I’ve got something for you ~ 11 tips for hosting Thanksgiving for the first time.
Oh, the stress of hosting Thanksgiving for the first time!
The underlying need to impress your family and friends. The desire for it to be perfect. And timing it all – just right.
Hosting Thanksgiving for the first time can be SO STRESSFUL!
But it doesn’t need to be.
How about just a little stressful? Would that work?
I mean, you’re hosting Thanksgiving for the first time. It’s gonna be stressful. So let’s lessen the stress level from a 10 down to a 3.
That’s why I created this list of 11 tips for hosting Thanksgiving for the first time.
To help you lessen your stress, so you can get through the day sanely. Not as a crazy person.
If you follow these tips, the holiday will go fairly smoothly (I can’t and won’t guarantee there won’t be any hiccups).
11 Tips for How to Host Thanksgiving for the First Time
Please note that this article may contain affiliate links. I may get commissions (at no cost to you) for purchases made through these links. You can read my full disclosure for more details.
1. Make a plan for hosting Thanksgiving
The best tip for hosting Thanksgiving for the first time is to make a plan. Create a very detailed plan.
Write out your menu, then the associated grocery list, and create a schedule that leads up to the day. The schedule should outline when you need to purchase groceries, when you need to prep and when you need to make the food. Also, outline the food dishes you want guests to bring. That way you’re clear on who’s responsible for which dish.
Plan not only the menu but your table setting and decorations. Take an inventory of what you have, then you’ll know what else you need. Depending on what you need, see what you can borrow and what you need to buy. *Let’s be honest, I bet someone you know has a large serving platter you can borrow for the turkey.
The sooner you make your Thanksgiving Day plan, the less stressed you’ll be as the day gets closer.
2. Send out Thanksgiving Day invites
Your Thanksgiving Day invitations don’t need to be elaborate or mailed. You can email or text your guests to invite them to Thanksgiving dinner.
Whichever way you decide to invite your friends and family, you need to give them ALL the information. Not only the time and location but other details: Will it be casual or dressy? What can your guests bring? Will there be Turkey Bowl and games before the meal or anything afterward?
Provide your guests with as much information as possible in your invitation.
3. Make your Thanksgiving meal a potluck
When you’re hosting your first Thanksgiving Day meal, it’s gonna be stressful. Especially if you’ve never cooked a turkey.
So make it a potluck.
Ask or assign your friends and family to bring dishes. Provide them with a list from your menu and let them choose what to bring. Usually, they’ll have a favorite dish they like to eat on Thanksgiving and will gladly bring it to share with everyone.
Don’t get so specific as to the recipes for the dishes. Let your guests decide what type of cranberry relish or sweet potatoes to bring.
As long as all the Thanksgiving Day foods are covered ~ you’re good. It takes that much off your plate!
4. When you’re hosting Thanksgiving for the first time you MUST accept help
For some crazy reason, many of us are afraid to ask for help. We feel that we’re infringing on our friends and family. That we need to take it all on ourselves.
Ask for help!
If you don’t you’ll be running around like crazy, you’ll be stressed, angry, and no fun to be around.
I can guarantee that most (if not all) of your guests would love to help you. Ask them to help with the cooking, or to bring a dish. Or if you need more chairs or plates, see who has extras you can borrow.
Thanksgiving is a day of thanks and bringing loved ones together. Let them contribute to the day. They’ll appreciate helping, and it will definitely lessen your stress and put you in a good mood.
5. Serve your Thanksgiving meal buffet style
It’s stressful enough hosting Thanksgiving for the first time, don’t add to the stress by making it a formal sit-down meal.
Yes, in your mind it would look amazing and totally impress your guests. But honestly, that’s WAY TOO MUCH to take on for your first Thanksgiving.
Make your first hosted Thanksgiving dinner a potluck. Ask your guests to bring the dishes you won’t be making. That way you’re only responsible for the turkey and maybe one or two sides. It also makes it fun for everyone to try each other’s favorite Thanksgiving dish.
*If you want to know how to set up a buffet table, or what NOT to do, check out these two posts:
6. Make as much food ahead as possible
It’s key to make as much of the food ahead as possible.
