A Checklist for the Gracious Thanksgiving Host

If you’ll be hosting Thanksgiving dinner at your home this year, you’ve already extended the invitation to family and friends and are busy planning your menu.  Making the most of your holiday gathering involves more than serving your famous herb roasted turkey, you must also be sure to be a gracious Thanksgiving host.

I’ve put together a Thanksgiving checklist for each element of the day to ensure you and your home are ready.

Thanksgiving Menu Planning:

  • Remember to contact your guests to confirm and check on dietary restrictions.
  • Get creative with your menu! Go through your favorite recipes and a few new sources for inspiration. Holiday cooking magazines have wonderful and easy to make ideas.
  • When planning the menu, include appetizers, soup, the main course, multiple side dish vegetables, an elegant salad and (of course) dessert.
  • Place the order for your turkey or ham. Make sure your oven is large enough to fit a big “bird.”
  • Don’t hesitate to hire a great caterer if you aren’t comfortable preparing Thanksgiving dinner yourself.  Or, ask your sister or Aunt Margaret for a helping hand in advance.
  • A few carefully selected wines add to the festive day.
  • Once you’ve finalized your menu, print off a beautiful menu card and individual place cards.

Your Thanksgiving Table:

  • Take inventory of your linens. Check to see if there are repairs or replacements needed.
  • Ensure adequate seating.  Do you have enough tables and chairs?
  • Select your Thanksgiving dishes and glassware.  Use what you have, and if you find yourself in pinch, don’t be afraid to use plastic and disposable (except for wine glasses).
  • The same goes for dessert plates, napkins, cake plates, serving trays, coffee cups and saucers.
  • Test run a few different centerpiece ideas before the day arrives.  Something chic and simple, leaving plenty of room for multiple dishes, glassware, utensils and serving pieces.
  • Purchase extra bags of ice if you’re expecting a full house.

 In Your Kitchen:

  • A sturdy roasting pan
  • Turkey baster
  • Large mixing bowls
  • Serving bowls
  • Tongs
  • Large serving utensils
  • Ladle for gravy
  • Bread basket
  • Wax paper, foil
  • Electric knife
  • Cutting board
  • Trivets and hot pads
  • Pot holders
  • Serving platters – multiple
  • Gravy bowl and saucer
  • Coffee pot
  • Sugar and creamer
  • Coasters
  • Beverage napkins
  • Wine opener

Your Thanksgiving Home:

  • A few hours before guests arrive, light your candles, put on your playlist, check your flower arrangements and enter your home as if you were a guest, giving a final look at your special details.
  • Remember to check your restroom for toilet paper and hand towels. Display a touch of fall color in a simple bud vase.
  • Is your coat closet company-ready? Make room if needed!
  • Designate an area for umbrellas and snow shoes to avoid a wet mess.
  • Create a place for the kids (and teens!) to relax and play games while adults are socializing.

Allowing yourself ample time to prepare will help to put your mind at ease and give you the freedom to enjoy the day as a gracious Thanksgiving host.

Happy Thanksgiving,


Diane Gottsman

Diane Gottsman is a national etiquette expert and modern manners professional, sought out industry leader, television personality, accomplished speaker, Huffington Post blogger, author, and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in executive leadership and etiquette training. Diane is routinely quoted in national and international media including The New York Times, The BBC, CNN, Bloomberg Business Week, Kiplinger, Huffington Post Canada, U.S. News and World Report, and Forbes. She is the resident etiquette expert for two popular morning talk shows, SA Living and Good Day Austin. She has been seen on The TODAY Show, HLN Headline News, WGN Chicago, and CBS Sunday Morning. Her clients range from university students to Fortune 500 companies and her workshops cover topics ranging from tattoos in the workplace to technology at the dinner table and the proper use of social media.


  1. says

    Diane, This is such a helpful article. Your list is particularly useful for those of us who think we have it all together, but realize halfway into the preparation that we are missing a key utensil or dish. Happy Thanksgiving!
    Lydia Ramsey

  2. Diane says

    What kind words Lydia! I am certain you are always a most gracious and well prepared host. I wish you a very happy holiday season.
    My best, Diane

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