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Thanksgiving Dinner Party To Do List

There is so much to look forward to when it comes to Thanksgiving! But the one thing that no one is excited about is the preparation that comes with it. So much to do and seems like so little time to do it! We have made it a little easier with this Thanksgiving Party Planning Checklist! Let’s get started!

1 month out

Contact Family and Friends

Obviously one of the most important steps! I mean what is Thanksgiving without your friends and family there to celebrate with you! Get an early headcount and find out about any allergies and/or dietary needs and travel plans for any out of town guests.

Plan Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

Early planning can make a huge difference when it comes to setting up the dinner menu. Make out your shopping lists for perishables and non-perishables and pick things up slowly as an addition to your regular grocery shopping. Saving yourself from last minute rushing at the store in the few days before Thanksgiving. If ordering a fresh turkey, this is the time to do it! Lastly, as was stated above, taking dietary needs and allergies into account is important, and planning the menu early gives you plenty of time to find the substitutes you need.

Get Others Involved!

Thanksgiving is a family and friends holiday, so why not involve them in the planning? Delegating some responsibilities out to others in attendance will take some responsibility off your plate and helps others feel like they are contributing. Instead of cooking all of the food yourself, have a pot luck Thanksgiving! Keep track of who is bringing what so there isn’t too much of the same thing. Close by relatives and friends can bring perishable foods to serve. Even out of town guests can contribute by bringing non-perishable items like plastic ware and place settings.

Two Weeks Before Thanksgiving

Plan Table Settings and Decorations

Don’t rush to set the table as food gets cold! Instead choose your linens and table settings before hand. If tablecloths or cloth napkins need washed and/or ironed do it two weeks beforehand. Make sure that you have plenty of tables and chairs for your guests. With this out of the way you can use the extra time to whip up some fun decorations for the table!

Make a Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Once table settings are finalized order a beautiful floral centerpiece, or if you are crafty make one yourself! Show your holiday spirit by creating your own beautiful DIY centerpiece fit for your table!

Finalize Guest List and Menu

Every family have the rsvp stragglers, so with two weeks out make some calls and shoot out some emails to follow up with those who have not yet responded to get a final count. Then take another look at your Thanksgiving menu paying special attention to the number of guests your will have and any special dietary needs. Make a cooking timetable to make sure all dishes are done when they are needed and make note on what dishes to make ahead of time! Remember, if you need to accommodate any food allergies or specific dietary needs now is the time to purchase the non-perishable specialty ingredients.

One Week Before Thanksgiving

Time to Decorate!

Decorate the front porch, finish setting up the guest room if you are hosting someone overnight. If kids are coming get out some Thanksgiving themed movies and some games to keep them entertained!

Inventory Check!

Take another look around to make sure you have enough of everything for all of your guests! Napkins, plates, silverware, serving ware, name cards, ice. This is also a good time to wash your table linens too!

Four Days Before Thanksgiving

Time to Go Grocery Shopping

Pen and paper in hand, it is time to peek through the pantry, cupboards, and liquor cabinet. Write down anything you need: Remember, if you are having guests stay through the weekend to plan for meals through the weekend. If you have not pre-ordered turkey, be sure to get one now! When it comes to perishables like fruits and milk, consider purchasing them a couple of days before so they are fresh!


If you are getting a frozen bird to allow it enough time to fully thaw. General rule of thumb for thawing in the fridge is 1 full day for every 4 lbs. If your bird has been injected with anything add one additional day to the amount of time listed below:

  • 3-4 lbs – 1 day
  • 4-8 lbs – 2 days
  • 8-12 lbs – 3 days
  • 12-16 lbs – 4 days
  • 16-20 lbs – 5 days
  • 20-24 lbs – 6 days

If you are thawing your turkey using the sink method place your bird breast side down in a sink full of cold water so that the bird is completely covered. Change out the water every 30 minutes turning the bird occasionally. Once the bird has thawed you will put the bird in the fridge until the ready to cook. It is important to note that it is not safe to leave your bird in the sink overnight. General rule of thumb is 30 minutes per pound of turkey to thaw:

  • 4-12 lbs – 2-6 hours
  • 12-16 lbs – 6-8 hours
  • 20-24 lbs – 10-12 hours

Plan for Leftovers

There are always loads of delicious leftovers! Make sure you have plenty of containers to hold all those yummy leftovers!

Clean the House

Cleaning the house for guests is important but does not have to be dreaded! Shift the focus by room, paying extra attention on the rooms that guests will wander into the most: kitchen, dining, living room, and bathroom.

Also if the dinnerware was in storage now is a good time to wash those to get rid of any dust.

Money Saving Tip: Save on ice and make your own! Buy some ice cube trays and make all the ice during this time. Fill them up, freeze, put ice in a bag, and repeat until you have made enough ice!

Two Days Before Thanksgiving

Set the Thanksgiving Table

Make things even easier by setting up your serving layout on the dining table by placing your chosen serving dishes and glasses! Put food labels in the proper serving containers. Place glasses upside down so that they do not get any dust in them! If you have real flowers for a centerpiece, pick those up now!

Day Before Thanksgiving

Prepare Make-Ahead Dishes and Ingredients

The best way to save time is to prep ahead where you can! Most cleaning, peeling, and chopping can be done 24 hours before – refrigerating vegetables in water helps keep them from turning brown. Tear apart the bread into small pieces and set it out to stale over for stuffing! Pre-make cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes – both can be reheated easily! Make the pies if they have to be put in the fridge. Leave the overnight dinner rolls out to rise. Want appetizers to help hold over for dinner? Cheeseballs are delicious appetizers and great to make ahead cutting down on day of prep time! Be sure to layout any dishes or tools you will need for Thanksgiving Day.

Thanksgiving Day

Helping Hands

With all that you have done to prep for this day, delegate some responsibilities to other family members like offering drinks and appetizers, tending the fire, answering the door, and helping entertain guests.

Cook the Turkey

Remove the bird from the fridge and let it stand for 2-3 hours and preheat your oven to 325. Put the turkey into the oven to cook, basting every half hour or according to your recipe. As it cooks, prepare any sides or deserts that are unfinished. Once the turkey is done pull it out, loosely cover it with tin foil and let it rest for 20-30 minutes before carving. Not sure how long to cook your turkey check this article out here!

Last but not least… Clean Up Time

Once dinner is done and everyone is full it is time to clean up! Put leftovers away in containers, set up labeled bags for leftovers for guests to take home. Put a load of dishes in the dishwasher and wipe down the counters. Once the basics are done, relax! Put on a movie or organize a family game and just have fun!

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