Hosting Thanksgiving can be stressful.
There's a menu to plan, a turkey to cook and a table to set and decorate.
You want everyone to enjoy the tradition and have a wonderful time.
Let this checklist for hosting Thanksgiving take some of the stress out of planning and executing this special holiday. The fourth Thursday in November is coming up quick!
Click to download ultimate Thanksgiving checklist
1. Guest list
There are a couple of preliminary tasks at hand prior to the big day's arrival. To start, check in with guests early in the week to make sure arrangements haven't changed. Confirm your headcount for food and beverages.
Make a plan that lets your family and guests be part of the action:
- Let your guests help you! Delegate, delegate, delegate!
- Ask each person attending to bring something yummy. Even though you're hosting you don't need to make everything you serve.
- Have a list of options for your guests to bring. Check each one off the list as you go. This way you won't have any repeat sweet potato casseroles!
- If someone isn't really up to the foodies task, then ask them to fulfill another role. Ask what they would like to do to help.
- Mixology anyone? Playing bartender and mixing cocktails is fun.
- Ask someone to help by passing around the hors d'oeuvres
2. Menu plan and organization
How can you keep things organized? A party requires lots of advance work, think of Thanksgiving in those terms.
Are you a recipe follower? Then be certain to double-check your recipes so you can create two grocery shopping lists for two specific shopping trips. One is for turkey and non-perishable goods. The other is only for perishables.
Make a list of the things to keep on hands for parties.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Keep hors d'oeuvres simple
- Serve a signature cocktail
- Serve desserts buffet-style
- Make sure you have all the cooking utensils you need
- Clean and organize the refrigerator in advance
- Do as much food prep and cooking as possible ahead of time
- Consider these 7 rules for a make-ahead Thanksgiving dinner
- Don't forget to thaw the turkey
3. Cleaning and other prep
Depending on how large your apartment is, you might need help getting it spiffy for company. Entertaining in a small space may mean your guests will notice everything! Don't let a tiny apartment stop your Thanksgiving plans in their tracks.
Just like you're planning your menu, do some advance prep work:
- Hire a cleaning service for your place. Be sure to have them tackle the powder room/bathroom(s)
- Hire a carpet cleaning service
- If hiring an outside service isn't part of your budget for your holiday gathering, then ask your big kids to help out
- Call on a few close friends who won't mind being put to work! Make it fun and serve easy snacks and beverages to say thank you.
- If you're operating solo, roll up your sleeves and get to work
- Be sure to deep clean the main entertaining areas, including the powder room, dining room, kitchen and living room
- Add a seasonal accent from the get-go on an entry table. Could be as simple as a "Gather and Be Grateful" banner.
- Hang a beautiful, welcoming wreath or autumn-themed display with pumpkins and gourds at your front door or entryway
4. Design your tablescape
Think like a restaurateur. Plan your table arrangements and place settings in advance. Give yourself enough time to polish the silver and wash any special glassware you'll use.
Organization and creativity are key to creating a memorable tablescape:
- Decide which dishes and bowls you will use to serve with. Stack everything in one place.
- Bring out your most beautiful china
- Mix and match family heirlooms you'd like to use on this special day
- Use a platter for the turkey that your mom always served on
- Make your autumn-hued flower choices for your centerpiece a few days prior to Thanksgiving
- A critical part of the day is planning in advance for how your meal will be served. Decide early on whether to do a formal table or a buffet, family-style or plated.
- Lay out your serving dishes ahead of time
- Place notes in each dish, for what they will hold. This will dictate your place settings and other table needs.
5. Guest entertainment
A backdrop of tunes and football on Thanksgiving is the perfect combination! So, be sure to select a Thanksgiving playlist and have a designated TV area for viewing the game(s).
Be sure to include stuff throughout the day for the kids to do (little and big)! Here are a few ideas:
- Keep the littles busy with a custom holiday craft. Plan ahead so you have all the supplies for making gratitude finger paintings or a pear turkey.
- Give your big kids a job to do. Ask them to answer the door and take everyone's coats to a bedroom or closet.
- Ask the big kids to fill glasses with ice. It will make them feel less like worker bees and more like co-hosts of the day.
6. Get your rest
Don't forget to take care of yourself. The host has to be charged and ready! Get plenty of rest in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Self care is imperative.
Pre-Thanksgiving, set up some time to be ready for what's to come:
- Do something relaxing like getting a manicure or massage
- Keep Thanksgiving eve and morning simple. This means planning easy meals with minimal cleanup.
- Have your clothes ready to go! Choose what you'll wear while cooking.
- Have your outfit for dinner figured out the night before
- And don't forget to set your alarm for an early morning wake-up call. You've got lots to do, after all!
7. Think through cleanup
Who doesn't love leftovers? Buy food storage containers and baggies to fill with Thanksgiving leftovers. And don't be shy about offering goodie bags or asking someone to help wash and dry. You're likely pooped by now!
Here are a few ideas for post-turkey dinner and dessert:
- Offer custom goodie bags. Let guests take a sampling of their favorite foods home. Set out platters in a designated to-go area.
- Decide how to use leftovers for the next day. Have ingredients on hand so you won't need to do any additional food shopping.
- Accept help with cleaning up
- Use caution and wash your own china, heirloom dishes and crystal
Seize the day!
Let your hosting duties be worry- and stress-free by using a few organizational tricks to ease you through this special holiday! Have a Happy Thanksgiving!