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The Ultimate Thanksgiving Guide: Everything you need to host Thanksgiving!

by Megan

In the early 2000s, we lived right down the street from my mother-in-law’s house, and the whole family would gather at her place for a big family Thanksgiving…until 2010 when my mother-in-law was out of the country for the holiday. I took a deep breath and told everyone to still come! I decided I would host Thanksgiving.

*picture me in superhero stance, wind blowing my cape*

Luckily I didn’t have to do it all myself. Each family brought part of the dinner, either ready-made or to-be-made at one house or the other, and one family even got a free turkey through work, so they brought and cooked the turkey at my house!

If you’ve been tasked with hosting Thanksgiving, take a deep breath and know that you are in the right place. I’m going to give you some tips and provide you with every resource you’ll need, from placecards to pies!

Guide to hosting Thanksgiving

How to Host Thanksgiving

Below you’ll find absolutely every resource you need to host an amazing Thanksgiving, whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving for the first time or the 21st! I’m going to share resources for planning and organizing, top recipes for every dish from turkey to cranberry sauce, décor ideas, party games, activities for the kids, and so much more!

First some tips.

1. RELAX YOUR STANDARDS

If, at the end of the day, everyone has had some turkey and pie (or whatever you choose to serve!), you’ve succeeded. The table does not have to look picture perfect (but can, with a few simple touches- see below!), every single side dish does not have to be a winner, and if some of the relatives don’t get along, well that’s on them! Short of throwing a fit and overturning the dinner table, give yourself grace and know that you’ve got this!

2. DELEGATE

You could do it all on your own, but you don’t need to! If you’re welcoming others into your home for the holiday, you can also invite them to bring a dish! Most people will be thrilled to bring something, even if it’s just because they are so happy they aren’t hosting at their place. Ask what they’d like to bring if you want, or just assign it. If they need help with their assigned recipe, just send them the recipe link below!

3. SCHEDULE

The more prepared you are, the less stressed you’ll be! Check out some of the organizing resources below and start preparing several weeks in advance. You may even want an hour-by-hour schedule for the big day itself, to ensure that all the food is ready and everyone is at the table at the same time.

4. REWARD YOURSELF

Planning a big event, especially when the main focus is on an amazing meal, isn’t easy! My recommendation: get a face mask and a bath bomb ahead of time and reward yourself after your successful event with a hot bath and some relaxation time!

Now on to the resources!

The Ultimate Thanksgiving Resource List

I’m linking out to a lot of sites both to share the love and because I’m not an expert at these things. Luckily other people are! Enjoy the beautiful Thanksgiving décor ideas, easy tablescapes, kids activities, party games, crafts, and of course all the Thanksgiving food!

Thanksgiving Planners

A big day requires planning ahead of time! Plus, when you’re preparing a big meal, you may even need an hour by hour schedule so that everything comes out ready to eat at the same time.

These posts all include different versions of a Thanksgiving countdown, where they tell you what to do in the weeks and days leading up to the event:

Now that you’re organized, let’s decorate!

Thanksgiving Decorations & Crafts

There are so many clever and adorable ideas out there- this is just a few of my favorites that I found! There are so many cute Thanksgiving decorations and craft ideas to be found with just a few minutes of Pinterest surfing.

Thanksgiving decorations

And if you have a Silhouette or Cricut machine and are extra crafty, check out these projects:

Crafts for the Kids

Kids love to craft too! These Thanksgiving crafts are especially fun to do with little ones:

Thanksgiving kids crafts

Thanksgiving Dinner Table

Let’s face it, your Thanksgiving dinner table should mostly be covered in food! But it’s always nice to make the table look a little dressed up and classy, so here are some great ideas and examples of how you can elevate your Thanksgiving dinner table experience!

Thanksgiving dinner table

Creative Place Cards

Can’t have a big Thanksgiving dinner without place cards! Well, you could, but would you want to??

Thanksgiving place cards

Kids Thanksgiving Activities

It’s really smart to have fun, on-theme activities ready to keep little ones busy while the meal is being prepared. Check out these awesome ideas, including coloring pages, word searches, quiet games, and cookie decorating!

Kids Thanksgiving activities

Fun Thanksgiving Party Games

These fun Thanksgiving party games will keep everyone entertained before or after dinner!

Thanksgiving party games

Related: This is a fun game to play while watching a football game!

Thanksgiving Food

Decorations and activities are nice, but it’s time to get serious. We all know what we’re here for…the Thanksgiving food! Below you’ll find recipes for every Thanksgiving dish, instructions on cooking the turkey in different ways, drink and dessert ideas, instant pot recipes, and even full menu plans done for you! Let’s get to it!

Thanksgiving Menu Plans

If you want to avoid sifting through hundreds of recipe options on the internet, this section is for you!

Wendy put together a solid Thanksgiving dinner menu for you with everything you need for a delicious meal.

At Cook’s Illustrated you’ll find a variety of dinner menu options, from Classic Thanksgiving Menu to A Southern Thanksgiving and (my favorite) Thanksgiving for Beginners.

Country Living also offers several Thanksgiving dinner menu ideas, including Slow Cooker Thanksgiving Menu and Vegan Thanksgiving Menu!

I don’t really have a category for this last one, but here is a really cute Thanksgiving breakfast idea: Turkey Pancakes!

Thanksgiving Appetizer Ideas

Even though the big event is the dinner, everyone loves to have snacks around while you’re getting everything ready and enjoying one another’s company. At my house, these were pretty simple: chips and dip, cheese and crackers, and my mom’s crockpot meatballs! Here are some yummy ideas you might want to include in your Thanksgiving appetizer options:

Thanksgiving appetizers

Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes

Thanksgiving turkey recipes

Time to cook the big bird! Here are a few different ways to cook your Thanksgiving turkey:

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Nothing’s better than piling your plate sky high on Thanksgiving! Here are some side dish recipes to fill your table:

Thanksgiving side dishes

Thanksgiving Instant Pot Recipes

I know some of you out there have a special love for your Instant Pot, so here are some alternative recipes using the Instant Pot or another pressure cooker!

Thanksgiving Instant Pot recipes

Thanksgiving Drinks

When we have Thanksgiving with my husband’s family, my sister-in-law makes the most amazing Crock Pot cider. Mmm! Gotta top off all that delicious food with some good drinks!

Thanksgiving drinks

Thanksgiving Desserts

You might need to take a break after the main meal, but you can’t forget about dessert! This section is divided into two: pies and non-pies. Here are all the sweet, clever, non-pie Thanksgiving desserts:

Thanksgiving desserts

Thanksgiving Pie Recipes

Here we are, at the best way to end a busy Thanksgiving day- settling down on the couch with a piece of delicious pie! Deep sigh of relief- you did it!

Thanksgiving pie recipes

Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes

Thanksgiving leftovers are almost as great as the main meal! If you hosted, you’ll probably end up with a fridge full of food to snack on into the weekend! Here are some ideas of what you can do with that leftover turkey!

Thanksgiving leftover recipes

I think that covers it all! If I’ve missed anything else useful, please let me know so I can add a section or a link!

I hope this resource helps you to have the best Thanksgiving ever, and hey if anything goes wrong, you can just shop it out on Black Friday. ;)

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