How to Host Thanksgiving 101

It’s the mooooost wonderful tiiiiime of the year! HAPPY NOVEMBER, YO! I’m married to a wonderful man who believes in waiting until Thanksgiving is totally over until any Christmas festivities can begin. He’s married to a wonderful woman who thinks otherwise. 😉 Ha! But really, I’m #blessed cos J is ALL ABOUT IT. Thanksgiving is his JAM. It’s always been his favorite holiday, since forever. And when we were planning where we wanted to live, a criteria for realtors was “backyard for Thanksgiving football.” I kid you not, folks. That was the criteria.

A walk-in closet and a backyard for Thanksgiving football. 😉

Last year was our first Thanksgiving in our home AND our first Thanksgiving as a married duo, so we wanted to go all out and host it ourselves.

*gulp (of apple cider)*

Hosting Thanksgiving is no easy feat.

In fact, I think most people probably sprint past the thought, right to turkey dinner at grandma’s house instead.

We celebrate Thanksgiving multiple days in our family, justbecause who the heck wouldn’t want multiple days of stuffing ourselves silly with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce and sweet potato pie? Not I. So since we celebrate Thanksgiving at my grandparents on Black Friday, we figured we’d take Thanksgiving Day as a new tradition at the Gwynn casa.

How to host Thanksgiving on our own


First thing’s first: Allstate has a SUPER handy dandy infographic right here for a loose timeline for Turkey Day as a whole, from prep work two weeks before through the big day.

  • The bird needs a day to thaw for every four pounds of meat. I did not know this. Thankfully, my friends at Allstate did and helped a sistah out. #BlessUp
  • You also need room in your fridge, AND you need to ensure you’ve got room on all of your various cooking surfaces to accommodate each dish in a timely manner. This, my friends, might be the hardest struggle of all time. What needs the oven? What needs the stovetop? How many burners do we have? Can we microwave that? I think it helps to literally write down the entire menu, what’s going where, and how much time it needs to be prepared. ALSO, let me just take a hot sec to further advocate for the good ol’ potluck here. If you have people bring things that are already prettttty much ready to go (and maybe just need an easy reheat, etc), that’s SO MUCH EASIER than having to do an entire Thanksgiving dinner from scratch right then + there. Ain’t nobody got time. In GENERAL, anything you can prep ahead of time (regardless of whether or not you’re potlucking) will save you time + headaches on the big day.
  • Plan SEATING. If you’ve got a smaller space, do you have anything that can be stored for the day? How about furniture/tables/stools/etc that can be actually utilized purposefully if need be. (More great tips for small space hosting can be found right here – check it out!
  • Plan utensils/servingware, too! Count out your plates, utensils, serving bowls etc all beforehand to make sure you have enough!
  • If you can, serve appetizers/snacks in a different location than the main dinner, that way you get that moment of everyone gathering around a lovely tablescape for the main meal.
  • Be careful with centerpieces – don’t block people’s views of each other!



How to Host your First Thanksgiving

Have a plan. Namely, snacks. SNACKS ARE MY FAVORITE. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a diehard snacker. Play nice, have snacks.

Also, have activities! You can bet that first thing in the day, our clan is out back playing Thanksgiving football. Y’all, this is an EVENT. My husband makes gameplans, creates teams…we even wear eye black. We go all out. And let it be known that my team won last year. 😉

Thanksgiving football game

I’m a fan of having a few board game favorites on hand, especially for post-dinner. We played this one last year and everyone was in TEARS laughing so hard. “Fun” is an understatement.

But I’m also a HUUUUUGE fan of this idea to write letters of thanks together. I’ll be having us do this this year – such a special tradition to start, especially if you can write a few thank you notes for folks unable to make it that day to brighten up the rest of their month. Also loveloveloving this idea to collect things to give/donate to folks in need. Maybe have everyone bring a gently used clothing item, or some canned goods for a shelter – something to bring everyone together to give. So, basically, put the THANKS-GIVING in “Thanksgiving.” 😉

Lastly, have a signature drink ready! I whipped up a caramel apple sangria and passed around champagne flutes with sugar rims, pomegranate seeds inside for pizzazz, + an apple slice to garnish. Something easy + fun that can be an easy point of conversation for guests. (I’ve got a whole board on Pinterest if you’re in need of a drink recipe!)



