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Thanksgiving Party ideas and Party Planning Tips

Thanksgiving is traditionally a day for friends and families to get together for a special meal. The holiday is usually celebrated with a turkey dinner although, everyone has their own traditions. Whether you’re looking to host an elaborate dinner party with gorgeous table settings and Thanksgiving favors or an intimate meal with your closest friends and family, nothing illustrates the season quite like being with the people you love.

thanksgiving party ideas

Elevate the celebration of this great American milestone by hosting a Thanksgiving party full of delicious menu items and beautiful pieces from our fall decorating ideas. A holiday surrounded by Thanksgiving traditions deserves a grand gathering full of gratitude, appreciation and love.

Scroll through all of our ideas or jump to a specific:

How to Host a Thanksgiving Dinner?

After being bombarded with images of beautiful  tablescapes and golden turkeys baked to perfection, it’s no wonder that you feel the pressure when it comes to how to host a Thanksgiving dinner. On top of making sure your home is in great condition for all of your visitors, it can make a huge difference if you sort through your ideas and stay organized with your party planning.  Whether it’s your first year hosting or your fortieth, there’s no harm in staying ahead of the holiday with a few tips.

This Thanksgiving shouldn’t be stressful for anyone, including you, the host. It’s all about planning and staying organized and this guide will walk you through doing just that.

Follow the steps below for smooth sailing this November:

  1. Create a guest list for your Thanksgiving dinner. Determine your guest list in advance. The holiday wouldn’t be much of one without your loved ones close by. Getting a headcount of who you are going to invite will help you select a location and get an idea about how much food you will be making on the big day.
  2. Choose a venue for your Thanksgiving celebrations. Your party location will depend on how many guests you are considering to host so, keep this in mind before you finalize your guest list. For example, if you want to host a smaller thanksgiving dinner then your home may be the ideal location. On the other hand, if you want to host an extravagant feast with many guests you may choose to rent out a local space for your Thanksgiving party.
  3. Select a theme for your Thanksgiving party. Selecting a theme for your Thanksgiving Day celebrations will help you streamline your planning and set the tone for your festivities. Colors are a great place to start if you don’t already have a specific theme in mind. Hues that complement the season best include oranges, browns, yellows and burgundies. Aim to incorporate these colors in your Thanksgiving invitations, decorations and more. You’ll want every aspect of your celebration to complement each other and sticking to a theme is a great way to assure that everything ties together.
  4. Create your Thanksgiving menu.  Every household has its own traditions when it comes to what dishes will be served on Thanksgiving.  Part of hosting a Thanksgiving feast involves deciding what you and your guests will be feasting upon.
  5. Prepare a shopping list to save yourself time.  Staying organized will assure that you don’t miss an ingredient. Keep a running list on your phone with the items you need for your Thanksgiving dinner. This way, you can check items off as you toss them in your shopping cart.
  6. Get your shopping done early so you avoid the holiday crowds. There’s nothing quite like a trip to the grocery store, especially around the holidays. With your shopping list in hand you will have an easier time braving the holiday crowds. Get your grocery store trip out of the way ahead of time to avoid the frantic holiday shoppers and get a jumpstart on the prep for all of your Thanksgiving dishes.
  7. Dress up your venue with the perfect Thanksgiving decorations. While you are picking out your Thanksgiving decorations opt for pieces that coincide with the theme that you have selected. If you are working with a modest budget, there is no need to get excessive with the decor. Just select pieces that fit comfortably within your style and use some of your own resources.
  8. Pick out your Thanksgiving table settings. A bountiful table setting complete with fall flair is the perfect way to dress your table for Thanksgiving day. In addition to glassware, dishes and utensils, your tablescape can be elevated with customizable items like a table runner, placemats, place cards, centerpieces and more.
  9. Pick out Thanksgiving Party Games to keep your guests entertained. Select some Thanksgiving party games and activities to keep everyone busy after they’ve been stuffed. Select games that are appropriate for your partygoers no matter their age.

Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas and Themes

Selecting a theme at the beginning of your party planning will set the tone for your event and streamline the rest of your planning. The theme you pick will decide what direction your Thanksgiving dinner will take and will be present throughout your menu items, decorations and party games.

When it comes to picking out a theme, it’s best to make sure that whatever you select suits the occasion. You’ll want to make it personal and an easy place to start is by considering various color schemes.

