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How to Host Thanksgiving (+ a free printable checklist!)

Learn all of my tips and tricks for how to host a wonderful Thanksgiving – big or small! This guide to hosting Thanksgiving has day-by-day tasks, recipe and utensil suggestions and more to ensure that your Thanksgiving is seamless and fun. Plus, download a free printable checklist for ease!

Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember. There’s something about the fall colors, warmth of delicious comfort foods and spending time with friends & family that makes the transition to winter that much better.

I know that holidays look a lot different for everyone this year, but I still wanted to put together the perfect guide to hosting Thanksgiving (or really any holiday) whether it’s big or small. You’ll find tips for putting a menu together, getting your table ready and even what you can prep & cook ahead of time to make the day a breeze.

Get all of my best tips for how to host Thanksgiving below, and remember to download & print my free checklist AND menu place card at the end!

thanksgiving table

Start with my best turkey tips

Never made your own Thanksgiving turkey before? I’ve got you covered! Head to my best ever Thanksgiving turkey recipe and get all of my tips and tricks for selecting, defrosting and roasting a whole turkey. The perfect task to check off first on your list!

thanksgiving tablescape for hosting thanksgiving

1-2 weeks before: plan your menu

A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving you’re going to want to solidify who’s coming and plan out what will be on the table:

  • Make a guest list and send invites via Paperless Post or email
  • Inform anyone attending if they need to bring anything and what time you plan to serve dinner. Seriously don’t be afraid to let your guests handle appetizers or a fun cheese board. It makes things so much easier! Also bonus points if they bring an app that doesn’t require an oven.
  • Write down all dishes that you’ll be making and what groceries you’ll need for those
  • Make your grocery list and go shopping
  • Make sure you have necessary kitchen tools/serving dishes for each dish
  • Make sure you have enough tupperware to hold leftovers

thanksgiving table

4-5 days before: get your table ready

It might seem early, but trust me when I say start to lay out your table and dishes almost a week before the big day!

  • Lay out serving dishes ahead of time. This is helpful to see how much room you’ll have on your table if you plan to do family style.
  • Take out all plates, silverware, serving utensils, wine glasses, bowls, roasting pans, dishes, etc.
  • Place a note in each dish, for what recipe they will hold.

Serving dishes we used: tablecloth, silverware, serving utensils, serving platter, serving tray, tupperware, baking dish, pie pan, roasting pan, small cheeseboard, cheese knives, gravy dish, wine glasses, napkins, dinner plates

place setting with an orange napkin

Three days before: clean the house + decorate your table

You’re going to clean, declutter and clean again before Thanksgiving day, but a few days before is a great time to start getting your space together.

  • Clean your house
  • Plan table seating and settings
  • Decorate table with seasonal decor (Home Goods & Target are great places to shop for inexpensive decor)
  • Create a dinner playlist on Spotify
  • Defrost turkey in your fridge (make sure you do this at least 3 days before!)

Items we used for decorating the table: dried cottontailssmall vases, candlestick holders, candlesticks, kitchen twine, mini white pumpkins (found at Trader Joe’s), eucalyptus for napkins, tablecloth

thanksgiving table with food

Two days before: bake & prep ingredients

One of the best tips I have is to bake and prep ahead of time! Pies will still be delicious straight from the fridge and it will save you the hassle & oven space on the day-of.  If you can pre-chop ingredients and keep them in the fridge do that, too.

  • Bake your pies ahead of time (try my pumpkin or my apple!)
  • Take out coolers for extra beverages, if necessary
  • Begin to prep ingredients that need chopping, etc.
  • You can also make any other dishes that will store well in the fridge and save time.

Items we used: pie pan, cooler, tupperware for storing ingredients

stuffing in a serving dish

au gratin potatoes in a serving dish on a thanksgiving table

One day before: prep your sides

Tons of side dishes can be fully cooked or partially cooked the day before and then simply re-heated or quickly baked the day-of for ease. Be sure to lay out your timeline the day before as well.

  • Prepare make-ahead side dishes
  • Prep appetizers
  • Set and finalize the table the night before
  • Set out your outfit so you know exactly what you’re wearing
  • Figure out timeline for when you’ll serve your appetizers, put turkey in, how long you expect it to take, and how long it will take you to warm or cook your side dishes.
    • Remember each pound of turkey takes about 15-20 minutes and you’ll want to give yourself about 30-45 minutes of extra time just in case it takes longer. If prepped ahead, your side dishes will likely take 30-45 minutes to heat all at once in the oven, which is enough time for the turkey to rest, cool off a bit and for you to cut it.

Items we used: linen table cloth, cloth napkins, wine glasses, dinner plates, silverware

pouring wine into a glass on a thanksgiving table

Thanksgiving day: finishing touches & enjoy!

The day is here! Take a deep breath and simply follow your timeline. Keep everything moving but be sure to take breaks as-needed. Delegating tasks is key.

  • Get up early and drink lots of coffee (and water!)
  • Take turkey out of fridge to bring to room temp for 1-2 hours. Make sure to factor this into your timeline.
  • Put turkey in the oven — allow yourself 45 minutes-1 hour of wiggle time for cooking
  • Get ready for the day
  • Set out appetizers
  • Take turkey out to rest
  • Cook/warm side dishes
  • Make the gravy
  • Serve family style and enjoy!

Reminder: get all of my tips and tricks for making the best whole turkey from start to finish here!

blonde woman holding a turkey on a platter

The Thanksgiving recipes you need + FREE printable menu

Looking for recipe inspo to create the ultimate Thanksgiving menu? Head to my full Thanksgiving category for apps, mains, sides and desserts that are perfect for serving on Thanksgiving!

Feel free to download our FREE printable Thanksgiving menu for your guests! You can put it on top of each napkin on the table for a fun, festive look!

printable thanksgiving menu

Kitchen & dining items we love

We’re excited to share all of the beautiful decor & dining items featured in our table setting, as well as things we used in the kitchen to prep!

I hope these tips for hosting Thanksgiving are helpful for any way you’re celebrating the holidays! Be sure to click and download my FREE printable checklist below to ensure success the whole way through. Enjoy, xo!

thanksgiving hosting checklist


Remember to head to my full Thanksgiving category for apps, mains, sides and desserts that are perfect for serving on Thanksgiving!

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