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All you moms out there, listen up: We know that when it comes to hosting Thanksgiving, it’s easy for you to bite off more than you can chew. (No pun intended.) But, with a little attention to simplifying tasks and organization — from a turkey that needs hours of attention to a beautifully set table — you can make the day more enjoyable for yourself.

Moms can have a mixed relationship with the holiday. There’s the anticipation of how many guests will show. Do they prepare the entire meal, get premade items, or ask attendees to bring something? Will they be in total host mode that prevents them from enjoying the holiday? Will they have have enough food? How much will everything cost? And will they have enough leftovers to make their favorite turkey chili the following day?

If thinking about all this is stressing you out, chill. Our ultimate Thanksgiving checklist has 10 simple hosting tips that will help any mom feel like a guest at her own celebration.

1. Smart planning

Your smartphone calendar is all you need to be organized. Sketch out an idea of the hosting responsibilities and set the dates to complete them. Include everything from what to serve, the days to shop for food, and table setting needs.

Find uninterrupted time, like a Saturday afternoon over a workday, to review your tabletop inventory. Organize what will be used for the gathering and group items together, such as a set of linen napkins and napkin holders. During your routine market trips weeks before the holiday, pick up basic Thanksgiving needs, such as salad dressing and butter that have an extended expiration date so you won’t have an epic shopping trip close to the holiday. This also simplifies unloading and storing the food in what’s sure to be a jammed refrigerator and pantry.

2. Secure the guest list

Firm up the number of guests as quickly as possible. Think of the event as a regular family dinner with added holiday treatment, food, and seating. Also, make a list of what is needed for the entire guest list and if you have enough for your desired amount of leftovers. As the date draws closer, refrain from adding more people to the guest list unless there is enough food and space to accommodate them.

3. Contact guests for personal requests

Don’t be surprised by last-minute food requests on the day of Thanksgiving. Once you have your guest list confirmed, contact everyone before the event for any specific requests, which will eliminate last-minute scrambling for alternative meals. It’s always a good idea to have fruit and crudité options that meet most dietary needs.

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4. Create the menu and plan deliveries

A few weeks before the occasion, review your food supply and draft a shopping list of what is needed. When creating the menu, find shortcuts like pre-made rolls, nuts, fine cheeses, and desserts. Another option? It doesn’t get any easier than having beautiful meals delivered. Arranging your flower delivery three to four weeks in advance is another important to-do, says Renato Sogueco, vice president of digital strategy and education at BloomNet.

“This will guarantee a premium selection by giving the florist time to confirm availability with the supplier (even grower), the first choice in anything available,” he says. “It also optimizes pricing, as well as allows for time to comparison shop with other florists.”

5. Avoid shopping at the last minute

With your guest list secured, reserve a time to buy everything that’s needed, including the food, candles, cleaning products, and beverages. Keep a budget in mind so you don’t overspend on non-essentials, such as fancy seeded crackers no one likes. Cross out another step by selecting online meals that are sent to your home.

Pro tip: The Monday before Thanksgiving is a good time to purchase the turkey and shop for fresh foods. Anyone who has ventured into a supermarket the day before the holiday understands that it’s sensible to avoid the shopping pandemonium associated with crowds. Monday also leaves enough time to defrost a frozen turkey.

6. Delegate

Martyrs are for fantasy novels. When it comes to hosting for the holidays, taking on all the challenging tasks is a setup for a cranky host. From asking guests to bring their favorite sidesetting the table, and cleanup duty, outline tasks that can be farmed out so you can focus on your favorite parts of the celebration.

Pro tip: Set the table the night before to remove a step on Thanksgiving day.

7. Dust off the formal china and silver

Make polishing the silver part of your checklist and take care of it the weekend before Thanksgiving. Also, review your table setting favorites that will make an appearance on the holiday table. Forego any important pieces if your guest list has younger members this year, and simply dress up your everyday tableware with added accents like flowers and favors guests can take home. Not only will the table be eye-catching, but it will also give you an updated look.

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Using the same tablescape each year is predictable and lacks the wow factor. We are no longer in Thanksgivings past, where the ceramic turkey centerpiece is pulled out annually for its one-day-of-the-year viewing. Instead, decorate the table with current inspirations and a one-of-a-kind flower arrangement. Even holiday candy displayed on a pedestal plate or in vintage teacups can be part of the table’s decor.

9. Modern traditions

There are certain must-haves to the Thanksgiving meal. Can you imagine what the reaction would be if you decided to serve a roasted chicken with french fries? However, having a favorite dish that may not fall into the traditional menu could be the hit of the meal. Start a new tradition where you include a trending fall food that will delight guests and guarantee to get a large serving on your dinner plate. Another option is adding a delicious dessert along with the pie staples that are certain to be devoured.

10. Cleanup

Before serving the meal, arrange a large, lined trash receptacle in a visible yet out-of-the-way area so guests can discard their scraps. Fill the sink with warm soapy water so everyone can easily attend to their dishes. Keep cute dish towels on hand to add holiday flair, even during cleanup. The pre-meal cleaning task may sound odd but the objective is deliberate by alleviating the host of an added step after the dinner. Guests will also feel useful by helping with minimal effort.

The meal

Putting together a Thanksgiving feast is all about the planning. Stay organized and keep track of the foods and accessories you need with our ultimate Thanksgiving meal checklist.

Start with delicious appetizers

From tasty bites to creamy dips, there’s nothing like fresh Thanksgiving appetizers to start the celebration.

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  • Cornbread
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Chips and spinach dip
  • Veggies and dip
  • Salad
  • Apple chips
  • Roasted Brussels sprouts
  • Deviled eggs

Impress with Thanksgiving dinner and side dishes

From colorful sides to traditional turkey, make sure there’s something for everyone at the table.

Enjoy easy Thanksgiving drinks

Whether you’re enjoying a refreshing glass of cider or fall-themed cocktail, fill up your cup — and those of everyone in attendance — with something good this Thanksgiving!

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Leave room for dessert

Of course, the turkey and mashed potatoes are the center of attention, but Thanksgiving isn’t complete without a variety of desserts.

Have all your cooking tools handy

When the big day rolls around, you want your food to come out just right. Stock up on these cooking accessories to make prepping simple and foolproof.

  • Carving board and carving set
  • Roasting pan and roasting rack
  • Turkey lifters, baster, mixer, scraper, and measuring utensils
  • Saucepans and pots
  • Whisk, spatula, turner, and vegetable peeler
  • Baking sheet and cooling rack
  • Mixing bowls and pie dish
  • Basting brush, rolling pin, and strainer
  • Coffee maker and tea pot
thanksgiving checklist table decor

Don’t forget the tableware essentials

Set up in style for the ultimate feast! From utensils to the gravy boat, organize your table with a festive Thanksgiving flair.

Casserole dishes, plates, and bowls

Get festive with Thanksgiving décor

Bring fall-friendly décor into your home — and especially your dining room. From rich colors to warm autumn tones, highlight everything you love about the season.


Jacqueline deMontravel is’s senior editor of floral and gifting. She is also an editor, writer, designer, artist and stylist. Previously, Jacqueline was the editorial director of Engaged Media’s Lifestyle group, overseeing such publications as Cottages & Bungalows, Romantic Homes, Yum, Seaside Style, Cottage White, French Style, Happy Modern and Rooms. Formerly the editor of Country magazine, she held editor positions at Self and GQ. She has been a contributor with Hearst's Harper's Bazaar and Black Book magazines.

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