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How To Be The Ultimate Thanksgiving Host {Even It’s Your First Time}!

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Hosting Thanksgiving for the first time or the 50th time can be a daunting task. Thankfully it doesn’t have to be! There are so many tips and tricks to make hosting Thanksgiving a snap!

If you are hosting for the first time it can be downright scary! What should you make? How much do you need of everything? How long does it take to thaw a turkey? These questions can feel endless for the first time for a Thanksgiving host. Even seasoned Thanksgiving hosts learn new things every year. As a vet of the underground Thanksgiving scene, I can tell you that every year I try a new recipe. It might seem like a small gesture but I love trying new things and putting a spin on the holiday classics. 

Thanksgiving is a day so many families look forward to each year, for many it’s the only day of the year they get to see their family. A lifetime of memories can be made on Thanksgiving, around a table filled with delicious food and your favorite people. Can you picture it? The juicy turkey, candied yams, the smoothest mashed potatoes, the most delicious gravy. Let’s not forget the pumpkin pie. Wow, I can almost smell it. Can you tell, I love Thanksgiving.

It’s true, Thanksgiving is HUGE in our home. My husband’s birthday usually lands on Thanksgiving and we go all out. Both sides of the family have always made Thanksgiving into something monumental every year, which meant I was in a panic my first few years hosting. These tips are tried and true which is why I’m thrilled to share them with all of you.

The golden rule for hosting the ultimate Thanksgiving dinner is to give yourself grace. No matter what happens you will still have a beautiful meal filled with memories to last a lifetime.

Hosting your family’s Thanksgiving dinner can be a stressful event, but with these stress-reducing Thanksgiving tips, you’ll be on your way to being the ultimate Thanksgiving host.


Here are 10 tips to help you host Thanksgiving this year

1 – Make A Pre-Plan

To be honest, you cannot wing it when it comes to hosting Thanksgiving. You must put a plan in place to help you succeed. You do not want any last-minute stress on the big day. First up is to write a guest list so you can start to plan how many people will be attending your dinner. Once you get a handle on how many guests you think you’ll have, you should start planning a menu.  

RELATED: Thanksgiving Traditions To Try This Year


2 – Start Menu Planning

Now that you know how many guests to expect it’s time for my favorite part of hosting Thanksgiving – menu planning. Yes, you will want to have all the staples which include turkey, stuffing (or dressing depending on where you are from}, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes etc. Thanksgiving foods are a category all on their own. Once you nail down a menu it’s time to start a shopping list. The last thing you want to do is make extra trips to the grocery store while prepping your meal. Will you be trying a new recipe? Now is the time to look up some fun new recipes on Pinterest. Looking for some inspiration, check out my post on the best Thanksgiving side dishes to try this year.

PRO TIP: Write it out. Having a written menu will help you prepare a meal everyone will remember

3 – Make Food Ahead Of Time

Once you have a menu set in place it’s time to start cooking. Yes, you will want to start cooking ahead of time. This one tip will save you tons of Thanksgiving stress. Take a look at your menu and figure out what you can make before the big day. Try to get as much of the food prep out of the way as possible. It will make Thanksgiving day run much smoother. My kids and I always prep our pies the weekend before Thanksgiving and they are just as delicious as if we made them fresh that morning.

PRO TIP: Familiarize yourself with make-ahead meals so you know exactly want can be made before the big day

4 – Let’s Talk Turkey

If you never cooked a turkey before now is the time to learn as much as can. The turkey, after all, is the star of the show. With that said, do not allow yourself to become overwhelmed or intimidated by the bird. Instead, take your time to get familiar with everything you need to know about defrosting, prepping, and cooking the Thanksgiving turkey. This way you will be fully prepared with a delicious turkey ready to go. The first year I hosted, the turkey nearly killed me. My family is still talking about how delicious it was and that’s saying a lot since I come from a family of chefs and restaurant owners. Let me just say I knew nothing about cooking a turkey, actually, I knew less than nothing about cooking a turkey yet it still came out delicious. This is to say give yourself grace and everything will work out even the turkey.

Things To Consider:

What size turkey do you need to feed your guests?

How long do you need to cook the size turkey that you need?

How long do you need to thaw a frozen turkey?

Should you brine your turkey?

PRO TIP: On the morning of Thanksgiving, get your bird prepped and ready to go in the oven before you do anything else. You might not need to start cooking it first thing in the morning, but at least you know its ready go into the oven when the time is right. 

5 – Get ready for your littlest guests

Do you have children of your own or on your guest list? One of the must do’s when planning to host your first or annual Thanksgiving is to plan things for them to do while you prepare your Thanksgiving feast. Don’t fret – I have tons of ideas you can use to entertain the littles ones on Thanksgiving. 

PRO TIP: If you plan to have a kids table cover it with butcher paper or drawing paper and sprinkle it with crayons. This is a great way to keep the kids entertained while you eat!

6 – Set the table a few days before

One of the last things you should have to worry about on Thanksgiving day is making a gorgeous tablescape. Creating a gorgeous table is one of my favorite things about hosting Thanksgiving. Fall decor mixed with tradition simply cannot be beaten! Planning your tablescape should be as far in advance as possible in case you need to purchase anything to help bring it to life.

Tips on setting the table: include a fun Thanksgiving centerpiece

7 – Organize Your China and Cooking Supplies

Take this from me, you need to take time in your Thanksgiving preparation to organize everything you need for the big meal. This includes cleaning any china and silverware you might be using. I made the mistake of leaving this until the last minute my first year and I was literally washing dishes in between getting my pans into the oven. You also don’t want to be searching for the pans, supplies, or anything else you might need to get your meal on the table on the day of, so be sure to get everything you need set up prior to the big day.

PRO TIP: Find an area of your home where you can store your clean china as you go so you don’t feel overwhelmed by having it out

After your table is set, plan out how you will serve the dinner as well.

  •  If you are going to set up your meal buffet style, be sure to set up a spot in your home to house the racks, plates, and cutlery. 
  • If family style is more your speed make sure there is room on the table or side tables for all of the serving pieces to be placed down. 

8 – Prep Your Home

 Make sure your home is inviting and ready for guests. Clear out any trash and make sure you have enough places for people to sit. Stock each room with the essentials (i.e. hand soap, towels, toilet tissue, etc) On the day of, set up a make your own drink station and easy to eat apps for everyone to enjoy on their way into your home. 

PRO TIP: If you have a helpful partner delegate this task off to them so you can focus on the food

9 – Set The Mood

Get your home ready for entertaining. One of my favorite things to do to get ready for guests is to have my house smell like the season. Fall candles, essential oils, and sprays can help you achieve this with ease. Another great way to set a festive mood is with a fun playlist. Something about having music playing when people start to usher into your home makes my heart so happy. 

PRO TIP: If you host every year pick up fall scented candles at the yearly clearance sales


This is by far one of the most important and under-used tips. Do not take on every Thanksgiving task yourself, reach out to your guest and ask for help. In most cases, your guests are going to ask what they can bring. Don’t be shy, assign them a dish; if they are asking to help, they WANT to help. Tell your cousin to make some desserts. Your aunt is known for her famous bread stuffing, ask her to whip you up a batch. Your son-in-law works for a beer distributor, ask him to bring a case or two of that delicious pumpkin beer and that new healthy alcoholic fresh brewed coffee (Bomani) for dessert. In our home, no one ever comes empty-handed no matter who’s hosting.

Hosting Thanksgiving should be memorable not stressful. Hopefully, you were able to find some helpful tips to get you started planning this year. Here’s to a wonderful Thanksgiving for you and your family!




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