farmhouse dining table to be a square shape with this topper so guests can all see and talk to each other.

Simple Fall Table Decor and Thanksgiving Food Ideas for the dining table with a warm autumn color palette using black china cabinet and hutch, farmhouse table, vintage toolbox dining table centerpiece and farmhouse table

Setting the Prettiest Table

If you opt not to do much decorating for fall around your home, I can’t stress enough how important it is to set a cozy table for Thanksgiving.

It’s not hard to do and there are lots of different ways you can approach it. So choose what works best for you.

Simple Fall Table Decorating Ideas

For starters, choose an autumn color palette for your table.

I’ve created a warm autumn color palette, used more traditional fall colors, and even dabbled with some pretty soft neutrals.

Other years, I’ve decorated with really organic, neutral fall table decor.

And, one year, I even mixed winter and fall together for a fun table theme. It looked so cool!

So the point is, there are lots of different ways you can go with your table. Go with what inspires you and will be easy to throw together.

If you need more Thanksgiving table ideas, you can check out more beautiful fall table decor ideas here.

friendsgiving table with pumpkin centerpiece and fresh fall flowers under a crystal chandelier on the dining table for Thanksgiving

Make or Buy a Centerpiece

Regardless of the table decorating theme, there has to be a beautiful centerpiece. Because that centerpiece will set the tone of the whole table.

I’ve done years with fresh flowers and other times with faux. It really depends on my mood and the time I have to spend on it.

It could be a fresh centerpiece filled with mums and pumpkins. Or maybe it’s a no-carve pumpkin centerpiece with fall flowers.

Or maybe it’s made with fresh-cut flowers from the garden or market.

If I don’t have a lot of time or don’t have access to beautiful fall flowers, I’ll go with a faux centerpiece like this rustic idea for the dining table.

It’s really easy to make and took minutes to do!

So whether you make or buy a beautiful centerpiece is up to you – there’s no right or wrong.

Just make sure you have one.

Pro-Hosting Tips: If using a live centerpiece, create or buy it a day or two before the big day. And if you are using a faux dining table centerpiece, create it as early as possible to save yourself time and energy well before Thanksgiving.

close up of friendsgiving brunch or thanksgiving table setting with gold charger, lenox dinner and salad plate, mustard linen napkin and pumpkin with centerpiece of flowers and pumpkins with candles

Plan the Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

Determine what dishes you are making, then spend time making a grocery shopping list. Writing it all down helps both with the organization of it all as well as reducing stress.

You can check those items off your list as soon as you get them!

Here are some great Thanksgiving food ideas for your party!

If you are looking for great Thanksgiving food menu ideas.

best pumpkin pie recipe you'll ever try on stoneware dinner plate with whipped cream
Best Pumpkin Pie You’ll Every Have

Organize the Cooking Schedule

If you plan to make more than one dish, prioritize the ones that can be made ahead of time and the ones that need to be made on Thanksgiving Day.

I usually start a few days ahead and prepare things like pies or appetizers so Thanksgiving Day is a little less work.

Buy Beverages Early

Get beverages for adults and children a few days or even a week before. These don’t go bad, so pick up beverages early Thanksgiving week or sooner!

Whenever I try to buy them with my groceries they take up too much space on the cart. So it’s a lot easier to make a separate trip just for the beverages.

enjoying a glass of The Best Pumpkin Spice Fall Cocktail (white russian) in mason jar glasses

Set the Table the Day Before If Possible

Set the table with fall decor the day before. Be creative and use lots of layers. The more layers, the cozier and more welcoming the table will feel.

If you use any fresh flowers, make sure they stay hydrated or they’ll droop before guests arrive.

One year, I picked fresh foliage from my oakleaf hydrangea because it was a gorgeous crimson red and complimented my table. Well, those leaves started shriveling up before my family even walked through the door.

So there I was running back outside to grab more foliage at the last minute. In hindsight, I would have been better off cutting them about an hour or so before.

If you decide to use something live on your table like that or an ivy vine like I did here, use these floral vials. They work really really well!

friendsgiving ideas for the dining table with pumpkin centerpiece and fresh fall flowers

Prepare Make-Ahead Dishes

Prepare make-ahead dishes the day before to make things easier for yourself and reduce stress on Thanksgiving Day.

Thanksgiving involves a lot of cooking, and tackling some dishes in advance allows you to focus on the more time-consuming and last-minute preparations, such as roasting the turkey and finishing side dishes.

By getting a head start, you not only save precious time but also ensure that all your dishes are cooked to perfection and have had time to meld their flavors.

Additionally, this approach gives you the opportunity to enjoy more quality time with your guests and participate in the festivities, rather than being tied to the kitchen all day.

I like to chit chat while I’m doing stuff and if I’m focusing on making a recipe too, it’s too easy for me to get distracted.

mixing ingredients to make recipe for pumpkin pie

Make Place Cards

Make place cards for each guest. These can be simple or elaborate. Do what you have time for.

I’ve made place cards that were really decorative and personalized. And other years, I took some card stock and wrote a few names.

Either way, it’s a great idea to do so you can seat people next to one another that will spark lots of fun conversation and keep everyone at both ends of the table included in the discussion.

Share Gratitude

When you are enjoying the meal, go around the table and give each guest the floor to say what they are thankful for. This has always been the best part of our Thanksgiving dinner.

Our entire family enjoys this the most from grandparents to grandbabies. It’s a heartwarming touch to hosting the best Thanksgiving dinner.

And you won’t believe the things you learn!

fresh flowers and heirloom pumpkin centerpiece idea for the dining table with zinnias, dahlias, sedum autumn joy, ivy, celosia and boxwood

How to Support the Thanksgiving Host

Guests can play a significant role in supporting the hostess of Thanksgiving Dinner and making the event more enjoyable for everyone involved.