Think about it … you probably have only one oven. And how many dishes do you need to make? And I bet they aren’t at the same temperature. Or they can’t all fit in the oven at the same time.
I think cooking Thanksgiving day food for the first time is super stressful. Trying to time everything correctly – arghh!!!
So ~ take a look at what you’re planning to make and figure out what can be made the day before. Can you cook it and then heat it up on Thanksgiving Day? Or can you prep it, and then pop it in the fridge so it’s ready to cook on Thanksgiving?
Also, any prep work you can do a day or two in advance will lessen what needs to be done on Thanksgiving Day. Like cutting the veggies or making the salad (without the dressing). Or even making the pies.
Do as much as you can leading up to Thanksgiving Day as possible.
7. Decorate & set your Thanksgiving tablescape the night before
Thanksgiving centers around food and sitting down with friends and family to eat. So I bet you want to impress them with an attractive Thanksgiving tablescape.
A table that they’ll ooh and ahh over. After all, isn’t that what you secretly want – to impress them?
Since you’ll most likely be spending Thanksgiving Day cooking, set your table a night or two beforehand. Get it completely decorated. Press the tablecloth(s). Put out the placemats or chargers. Arrange the centerpiece. Make sure you have enough silverware and plates.
If you’ll be using your everyday dishes and silverware, just set the table with everything but those items. They’re easy to set out later.
The great thing about tablescapes ~ they can be set a day or two in advance. It will definitely give you a sense of accomplishment when you do.
8. Don’t fuss about the appetizers
Let’s face it ~ Thanksgiving is ALL ABOUT the meal. No one really cares about the appetizers. They’re just looking forward to the turkey or ham, and all the sides.
So don’t fuss about the appetizers. If you need something for your guests before the big meal, put out a simple veggie tray or a few cheese and crackers. Anything that doesn’t take time to prepare, but will tide them over until it’s time to eat.
9. Keep the drinks simple
Thanksgiving isn’t the day to create a signature cocktail or provide a lavish amount of drinks.
When you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the first time, keep the drinks simple. Don’t get into the trap of becoming a bartender. Provide one or two types of wine, your favorite beer, and non-alcoholic beverages. Or maybe a crockpot full of simmering apple cider.
Don’t go crazy trying to remember your guests’ favorite drinks and feeling they all need to be available. Keep the drinks simple so your guests can easily serve themselves.
10. Have activities & games for the kids
Will kids be at your first hosted Thanksgiving Day? If so, have a few activities or games for them. Things that’ll keep them engaged and happy. There’s no bigger downer than a bored child.
Think about the ages of the kiddos and what they might like to do. Ask the parents what activities their kids like. Is it board games, coloring, or throwing a ball outside? Most likely they’ll offer to bring something for their kids, or they’ll provide guidance for you. That way you can have things ready when the kids arrive to keep them engaged.
11. Have containers available for leftovers
It’s inevitable. You will have leftovers. If you don’t, you didn’t make enough food, haha!
Most guests really look forward to Thanksgiving Day leftovers. They want that turkey sandwich the next day.
Make sure you stock up on containers so you can send your guests home with leftovers, They’ll appreciate it, and it’s less for you to store and eat later. A total win-win!
If you follow these 11 tips for how to host Thanksgiving for the first time, I’m sure it will go smoothly. That you’ll be proud of yourself and of a successful Thanksgiving Day meal.
Then next year you’ll know what to do. You’ll be a pro. That’s when you can add menu cards to the table, try a new recipe, or make all the food yourself. Or you don’t change a thing because your first time hosting Thanksgiving went so well.
Thanksgiving Day Help
- Top 7 Tips for How to Host Thanksgiving in a Tiny Space
- Ultimate Last-Minute Thanksgiving Day Checklist
- Simple Modern Thanksgiving Day Tablescape: On a Budget
- Chic Minimalist Thanksgiving Day Buffet
- Fall Wreath Centerpiece DIY
- Ode to 1970’s Vintage Fall Tablescape
- Top 5 Reasons Why People Stress About Entertaining
- Easiest DIY Pine Cone Napkin Rings Ever!
- How to Create a Fabulous Quick Table Setting in Minutes
- Easy Step-by-Step Guide: How to Set Your Dining Table from Everyday to Formal Meals