Whether you’re planning to host the holidays at your home for the first time, or simply looking for a better way to plan, our day-to-day timeline will help you prepare your home, plan for and throw a fabulous Thanksgiving gathering with ease.
Whether it’s an open house, a party playlist or the pumpkin pie for your family dinner, we’ll show you how to throw a stress-free Thanksgiving in style. We’ve started our guide in early November, taking you all the way through Thanksgiving morning.
2 Weeks Ahead: Gather Décor
Visualize what you want your home to look like for your next home showing or upcoming Thanksgiving party—whether it’s making pumpkin centerpieces or dusting off those special-occasion-only plates. Consider color scheme, too. Fresh and festive is best.
2 Weeks Ahead: Plan the Menu
Here’s the fun part: food. Flip through cookbooks, old and new, and bookmark your favorite recipes. Consider guests’ allergies and dietary needs, as well as signature dishes they may want to bring. (You can ask them to note these things in their RSVP.) Now is also the time to ask Grandma for her secret stuffing recipe!
1 Week Ahead: Take Inventory
Double-check your home to make sure you have enough of everything for your guests. Think napkins, plates, serving bowls, name cards—even ice! When planning your party, phone any guests who have not responded so you can get a definite head count.
Weekend Ahead: Go Grocery Shopping
With a notebook in hand, peek through your pantry, liquor cabinet and fridge—write down any items you’ll need to buy. The turkey should be first and foremost. Plan to purchase perishables like milk and fresh fruit a day or two before the party.
Weekend Ahead: Plan Activities
Kiddos coming? Not to worry! Simple board games, cards or coloring stations are sure to keep the little ones entertained. Get extra-festive by crafting place mats in the shape of turkeys or, better yet, let the kids craft them!
3 Days Ahead: Clean the House
Cleanup is quick and painless if you take it in strategic small steps. Start by paying particular attention to the rooms your guests will wander through most: the living room, dining room and bathroom. Take 10 minutes to tidy up, 10 to dust and 10 to vacuum. Your house will be spic-and-span in no time!
3 Days Ahead: Stock Your Home’s Guest Rooms
Win a four-star review by pampering overnight guests with more than just the essentials. Purchasing their favorite coffee or placing a chocolate on their pillow will let them know how happy you are to host them.
3 Days Ahead: Create a Playlist
A party without music? Unthinkable! Use preholiday downtime to craft the perfect playlist. Pick a mix of current and classic songs to appeal to all of your guests.
3 Days Ahead: Prepare Party Favors
Send guests home with something sweet such as these adorable turkey cupcakes. Use a made-from-scratch recipe or decorate a batch of plain store-bought—either way, your guests are sure to sport a thankful smile.
2 Days Ahead: Set Up the Bar
A self-serve bar leaves you free to check on food and mingle with guests during your gathering. Find a convenient spot close to the dining table to set out clean glasses, pitchers and ice buckets. Fill the pitchers with one or two signature drinks—we recommend apple cider studded with cinnamon sticks—and leave it up to guests to spike them!
2 Days Ahead: Set the Table
Make serving extra-easy with a preplanned layout. Fill the dining table with your chosen serving bowls and glasses, placing food labels in the proper dishes.
1 Day Ahead: Prepare Make-Ahead Recipes
Check a few dishes off the menu by preparing them a day in advance. Items like stuffing, dough for rolls and gravy are all great to get out of the way and keep well until the party. Prepare as many recipes and ingredients as possible—this includes chopping veggies for tomorrow’s salad. Be sure to rub the turkey with desired seasonings on this day to marinate overnight. You’ll also want to prepare a timetable for tomorrow so everything will finish when needed.
Tip: Don’t forget to run the dishwasher, so it’ll be empty and ready for party dishes.
Thanksgiving Morning: Prepare the Greens
Keep sides crisp and fresh by preparing them the day of. Classics to consider making: green beans, asparagus and broccoli.
Thanksgiving Morning: Mash the Potatoes
Fluffy mashed potatoes are one of the top things to look forward to at Thanksgiving dinner and are best when made the day of. Two tips you must know: 1) make sure you cut your potatoes into equal-size chunks; and 2) use room-temperature butter and cream.
Thanksgiving Morning: Roast the Turkey
The minute you wake up, be sure to preheat the oven. The average weight of a Thanksgiving turkey is around 16 pounds, which takes anywhere from 3 to 4 hours to roast. After popping your bird in the oven, delegate carving and serving duties.
Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens. Used with permission. © Meredith Corporation. http://www.meredith.com. All rights reserved.