How To Prep Your Home To Host The Perfect Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a festive fall occasion that kicks off the holiday season. For many, it's a time to celebrate family and friends and gather together to be grateful. It's also full of traditional events like exciting parades, children's plays, and fun football games. However, taking on the task of hosting the holiday can be a daunting one. From menu planning to deciding on tablescapes, there are tons of to-dos to think of. These tasks multiply when you're planning to host overnight or out-of-town guests.

According to History, Thanksgiving occurs each year on the fourth Thursday in November. So, that means you can use the month to lay out plans, source all the right supplies, and design and perfect your decor. By starting on your hosting duties well in advance, you'll be more likely to be able to relax and enjoy your guests. Here's everything you need to know to get perfectly prepped and make the most of your turkey day.

Deciding on your Thanksgiving guest list and set up

The first step of your holiday planning is deciding on the "who." Making a list of guests to invite can be complicated. You might want to keep your list small and only invite close family members. Maybe you want to opt for a larger celebration and include extended relatives. You could even have a casual Friendsgiving celebration in mind and plan to open your home to lots of friends and neighbors.

However, the biggest thing to remember is the number of guests your space can comfortably accommodate. If you plan a sit-down meal, Basset Furniture points out that you should provide 24 inches of table space per guest. This means that it takes about a 78-inch table to seat six to eight people. Of course, if you want to take a more-the-merrier approach, you can get creative to expand your seating capabilities. If you have room, add smaller tables to the end of your dining table to create a longer surface. You can also push other furniture aside to set up a few temporary dining tables in places like your living room. If you are flexible with your dining options, consider a buffet-style meal where diners can graze, and you can serve more guests comfortably.

Choosing a theme and formality

Your next decision will be the theme and formality for your holiday event. You can choose to have a super formal affair with cloth napkins and china reserved for special occasions. Or, go super casual and use disposable plates, napkins, and cutlery. Many hosts decide to land somewhere between items that make the holiday special and create a low-fuss gathering.

While a theme isn't necessary, having one can add a special touch to the Thanksgiving holiday. The party planning experts at The Bash suggest using metallics for a sophisticated vibe or pretty pastel hues for an innovative color scheme. They also point out that the quintessential fall items like pumpkins, pine cones, and warm hues can bring in the autumn vibes of the outdoors. Whatever you decide, be sure it blends well with your home's current decor. Add it everywhere, from your tablescape to your front door decor, to create an immersive atmosphere.

Deciding on your serving style

You'll also want to decide on your serving style well ahead of your event. You can opt for family-style dining, where guests pass dishes around the table. Or, you can set up a buffet of dishes where guests move along a table to serve themselves. Each style has its own unique set of benefits. According to The Daily Meal, setting up the meal in a buffet style allows you to keep your dishes at the ideal temperatures with your stove tops or crockpots. It also allows you to save space on your dining table and can give you more room for decor. A buffet can also create a more relaxing vibe where guests can pick and choose their meal and refill their plates at their own pace.

However, the site doesn't overlook the fact that the traditional Thanksgiving table features a spread of menu items. It also points out that family-style dining allows guests to stay seated throughout the entire meal. This can be especially helpful if you have a number of elderly family members or children that need assistance filling their plates.

Whatever style you choose, make sure you have serving dishes planned and assigned ahead of the holiday. The last thing you want to do is scramble for platters or bowls when it's time to serve the meal. Make a full list of the dishes you plan to serve, including smaller items like butter and gravy. Then, use sticky notes to label the serving dishes, ensuring each menu item has its place. This gives you plenty of time to purchase more if needed. It's also a good idea to keep a few extra pieces on hand for larger dishes or an unexpected contribution from a guest.

Creating your tablescape

On a holiday centered around a meal, your tablescape takes center stage. Be sure to get it planned and do a few mock setups in the days and weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. When you get it just right, take some cell phone pics from a few angles. That way, you can set it up before guests arrive without the stress of last-minute adjustments.

When designing your tablescape, Toll Brothers suggests deciding on a color scheme while considering the room's current hue. Plan your tablescape component while keeping the size of your table in mind and using plenty of texture. For a Thanksgiving table, items like faux foliage, burlap, and raw wood accents are all seasonally festive ways to infuse texture and interest.

It's usually a good idea to begin planning your centerpiece at the middle of the table and working your way outward. You might want to use a row of candles or vases for a minimalist look. Or, maybe you use an organically-shaped spray of greenery or an array of pumpkins for a natural vibe. Either way, you want to create a stunning look while keeping function in mind. Remember that the table's primary purpose is for eating and gathering. So, make sure decorations don't impede sightlines or conversations and allow ample room to enjoy food comfortably.

