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.
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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!
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!
Here are a few ideas on how to decorate your front entry for Thanksgiving Day.
- Festive Wreath: Buy or make your own fall wreath with fall flowers or hydrangeas.
- Seasonal Welcome Mat
- Cornstalks and Hay Bales
- Pumpkin Display
- Fall Foliage
- Candles and Lanterns
- Fall Signage
- Baskets and Crates
- Garlands and Swags
- Outdoor Pillows and Blankets: If you have seating on your porch or entryway, add some Thanksgiving-themed outdoor pillows and cozy blankets for a touch of comfort.
- Scarecrows and Turkeys
- String Lights
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.
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!
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 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
- Turkey with Gravy
- Mashed Potatoes
- Sweet Potatoes
- Vegetable Sides
- Creamy Pumpkin Soup
- Pumpkin Spice White Russian Fall Cocktail Recipe
- Wine Spritzers
- Pairing Wine and Cheese For a Fabulous Appetizer
- Easy Apple Crisp
- Mouthwatering Pumpkin Dump Cake You Can’t Resist
- Classic Pumpkin Pie
- Pecan Pie
- Apple Pie
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.
Set the Table the Day Before If Possible
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
Get My FREE Thanksgiving Essentials Ebook
Getting ready for Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving? CLICK HERE to get my free 25-page downloadable Thanksgiving Essentials Ebook that shares decorating ideas, hosting tips, recipes, and ways guests can support hosts.
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.
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.
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From our family to yours, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
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.
- 101 Ideas for Thanksgiving
- 25 Must-Try Thanksgiving Party Ideas for the Perfect Home Gathering
- The Best Thanksgiving Food and Fall Table Decor Ideas
- How to Set a Cozy Harvest Table
- The Best Recipe for Easy Apple Crisp
- The Best Fall Pumpkin Spice Cocktail
- Thanksgiving Tablescape Idea
- How to Decorate for Fall and Christmas Before Thanksgiving
- How to Set a Thanksgiving Table
- Simple Centerpiece Idea For Your Thanksgiving Aesthetic
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.
- Vintage Farmhouse Decor Ideas for Fall Home Tour 2022
- 5 Designer Fall Decorating Ideas for Less
- Rustic Farmhouse Fall Home Tour 2020
- Rustic Farmhouse Fall Home Tour 2021
- Easy Fall Table Decor Ideas
- 5 Easy Fall Decorating Ideas
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Thanks for stopping by the blog today!
Enjoy your day! xoxo
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.