We are stroooooong advocates of the good ol’ potluck. There are certain dishes in our house that HAVE to be made by J, according to J. Ha. 😉 He’s a faaaaabulous cook (like I said, I am #blessed), so he calls dibs on the turkey, the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, and the corn. I get to do sides and handle coordination of everything else. Then, we figure out what else we want/need and delegate among other guests.

At first, before last year’s festivities, I wasn’t 100% sure how I felt about it. Would people just think I was lazy? Would it be THAT overwhelmingly obvious that I’m about as far away from Martha Stewart status as Snoop Dogg? But then a part of me was also oh so totally overwhelmed at the thought of attempting a full Thanksgiving dinner for ~15 with the cooking prowess of a 14-year-old in Home-Ec class, so potluck it was. 😉

  • Coordinate your menu. Some obvious staples:
    • Turkey (throw it in ~4 hours before dinnertime, cook until it’s 165 degrees at the breast, and pull it out about an hour before dinner to cover with foil – more here)
    • Ham
    • Stuffing
    • Mashed Potatoes
    • Corn
    • Cranberry sauce
    • Another vegetable (we lovelovelove green beans!)
    • Sweet potatoes of some sort
    • Pumpkin pie

How to host Thanksgiving

How to host Thanksgiving

How to Host your First Thanksgiving dinner

Beyond that, we like to throw in special touches. Namely, dishes that mean something to us, be they a family recipe, tradition, or someone’s diehard fave.

Potlucking is fun since we have some flexibility there to really bring people together in the spirit of the day by mixing traditions, too. Last year, Jamie’s best friend made the MEANEST sweet potato dish – it was amazing. SO beyond bombdotcom it wasn’t even funny (we never knew him to be the biggest chef on the block). So of course, we’ll ask him to do that again this year. My mom makes the BEST natural cranberry sauce with a citrus twist. This year too, my aunt will possibly make a dish using her mom’s recipes – my Babci, who passed away when I was in the 4th grade – which is even MORE special since our “occasion” serving ware is the entire set of hers that she had saved for me someday.

No matter what, make sure you’re being safe. These tips from Allstate are CLUTCH. From temperatures of your meat to organization of things like cords of all of the different kitchen tools you’ll be utilizing, you’ve gotta be smart + safe, especially if/when younger folks are running around all hyped from sneaking premature bites of pie.



#1 tip: Hire a maid. HA. (But really tho… 😉 )

Clean up as you go to avoid that completely awful feeling of dread when you’ve got the entire family’s pile of fancy plates waiting to be handwashed. Ain’t nobody got time.

Anything dishwasher-safe…dishwasher that. I mean honestly, I’m not above just buying fancy-enough recyclable plates to avoid dishwashing altogether. Clearly we’ve found my least favorite chore. 😉

  • Clean as you go.
  • Assign roles. If someone offers to lend a hand…LET THEM. And then give them thanks afterwards, cos yannno….Thanksgiving. Ha!
  • Stock up on some all-purpose cleaner beforehand.
  • Section off a piece of counterspace (if possible) for anything super fragile – wine glasses, champagne flutes, etc – to prevent unwanted breakage as bigger plates + serving bowls get shuffled around on the “to wash” or “to dry” piles.


Have you ever hosted Thanksgiving yourself?

If so, pleasepleaseplease leave #AllTheTips in a comment below – I’m only on year #2, so I’ve got a ways to go, I’m sure.

ALSO, if you’ve got a favorite drink recipe, wouldja drop that below, too??? I’m already on the hunt for this year’s cocktail!

P.S. DON’T MISS #BRANDOUT!!! If you’re a blogger wanting to stand out to brands, you can’t miss this *free* class happening this coming Wednesday (November 8th). It’s a live webinar on the 7 Keys to Stand Out to Brands as a Blogger, and it’s happening at 8 pm EST (did I mention it’s freeeee?), followed by live Q&A. And and and, it’ll be the LAST time it ever happens live.

So, be there or be square. Or whatever the kids say nowadays. 😉


Peace + blessins’. TGIF. Happy weekend, yo!

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*This post was written as part of the Allstate Influencer Program and sponsored by Allstate. As always, all thoughts and opinions presented are entirely my own. As the nation’s largest publicly held personal lines insurer, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most–but to guiding people to live the Good Life, every day. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Coming Up Roses!