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How to Guide for Surviving Thanksgiving Dinner 

This post was updated on July 2023

Surviving Thanksgiving with family members is hard!
Learn these helpful tips so you can truly enjoy the big meal!

easy ways to survive thanksgiving

​The holiday season is hard! Originally this post was written in 2018, and wow… The last few years have been wild!

If you’re hosting the family gatherings for Thanksgiving this year, I’ve got a few tips for you to have a good time, and avoid any family drama.

You will love this post if you’re for the first time, and have the entire family gathering around the Thanksgiving table.

Thanksgiving Dinner for Four

Hosting Thanksgiving itself is stressful! Add on controversial conversation, sensitive topics, and finding common ground with your dinner guests, and it might not seem like the most wonderful time of the year!

I love Thanksgiving!  Hands down one of my favorite holidays. 

It’s all about the food, the family and friends gathered around the table, and the table setting. 

thanksgiving table setting with candles

Most of Thanksgiving is wonderful, but that one hour when everyone is arriving, people are bringing things you didn’t ask them to bring, everyone wants your attention, and you’re too busy whisking gravy like a mad woman?!? 

Been there. Every single year, y’all! Seriously! It’s just how it goes! 

Surviving Thanksgiving

First, let’s chat about the dinner table.

​When you’re planning your holiday gathering, think about your table setup. 

​Here are a few questions to ask when tackling the daunting task of setting the table.

​Start by thinking about your seating arrangement. Do you want assigned seating, or let people sit wherever they’d like? 

friendsgiving table setting

Are you creating a few different tables to accommodate a bunch of people?

What are your realistic expectations for the day?

I can remember setting a big table, gathering everyone closely around the table, letting people sit wherever they’d like, and the conversation fell flat.

While people aren’t always thrilled about it, there is a method to the assigned seating madness!

simple place card setting on a table

You know your family well. You know who enjoys sitting next to each other, who carries good conversation, and who likes to slip into the “wallflower” area. 

If you’re able and willing, it’s a great way to manage the conversation when you assign seating. Plus, it’s a small gesture that lets your family know you’ve been thinking of them and expecting them for the big feast!

​Choosing a Menu for a Holiday Meal

thanksgiving menu plan

​When it’s your first year hosting the biggest feast of the year, you want everything to be perfect. You have your favorite dishes that are the traditional foods your family loves.

If you’re able and have extended family that is willing to bring some of your favorite foods, delegate as much as possible!

You as the host can make the turkey, and a few other dishes, but the best thing you can do is to ask people to bring the recipes.

easy thanksgiving day menu idea

Need a Thanksgiving Menu? Here are the Top 15 Thanksgiving Foods, a Southern Thanksgiving Menu, and my family’s Thanksgiving Dinner Menu.

4 Best Survival Tips

game plan for thanksgiving


There is nothing better you can do for yourself than have a great plan in place. Making and hosting Turkey Day is a lot of work, and having a Thanksgiving Game Plan to work off of. It’s a super simple way to get your dinner party already and be fully present for the big meal.

Inside The Holiday Hosting Handbook, you’ll find that on the Thanksgiving Timeline I’ve built in alone time. We all need a few minutes of time alone, by ourselves, without anyone asking us tough questions, talking to us, distracting us, arguing, etc. 


thanksgiving mashed potatoes

Something will come up, something will go wrong, and even though you’ve planned and planned, something will go array. That’s okay!! You can still enjoy all the Thanksgiving sides of cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, and mashed potatoes, all knowing you’ve done your best with what you have. 


campbell's green bean casserole

It sounds lame and annoying, and I really am not the biggest fan of tradition, but when it comes to hosting your first Thanksgiving and surviving Thanksgiving with your family, this is one of the best tips I can give you.

This is not the time to try a new recipe for the first time. Make that recipe the day after, or a few days after Thanksgiving. But, for the big day, keep the food to the traditional menu. If there are other traditions you and your family participate in try and include those as best you can. 


easter table setting idea that is simple

No one has a better time if you’ve set a super elaborate table, and created lots and lots of new games for people to play. If you’re trying to win Best Instagram Thanksgiving of the Year, you will fail… and regret the day together. 

Set out some board games in the living room for your family to play while you get the last-minute things ready, set out the food buffet, etc. If it’s nice outside, set up a drink and snack station outside if you’re able to! This gets people out of the kitchen, and your space, and keeps them busy. Plus, it’s nice for everyone to get a breath of fresh air before sitting down to the big meal. 

Simple Tips for Surviving Thanksgiving

​It’s always a good option to make as many dishes ahead of time as you can. It’s a busy time of year, so do your grocery shopping well in advance, and you’ll be winning the mental health game already!

The best Thanksgiving Day is the one where you are fully present. Not standing over the stove while everyone else has a better time. 

Helpful Tip: If someone brings up President Trump, interrupt them, and change the conversation. You as the host have the authority to do that! And the freedom, y’all!

How do you practice “surviving” Thanksgiving?? Or any other holiday for that matter?!

Save this to your Thanksgiving Board on Pinterest

How to Guide for Surviving Thanksgiving Dinner

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