A color palette gives you a great starting point to pick out the rest of your party essentials like decorations and invitations. You can also link your theme with the season or look at what’s on trend. This will allow your theme to feel up-to-date and current. If you’re still unsure what theme will best fit your Thanksgiving gathering use one of the themes below:

Rustic Gathering: Bring the beauty of the outdoors in with neutral colors for a rustic Thanksgiving gathering. For this theme, focus on muted hues like khaki, sand, off-white and burnt orange while selecting your party essentials. Utilize natural wood on the dining table and incorporate pinecones or birch wood to give your party a natural feel. Fall leaves make for great hanging items or you can even just lay them around your dining table or other areas of your event. A burlap table runner along with creamy florals make for the perfect centerpiece. Think white accents and greenery for this rustic Thanksgiving theme.

Sophisticated Bohemian: Create a flashy Thanksgiving event with the bold mix of black and gold items. Incorporate a standout patterns or textures like polka dots, marble or flannel to make this theme pop.  Script thank you quotes on each of the place cards to elevate the table settings. Touches of bohemian can be added with greenery centerpieces, feathers and cream colored pumpkins. Utilize succulents in gold rimmed planters around your party for an on trend feel with hints of refinement.

Harvest Party: Use bright orange pumpkins as inspiration for your harvest party themed Thanksgiving. In fact, you can even use them as decor pieces. For this theme think warm hues like golden yellows, crimson colors and bright pumpkin orange. Incorporate scarecrows and hay bales to bring your harvest theme to life. Hanging autumn leaves will feature all of the colors you’re looking for and will also make for a great backdrop for photos. Incorportate thank you messages and sayings on custom canvas prints to hang around your home as a great reminder of what Thanksgiving is all about.

thanksgiving menu ideas

Thanksgiving Menu Ideas

It wouldn’t be a proper Thanksgiving without a wide selection of menu items. This yummy holiday is all about the baked, the buttery, the candied, the creamy and the crisp. Anyone getting hungry yet?

Prepare Thanksgiving Side Dishes: Whether you’re serving up a traditional Thanksgiving dinner or something out of the ordinary, assure that your side dishes are a little more seasonal than usual by adding fun flavors to spice things up. Use these fun twists on classic side dishes to make your Thanksgiving menu really stand out.

  • Mashed Potatoes: Throw in some roasted garlic and a spoonful of mascarpone cheese to your classic mashed potato recipe.
  • Sweet Potatoes: Sprinkle a pecan and marshmallow streusel on top of your sweet potatoes for a side dish that is so sweet it could be mistaken for a dessert.
  • Stuffing: Add a few more savory layers to your stuffing dish in the form of bacon and tasty leeks.
  • Brussels Sprouts: Add some pan seared pancetta to your brussels sprouts for flavors your guests will remember. 

These festive takes on classic Thanksgiving recipes are the perfect complement to your main dish.

Set up a Thanksgiving Dessert Bar: A festive dessert bar is the best way to display all of your Thanksgiving sweets. Complete with a variety of pies, cakes, cookies and more, you’ll be able to tempt your guests with sweets that look as good as they taste.

Ask Guests to Bring a Dish: Hosting a Thanksgiving potluck can make things a lot easier on you in terms of preparation. Plus, if you’re beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed with all of your holiday to-do’s asking your guests to bring a dish can be a great way to relieve some of that stress. As the host, plan on cooking the main course and instruct each of your guests to bring their favorite side dish. Depending on the number of attendees, you will have plenty of food and variation. Make sure to indicate the details on your Thanksgiving invites to assure no one brings the same item.

thanksgiving decorations

Thanksgiving Decorations

One of the most enjoyable parts of planning a party is picking out the decorations. Set the fall scene with some inspiring Thanksgiving decoration ideas for not only the table and dining room, but the living areas too. From fall foliage and table place cards to centerpieces and front door decor, there are endless ideas for styling a Thanksgiving party that will fit any theme you have in mind.

Your dining room and table will be the star of the show, but you won’t want the other areas of your venue or home to feel less festive. Grab some supplies and create handmade decor pieces that will have your guest raving about how beautiful your set up was.

Here are a few easy DIY party decorations that will bring a bounty of happiness to your home this year:

