Everything You Need To Host Your First Thanksgiving

You know what is completely overwhelming?  Hosting a major holiday for the first time.  Kevin and I are traveling to New York to spend Thanksgiving with his family this year, but I’m planning on hosting a Thanksgiving meal for some of my family in Kentucky on another day.

We are so excited to finally have space for entertaining, but given that we haven’t been able to in the past… we are definitely lacking in some of the basics we need for hosting.

If you’re like us and plan to host a holiday meal for the first time this year, check out my tips and tricks below. I’ve done all the overanalyzing so that you don’t have to!  Haha.

Tips for hosting Thanksgiving at your home: Start with a clean and organized kitchen!

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Prepare Your Home

Organize

Nothing is more stressful when you’re hosting than not being able to find what you need.  Well before you host an event, organize your space.  For Thanksgiving, focus on organizing your kitchen, specifically your pantry and all of your tools for cooking and serving the food.

Clean

Don’t wait until the last minute to start deep cleaning before your guests arrive.  Spend some time cleaning a few days in before the holiday so that it will be easy to tidy up again the day of the event.

You might also want to consider hiring a pro to come in and clean for you so that you can focus on other tasks.

Tips for hosting Thanksgiving at your home: Keep your decorations simple but festive.

Decorate

Less is more with Thanksgiving decor, in my opinion.  I like to stick with a general fall decor so that I can use it long before the holiday.

I stick with a fall foliage wreath, some pumpkins throughout our living space and a nice fall inspired centerpiece surrounded by votive candles in nice votive holders.

Ensure Adequate Seating

In our house, we chose to use the formal dining room area as an office so our only seating for dining is at our kitchen peninsula and our breakfast nook.  For holidays, we are considering bringing in folding tables and chairs and setting them up in our living room with a nice tablecloth to hide the plastic.

Stock Up On Necessities

Ensure that all bathrooms have adequate soap, toilet tissue and clean hand towels prior to your guests’ arrival.

Tips for hosting Thanksgiving at your home:  Don't overwhelm yourself with a huge menu full of complicated recipes.  Limit it to things you already know how to cook and only a few family favorites for sides.  Allow your guests to bring a side or dessert if they offer.

Menu

Keep your menu simple with dishes you already know how to make so that you’re not trying brand new recipes for the first time for the holiday.  My menu for this year is below.  I’m keeping it pretty simple with two appetizers and only our family favorite sides.

My mom is bringing the ham, broccoli casserole and pie and I’ll be making the rest.

  • Turkey Veggie Tray
  • Pumpkin Shaped Cheese Ball
  • Turkey
  • Ham
  • Stuffing
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Gravy
  • Mac & Cheese
  • Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
  • Broccoli Casserole
  • Rolls
  • Assorted Pies
  • Drink options:  apple cider, tea, water, milk, wine, beer, variety of soda

Prepare Your Kitchen & Set A Plan

Before you begin cooking, establish a schedule and plan for what to do when.  Have a timeline for when to begin thawing the turkey, when to start each dish based on cooking time, etc.

Consider prepping in advance by chopping vegetables, determining which serving dishes to use for which dish, etc. in advance.  The more you can do ahead of time, the more relaxing your day will be.

Tips for hosting Thanksgiving at your home:  Have a plan of action before you get started.  Do as much prep work like chopping veggies in advance so you're not rushed on the day of.

Checklist of Necessities for Hosting Thanksgiving

If you’re new to hosting a large dinner, you’ll likely be missing some of the key things you’ll need for the day.  I know for us, we had to place quite a large order of kitchen supplies because we just didn’t have everything.  It is exciting to buy all of the things we’ll be using for years to come as we host many special holidays with family in the future.