Planning your place settings

After you have decided on the overall vibe of your table, you can carefully plan your place settings. The Pioneer Woman recommends starting with a basic table setting. Place a plate at the center, the fork and napkin on the left, and the spoon and knife on the right. Then, you can add or remove items according to the formality of your gathering and the components of your meal. You may want to include a salad fork on the left side or add a soup spoon on the right. If you are serving multiple courses, soup bowls and salad plates can be layered on top of the main plate.

When choosing your dinnerware and cutlery, you want to ensure the colors blend seamlessly with your tablescape color scheme. Neutral dishes in shades of white and gray are ideal for nearly every holiday. You can complement these with standard silver or brushed gold cutlery. For a modern look, matte black pieces make a bold yet neutral statement. This allows you to add pops of colors customized to your Thanksgiving decor. Gold or red napkins add a festive touch. You can also use fall-themed napkin rings and add a sprig of rosemary to each place setting for added style.

Adding a personal touch

The Thanksgiving holiday is all about being grateful for the ones you love. So, why not add personal touches throughout your decor? These make your home more welcoming and can give your celebration more meaning. Make it a habit of taking plenty of photos at each Thanksgiving and other holiday gatherings. Then, have them printed and use photo clips to display them around your home. You can also create an online photo album so they can be streamed to your smart TV or the screen of a smart home device.

Another awesome thing to display is family heirlooms that pay homage to past generations. Julie Blanner suggests using old, handwritten recipes for a nostalgic vibe that's perfect for Thanksgiving. When framed and matted, these make stylish and meaningful decorative touches. You can also make your guests feel special by creating personalized place settings. Handwritten place cards are a fun way to designate seating. Consider adding a special note to each one for a thoughtful touch.

Include pops of fall festivities outside the home

Welcome guests to your home with some fall-themed outdoor decor. Get your porch Thanksgiving-ready and boost your curb appeal with some simple additions. Key Land Homes recommends adding a few earthy-hued throw pillows to front porch seating. A colorful fall wreath and placing an assortment of pumpkins and gourds near the front door make an easy seasonal statement. For festive foliage, you can also add dried corn stalks and potted fall mums. Using large lanterns filled with seasonal items that can be switched out to transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas easily.

Depending on where you live, your outdoor living areas can also be part of the celebration. Get your patio or deck furniture ready with a fun fall centerpiece. Add some plaid fleece throws on lounge chairs to cozy up with, and stock up on wood if you have a fire pit. Don't forget to have your lawn mowed and leaves removed to be ready for a classic Thanksgiving backyard football game.

Prepare guest spaces for overnight guests

If your Thanksgiving hosting comes with overnight guests, prep ahead of time to ensure you aren't scrambling at bedtime. Turn your guest room into a welcoming sanctuary where visitors can feel comfortable. Impression Homes suggests allocating an empty closet or dressers for guests to store their things. They also recommend setting up a small coffee maker and an assortment of their favorite snacks. Provide your guests with the Wi-Fi password and extra device chargers for added convenience.

If you have several overnight guests, it's important to make sure you plan sleeping spaces carefully. Create a list of all of your visitors and where they will likely sleep. You might need to stock up on air mattresses or folding cots to expand your sleeping spaces. Make sure you account for linens for each one and provide guests with various weights of blankets for customizable comfort.

Make guests feel comfortable by providing everything they may need. Extra toiletries and stacks of towels allow them to shower without feeling like they need to ask for things. Show them a hamper where they can place dirty towels or bed linens. And things like cleaning wipes and room spray allow them to refresh their space whenever they want.

Don't forget to plan Thanksgiving fun for the kids

When you're planning your celebration, consider guests of all ages. If younger kiddos are coming to your gathering, you'll want to have plenty of activities to keep them busy. Plus, you want the holiday to be fun and memorable for them as well. Setting up a dedicated kid's table is an awesome way for young family members to bond and create lifelong memories. Make it kid-friendly with brightly colored dishes and mealtime activities that they'll enjoy. Parties365 recommends covering the table with kraft paper, printing placemats, and crayons for coloring fun. They also provide a fun idea for a meaningful DIY centerpiece. Use a hollowed-out pumpkin filled with floral foam as a base to arrange long, thin twigs. Then cut out a few paper leaves for each child to write things they are thankful for. Attach the leaves to the twigs to create a gratitude tree that everyone can enjoy.