  • Fall Leaves– Fall leaves make for great table place cards, mantle decorations or hanging items. Bring a little bit of the outdoor fall beauty into your home this thanksgiving with an arrangement of autumn leaves.
  • Thankful Tree– What a fitting decorative piece for your home this fall season. Creating your own family thankful tree is easy and only takes a few steps. All you need for this Thanksgiving craft project are a few twigs, a sturdy vase, a couple of gift tags or ornaments, twine, a hole punch and a pen. After placing the twigs in the vase to look like a miniature tree, gather the family around to write down what they are thankful for this year on the gift tags. Next, hole punch the tags and tie a piece of twine to them so that the sentiment can hang from the branches. Your thankful tree will take everyone’s attention this holiday season and is a fun way to show your thanks.
  • Message Board- Quite similar to the thankful tree decor piece, a message board is the perfect item for this harvest season. Whether you use a bulletin board or a frame is up to you, but before your guests arrive decorate the board to match the season. On the top of the board write out the sentiment “We are Grateful for…” Set out festive pieces of note paper or even fall foliage for your guests to write what they are grateful for as they come in the door. Pin their messages up and display this piece somewhere all can enjoy.
  • Pinecone Thanksgiving Place Cards –  Seeing as the dining room table is the most frequented area at any Thanksgiving feast, this decor piece is sure to be the perfect addition. Gather up some pinecones, a few fall leaves, adhesive glue and a couple pieces of string to create a DIY Thanksgiving table decoration that is just as useful as it is cute. These little turkey pinecones will bring your dining room table to life. Start by pressing your leaves so that they are nice and crisp. Next, use the glue to secure the leaves onto one side of the pinecone to look like turkey feathers. Up next, manipulate the string to look like a turkey’s head and glue it to the other end of the pinecone. Once you have created what looks like a cute little turkey you can’t forget about the name cards. Cut out rectangular sheets of paper and write each of your guests name on one. Your guests will know exactly where to sit once they arrive to your Thanksgiving dinner. This craft piece will elevate your Thanksgiving tablescapes to new heights.

There’s certainly no need to go out and spend an excessive amount of money on decorations for your feast. DIY Thanksgiving decorations allow you to add your own special touch to the party plus, you can recruit the  kids to help you with the prep as well.

Add any of these Thanksgiving craft pieces to your mantle, a window seat or any space of your home that is missing that fall feeling.

thanksgiving table settings

Thanksgiving Table Settings

The dining room table is by far the star of the show at any Thanksgiving celebration so, as the host, you’ll want to make sure your table is dressed in it’s best. Set the scene around the dinner table this year with these fresh and fun tablescape ideas. You’d be surprised at how much a few napkin rings and a table runner can elevate your dining table. Keep in mind what colors will work best with the theme you have selected and don’t be afraid to incorporate bold textures.

Your dining room decoration planning should start here. Include the following items on your table for the perfect holiday tablescape:

If your Thanksgiving guest list includes little ones, then you may want to designate a kids table. It can be nice for adults to catch up with each other without the kids, especially when family is visiting from out of town. There is surely a lot of catching up to be done around the table.

thanksgiving kids table ideas

When it comes to putting a kids’ table together it’s important to remember that things are most likely going to get messy. The following tablescape tips are kid friendly and should be able to withstand the little ones:

  • Lay out a craft paper table cloth along with crayons so that the little ones can not only spill all over the table, but keep themselves entertained too.
  • Use paper or customized plastic plates to avoid breaking any tableware.
  • Keep the centerpieces fun, crafty and even interactional so that the kids stay busy after they’ve finished their plates.
    • A fun centerpiece idea is to create a turkey out of a styrofoam ball and stick crayons out of the back to look like feathers. This fitting centerpiece doubles as a crayon holder as well as a festive touch. So cute!

Thanksgiving Party Games

After you and your guests finish eating Thanksgiving dinner assure that the fun continues by picking out a few Thanksgiving party games to play with everyone. It may not be too often that you get all of your friends and family in the same place at the same time so, continue the love and laughs with a few activities.

Ring the Pumpkin: This game is perfect if you are hosting a harvest party and have some outdoor space you’d like to utilize. Set-up two rows of hay bales and place pumpkins at different distances between the bales. Have each player step up to the hay bales and try to toss the ring around the pumpkins. This fun game will start some friendly competition and is perfect for adults and kids.

As a Child: Before the party, look through old photos and try to find images of the folks you know will be attending. Put the photos of each guests when they were younger on a board and designate a number to each photo. Create a form that has each guests name with a blank space next to it. As guests arrive to your Thanksgiving have them guess who is who by writing the number of the picture in the blank by their name. This is fun for all of your guests and a great way to bring back old memories with one another. 

Charades: Put a holiday spin on the classic game of charades and use Thanksgiving words. Get all of your guests involved by designating prizes for the winning team.

Once your menu is planned out, your decorations are up and you’ve set aside a couple of games to play, it’s important to think back to what really matters on a day like Thanksgiving.

It’s not about what’s on the table but rather who’s sitting around the table- the people you are most thankful for. It’s the sounds of laughter and the stories told that make this heartfelt gathering so special. When all of the party particulars are in place and the big day has finally arrived make sure that you take the time to celebrate with the people you are most thankful for. Make sure that you take the time to enjoy yourself with those nearest and dearest to your heart.

Whether you’re hosting a dinner party at home or renting out a venue for an unforgettable celebration, these ideas will help you see your festivities through. As for those guests who can’t make it to your gathering, make sure to send them a heartfelt Thanksgiving card with  sincere thanksgiving wishes for the holiday.