  • Roasting Pan:  I’ve always used disposable roasting pans in the past but since we’re hoping to host more often, I wanted to get a better one that can be reused.  Bonus:  this roasting pan came with a turkey baster and stainless steel turkey lifters (I didn’t even know those existed…. but they make sense)!  This is one of the more affordable roasting pans on the market.  I didn’t want to spend a fortune on something I won’t use often but didn’t want to go super cheap with the disposable pans either.  I’ve definitely had issues with spilling liquids from those and I just don’t want to risk it.
  • Tupperware:  With all of the prep work you’ll do beforehand and all of the leftovers you’ll have afterward, extra tupperware is a good thing to have on hand.
  • Silicon Baking Mat:  I use the Amazon brand but you can also buy fancier ones here.  These are SO incredible.  I love using them for baking because nothing sticks ever!  It essentially works like parchment paper, but is reusable and environmentally friendly.
  • Extra Baking Dishes:  With making multiple sides at once, we didn’t have enough dishes for everything.  I had to spring for some extras.
  • Glassware:  We have a good amount of glasses, but I wanted enough stemless wine glasses for everyone.  These are a great options but you can also get them for $1 each at Dollar Tree!  I just love stemless glasses and use them all of the time at home regardless of what I’m drinking.
  • Extra Plates:  Corelle dishes are still a go-to in my family.  I like buying these white ones for holidays because they’re inexpensive and go with everything.  They are virtually indestructible and are nicer than using disposable.  I know a lot of people go with fine china on holidays, but my family is a bit more laid back.
  • Pie Plates:  I was surprised by how inexpensive these were, so it’s nice to have glass pie plates to use for assorted desserts.
  • Crockpot:  We already have a Crockpot, but given the extra sides I’ll be making it will be nice to have an extra for a second dish.
  • Serving Flatware:  Why does it seem like no matter how many serving spoons you have, you never have enough?? I definitely don’t so this set is a great addition.
  • To-Go Containers: There is no way Kevin & I are keeping all of those leftovers.  These meal prep containers are a great way to send your guests away with their favorite leftovers.
  • Extra Silverware:  Again, I just don’t have enough everyday silverware for a large group.  It’s nice to have extra set(s) available for when you host.
  • Meat Thermometer:  The last thing you want to do is make your guests sick by not adequately cooking the turkey.  This is the #1 source of stress for me when cooking a holiday meal, so having a trusty thermometer to ensure the turkey is cooked properly is definitely helpful.
  • Centerpiece:  Real talk, this is not the centerpiece I have.  I actually made mine using a bunch of random fall inspired stems my mom had leftover from her fall decor.  I couldn’t find much out there that was pre-made but this is a good option in a hurry!  You can also try stores like At Home and Home goods to find other options.
  • Votive Candle Holders:  There’s just nothing like a nice candlelit dinner.  These votive candles come in silver and gold and remind me of the ones we used at our wedding.  I love that these can be used year round but they’re special enough for holidays.
  • Cloth Napkins:  Cloth napkins are a nice way to set a more elegant table.  We keep a set of black and a set of white napkins so that we can use them for different occasions.  I like the neutral color offered here for Thanksgiving/fall.
  • Napkin rings:  These rustic looking napkin rings are perfect for a fall theme and I like combining the glitz of the votive holders with the rustic wood rings.
  • Serving Platters (Large Oval, Large Rectangle, Small Rectangle):  Somehow I ended up with a TON of these as gifts for our wedding so I didn’t need to buy them, but
  • Bread basket:  How I’ve made it 32 years without a bread basket, I don’t know… but I’ve got one now!
  • Butter Dish:  I mean… self explanatory, right? You’ve got the bread so you’ve gotta have the butter.
  • Salt and Pepper Shakers:  I love these festive salt & pepper shakers and think they’ll look adorable on the table with the votive holders.

Focus on What Really Matters

Most southern women I know pride themselves in being excellent hostesses, cooking great food and serving our families with love.  I hope that we can all remember this year that the holiday is really about spending time with our families and being grateful for our blessings in life.

My goal is to avoid allowing stress to creep in… I want to relax and enjoy every moment I have with loved ones.  I hope you’ll do the same.

Please let me know in the comments… do you host your Thanksgiving meal?  If so, am I missing anything important here?  What is your #1 favorite Thanksgiving dish?

Tips for hosting Thanksgiving at your home: Focus on what really matters! The holiday is all about spending time with loved ones and celebrating the blessings in your life. Don't allow the cooking, cleaning or decorating to distract you from the true purpose.

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17 thoughts on “Everything You Need To Host Your First Thanksgiving

  1. I’ll be hosting Thanksgiving this year, this is a great checklist! Having disposable takeout containers always comes in handy, so guests can take a lunch plate home!

    1. Ahh! So fun! I’d love to have a Friendsgiving. My friends are spread out all over the country but would love to make it happen at some point!

    1. Thank you!! That’s really what it’s all about but unless I plan well and prepare, it’s hard to focus on it! ❤️

    1. I’ve never had them at thanksgiving but they’re so good! Glad to add them into the menu!

    1. Ooh! I didn’t even notice that about the roasting pan! That’s awesome! AHH!!! I hadn’t thought about the carving.. GREAT point!

  2. We do Thanksgiving at home with just the two of us, and it’s seriously my favorite. No drama. No travel. Minimal cleaning.

    1. I haven’t posted it yet! So sorry. It’s 3 lbs Brussels sprouts, shredded or chopped. 1 lb bacon chopped. 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar and 3 T Dijon mustard. Cook bacon then add in Brussels. Sauté until some browning/charring. Add vinegar and mustard. You can keep warm in oven.

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