Tips For Hosting Your First Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, right? But if you’re hosting it in your home for the first time you may have mixed feeling about the day. Yes, it’s a wonderful time to celebrate with family and friends, but first you have to make all that food! Then once everyone leaves, you’re often left with a huge mess to clean up. So here are some tips to get through hosting your first Thanksgiving without stressing so you can actually enjoy the holiday.

Your Guide To Hosting Thanksgiving

hosting your first Thanksgiving

Ok. So, you are in charge of hosting Thanksgiving. Now, what do you need to know and do when hosting Thanksgiving? Well, you got this. You just need a plan to clean up beforehand and then a plan to tackle the feast. Think about what dishes you want to serve. Which dishes would you like to cook yourself and are there a few non essentials you could delegate out? Do you have everything you need to serve Thanksgiving dinner? Asking yourself these basic questions will help you break everything down and make lists to be ready.

1. Plan And Organize

Clean your kitchen

If your kitchen is already a mess, it will make trying to prepare a large meal much more difficult. Clean your kitchen really well a couple of days beforehand, including the refrigerator. Clear out all leftovers and old food, set aside at least one shelf for dishes that might need refrigeration and all the thanksgiving leftovers you will be sure to have plenty of.  Make sure you have all the pie dishes you need as well as a roasting pan for the turkey.

See what you can cook beforehand

Pies and desserts as well as certain other Thanksgiving dishes such as cranberries, vegetables, appetizers, dinner rolls, and even gravy can be made previously and set aside, or refrigerated in your reserved shelf.

Turkey Plans

You may need to plan ahead and put an order in for an organic turkey in a couple of weeks beforehand.  If you buy a frozen turkey, they take a day to thaw in the fridge for every 4 pounds of turkey. If you plan to brine your turkey, you will want to start that the day before Thanksgiving.


If your guests would like to bring a dish, go ahead and assign them one you know would be helpful to you or at least get a commitment with the dish they plan to bring so you don’t have to do the work anyway and end up with two of the same thing.

Try making a schedule

Figure out everything you have to make, how long each dish takes to prepare, and list it all out. Know exactly when each dish has to start to have everything hot and ready at the same time.

Let go of Perfection

You may want to set your table with all the fancy china and impress your guests, but ask yourself if it’s worth the mountain of dishes afterward. It may not look as fancy, but using disposable dishes wherever you can will save your sanity. Paper plates can be tossed away and so can paper napkins instead of the cloth ones that you have to wash. When possible cook your food in the same vessel that you can serve and store it in. These double duty containers that are able to go in the oven and freezer can save a lot of dishes.

how to host thanksgiving

2. Work As You Go

Get The Turkey In Early On Thanksgiving Day

A turkey takes a pretty long time to cook, about 20 minutes per pound, so you will want to calculate your cook time for the the size turkey you have and figure what time you want to serve your meal to know exactly when the turkey should go in the oven.

Keep a sink full of hot soapy water

A lot of times we tend to get so caught up in cooking that we just use whatever we need until every dish and utensil we own is dirty, leaving a huge mess for afterward. Keep a sink full of hot soapy water and wash dishes once they are used. Start the dishwasher as soon as it is full, and empty it to make room for more as soon as it is done. When you finish with a pot or pan, soak it immediately in hot soapy water. Wipe down counter tops and clean up spills or messes as soon as they happen.

Layer garbage bags

Layer two or three garbage bags in the can so that once it is full you can pick the first one up and throw it away, leaving immediate room for more. By controlling and keeping one step ahead of the messy build up, you can eliminate of a lot of the work usually left for the end of the day.

Recruit helpers

Let the kids help!  There are lots of small chores the kids can and should help with.  It is important for them to learn to contribute and to feel like a valued part of the process.  Adults like to help too.  Let them help with chopping or washing up the dishes as you go.  Extra hands make light work.  If they aren’t good in the kitchen, let them help with setting the table or keeping the extra kids busy with Thanksgiving crafts.

Tent The Turkey

When the turkey is done, you can tent it with foil to keep it warm and let is rest while you warm up the dishes that need to be warmed, prepare any last minute dishes, and get things to the table.

tips hosting thanksgiving

3. Remember to breathe! –

Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy what you have been blessed with. You are hosting your first Thanksgiving and it’s okay if you eat fifteen minutes later then planned. It’s okay if your attempt at sweet potato casserole didn’t turn out exactly like grandma’s always did and your dishes wind up sitting overnight. Enjoy spending time with your friends and family, and make sure you have a great holiday!

I hope these tips for hosting your first Thanksgiving help you prepare for the perfect Thanksgiving feast. One, last word of advice- put your family to work. They’d be happy to help! Tell them what you’d like them to bring or what to serve. Let the older kids help the little ones decorate with Thanksgiving crafts. Remember, don’t sweat the small stuff and be thankful for family time. You got this!

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