For downtime before and after dinner, make sure you have plenty of kid-friendly ways to hang out. Stock up on board games, simple crafts, and blankets. Make your couch cozy with plenty of washable throws in fun fall shades. Then, stream kid-friendly Thanksgiving favorites like "Free Birds" and a "Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" to keep little ones distracted during post-dinner clean-up.

Set a smart cleaning timeline

One of the best holiday-hosting strategies is to spread your prep tasks out as much as possible. Deep cleaning your home a few days before your celebration allows you to focus more on last-minute tasks. If there are major chores you need to tackle, plan a to-do list and a reasonable timeline. Tasks like cleaning the fridge and rearranging furniture can be done well before the holiday. You can also begin cleaning less frequently used spaces and laundering bed linens early. Dusting things like ceiling fans and light fixtures can also be done ahead of time.

As for the last tasks on your cleaning checklist, Geaux Maids recommends a few items to complete before guests arrive. Make sure to vacuum and mop floors, dust all of your tables and shelves, and clean up any clutter. You'll also want to clean your windows and polish faucets and sinks, so guests are greeted with a welcoming shine.

Add fall foliage for a natural vibe

Just as greenery brings a natural brightness to your home, fall foliage adds a cozy and warm vibe. Strategically placing autumn arrangements throughout your home can give it a welcoming feel with lots of character. Cut flowers aren't just for spring and summer. Add a vase of fall favorites to your countertop or table for a pop of color. Cynthia Zamaria suggests using dahlias and amaranthus for vivid statement-making colors.

If you are looking for a simpler, low-maintenance way to display flowers, look for faux options. This is also a wise choice if your guests have allergies. Using just one type of flower in an arrangement can give fake flowers a more realistic look (via Sanctuary Home Decor). Eucalyptus leaves work well as greenery to round out arrangements and are the perfect green hue for fall.

Another option is to gather fresh pinecones for a rustic look. These are perfect for filling bowls and containers throughout the home. To open the cones up and perfectly preserve them, you can bake them at 200 degrees for half an hour and let them sit for a few days. Coat them with a matte acrylic spray to seal them, so they're ready to display (via Tipnut).

Add a fall atmosphere to your space

When you are prepping your home for Thanksgiving, you want to give it that warm and welcoming fall feeling all over. This means that you can add pops of fall color all over your home for a festive vibe. Take a look at the fall color palettes that Venngage suggests for inspiration. Combinations of browns, golds, and greens can be subtle shades for extra blankets. Or, you can arrange a monochromatic collection of pillows in fall-friendly hues like mustard yellows or rusty reds.

You can also add autumny scents to add to your atmosphere. Essential oil diffusers are a safe and clean way to infuse fragrance in every room of the home. Create your own custom blend and fill your home with coziness. A blend of cinnamon, cloves, orange, and vanilla provides a hint of sweet spice. Or combine orange, lemon, and fir oils to create the unmistakable smells of fall air (via Hello Glow).

Get your kitchen ready for community cooking

If you plan to have friends and family help with cooking and meal prep, it's a good idea to get your kitchen ready and organized. First, remove as many gadgets as possible from the counters, so everyone has plenty of cooking space. You'll also want to make sure your drawers are clearly organized so unfamiliar users can easily find items like knives, cooking utensils, and measuring cups and spoons. Life on Virginia Street recommends using dividers to provide a place for everything in drawers, making it easier to find cooking tools. You can also clearly label spices so that each one is visibly marked.

You'll also want to have your cooking ingredients neatly stored in your fridge for easy access. Discard old leftovers and wipe down the shelves with a vinegar spray and sponge (via Epicurious). Then stock your fridge with all of the fixings you need for your Thanksgiving meal front and center. Try to create space to store the inevitable leftovers after the meal as well.

Prep lounge spaces for post-meal relaxation

Your Thanksgiving celebration likely won't end as soon as the meal is over. After your kitchen and dining areas are perfectly prepped, turn your attention to lounging areas like living rooms and rec rooms. Clean your couch, so it's ready for after-dinner relaxation or enjoying the big game. Pro Housekeepers notes that it's a must to check your manufacturer's cleaning tags before getting started. Then, use a vacuum brush attachment to remove pet hair and debris. Sprinkle baking soda to eliminate odors and vacuum it up after about 30 minutes. You'll also want to use a mild cleanser of vinegar or detergent to wipe away any stains.

If you have a fireplace, get it ready for cozy gatherings as well. If your fireplace is gas, vacuum away any dust from under the unit and the vents. Turn off the gas and use a glass cleaner to wipe away any dirt and grime from the inside and outside of doors. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, remove old ash and debris. Use a simple soap, cleaner, and water solution to wipe down the surround and brush the inside of the fireplace clean (via Home Depot).