Here are some ways guests can contribute to the big day.

  • Offer to Bring a Dish
  • RSVP Promptly
  • Arrive on Time
  • Assist with Set-Up and Clean-Up
  • Engage in Conversation
  • Compliment the Food
  • Pitch In with Kids
  • Offer to Help with Serving
  • Bring a Thoughtful Hostess Gift
  • Follow House Rules
  • Send a Thank-You Note

By contributing in these ways, guests can not only support the hostess but also enhance the overall enjoyment of the holiday for everyone involved.

9 Simple Tips to Hosting the Best Thanksgiving Dinner Ever

Host and Hostess Gifts for Thanksgiving

Not hosting this year?

Click one of the images below for some great Thanksgiving hostess gift ideas.

I hope you found some great Thanksgiving dinner inspiration and hostess gift ideas. We are looking forward to reconnecting and spending time with our family this year. I am thankful that my girls will be home from college and we’ll have the whole family back under one roof.

Each day is a blessing. What are you thankful for this year?

vintage farmhouse dining room in fall with crystal chandelier, french country table and chairs with pumpkin centerpiece.

Want to Learn What You Need to Set a Beautiful Thanksgiving Table?

Click here to get my FREE GUIDE that tells you everything you need to set a gorgeous table! Welcome friends and family to a cozy dining table with this must-have list of tabletop decor that you’ll use over and over again.

Fresh flower arrangement for fall harvest table in outoor dining space with hydrangeas, zinnias and dahlias -This flower arrangement was made from my cut flower garden with hydrangeas, zinnias and dahlias. .how to set a cozy fall harvest table
Fall Harvest Centerpiece

More About Hosting Thanksgiving

Do you host Thanksgiving too? Do you have any tips or recipes you’d like to share? I would love to know more in the comments below.

And don’t miss joining my Gardening DIY and Decorating Community on Facebook for more chatter. And follow along there and on Instagram as well. There are behind-the-scenes daily things that I share on Instagram that don’t make it to the blog. Would love to see you there too!

If you prefer to binge-watch Bricks ’n Blooms on TV, we go more in-depth with tours and posts on my YouTube channel. Would love to hang out with you there!

And… If you’re catching up on blog posts you may have missed, be sure to sign-up to get my newest posts via email to stay up to date with everything that’s happening here on the blog and more.

From our family to yours, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Our family at Thanksgiving Dinner

More Thanksgiving Ideas

If you are looking for more Thanksgiving Day ideas and inspiration, check out these posts.

From hosting gifts to table decor, food, and menu ideas, I’ve got you covered.

fresh pumpkin centerpiece idea for the dining table with garden mums that is perfect for your Thanksgiving Aesthetic using fresh pumpkins and garden mums on a farmhouse table with neutral table decorations, cedar branch placemat, dinnerware and tapered candles on brass candlestick holders
Stacy Ling with her book the bricks n blooms guide to a beauitful and easy care flower garden

If you’ve always dreamed of bringing country charm to your home while creating a beautiful, relaxing space, I got you! Learn how to grow flowers in even the smallest of spaces with my easy-care, low-maintenance approach.

Looking for Fall Decorating Ideas

Looking for more fall decorating ideas? Check out these posts.

Family room in fall in vintage farmhouse with boho decor. Mango wood round table, gourds, candles, pumpkins and plants with cozy throw pillows and blankets.
how to host a thanksgiving dinner graphic over thanksgiving table with pumpkin centerpiece
pumpkin centerpiece on elegant farmhouse tablescape

Thanks for stopping by the blog today!

Enjoy your day! xoxo

stacy ling signature
9 Simple Tips to Hosting the Best Thanksgiving Dinner Ever
9 Simple Tips to Hosting the Best Thanksgiving Dinner Ever
9 Simple Tips to Hosting the Best Thanksgiving Dinner Ever
Easy Fall Table Decor Ideas
Centerpiece Ideas for Hosting the Best Thanksgiving Dinner
9 Simple Tips to Hostin the Best Thanksgiving Ever
Easy Fall Table Decor Ideas for the Thanksgiving Dinner

Before we renovated our home 15 years ago and moved, it was tough to host everyone here for Thanksgiving.

Because we just didn’t have the space!

But now we are able to accommodate everyone and more in our home for the holidays and I love it.

The bricks \'n Blooms guide to a beautiful and easy-care flower garden book by stacy ling
The Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide to a Beautiful and Easy Care Flower Garden
  • Have you never met a plant you couldn’t kill?
  • Have you dug around in the dirt with nothing to show for it except a sunburn and a sore back?
  • Do you currently enjoy growing flowers, but are looking for more tips and ideas to level up your gardening game?

Then the Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide is for YOU

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32 Comments

  1. These are such great ideas Stacy, thank you for sharing them. I love the tip about planning ahead…I am going to work on that one! Loved the picture of your big family who gathered at your home.

    1. Thank you Kim! Hosting Thanksgiving is literally my favorite thing! I love having everyone over and hope we are able to do it again this year…fingers crossed! xoxoxox

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  4. Stacy, Oh my! So much good stuff here! I love, love, love the table topper and drop cloth. Just brilliant. And there are so many ideas for centerpieces. We plan to have a big crowd this year, but up at our cabin which isn’t nearly as equipped as our home. So lots of planning ahead of time and I’ll tap into all your expertise. Thanks for sharing!

  5. So many amazing ideas for Thanksgiving. Thanks for sharing Stacy! Will you still be hosting that many in your new home this year? Pinned!

    1. Thank you! Yes and probably a few extras! I’m excited for this year’s holiday – it will be fun hosting here at the new house!