We all know that there’s no place like home for the holidays. But if your home is where friends and family gather every Thanksgiving or Christmas, the holidays can end up feeling more stressful than cheerful. After all, there’s a menu to plan, a table to set and an entire house to clean. Eek!
That’s why we put together this epic holiday hosting guide. This timeline will spread out your duties over an entire month. And our printable checklist ensures no task gets left behind. (Because let’s face it, we’ve all forgotten to thaw out the turkey).
Download Your Printable Checklist
Your Holiday Hosting Timeline & Checklist
4 Weeks Before: Make a Game Plan
- Send out invitations.
- Take inventory of your tables, chairs, plates, cups, napkins and utensils. If you’re short on any items, make plans to rent, borrow or buy extras.
- Order your turkey, ham or roast.
- Read up on the do’s and don’ts of hosting a holiday party.
3 Weeks Before: Focus on Food
- Plan the menu. (Check out this traditional Thanksgiving menu that comes with a printable shopping list!)
- Sketch out a preliminary grocery list.
2 Weeks Before: Follow Up
- Follow up with guests who have not RSVP’d.
- Double-check your grocery list and add any missing items.
- Polish silver, clean china and dig out your roasting pan.
1 Week Before: Start Shopping
- Head to the grocery store to stock up on non-perishable items and beverages.
- Set out seasonal decorations.
- Make a party playlist. We love this one when we’re making Christmas cookies!
- Start using up bulky items in your fridge or freezer (looking at you, gallon tub of ice cream) to make room for holiday prep.
5 Days Before: Clean It Up
- Check your turkey or ham and determine how long it’s going to take to thaw. Every 4 pounds of bird will need 24 hours of defrosting time.
- Vacuum and dust the house.
3 Days Before: Keep Calm Before the Storm
- Purchase remaining groceries. Don’t forget the ice! (By the way, this is the worst day to shop for Thanksgiving items).
- Iron any table linens.
- Come up with a warming plan to ensure all of your dishes will be hot and ready to serve at the same time. Consider utilizing extra appliances, like your slow cooker, to cook or keep food warm.
2 Days Before: Start Assembling
- Set the table or assemble your buffet. Pull out any serving dishes you’ll need and use small pieces of paper to delegate which foods will go in each.
- Spot-clean the house. Tuck away any items (especially in your kitchen) that you won’t be using for the party.
1 Day Before: Prep! Then Prep Some More
- Set out fresh flower arrangements.
- Make as many dishes ahead of time as you can.
- Measure or chop ingredients for any dishes you can’t make ahead.
- Place beverages in the fridge (or garage, if you’re short on space) to chill.
The Morning Of: Finish the Meal
- Place your turkey, ham or roast in the oven.
- Finish any dishes you were unable to make ahead. Need an easy last-minute dish? Here are a few of our favorites.
2 Hours Before: Add Finishing Touches
- Set up a bar so guests can pour their own drinks.
- Set out fresh hand towels in the bathroom.
- If you’re serving sandwiches, make sure the rolls are pre-cut.
30 Minutes Before: Get Ready to Host!
- Set out appetizers.
- Turn on your party playlist.
- Light any candles and turn on any holiday lights.
- Pour yourself a glass of wine and give yourself a pat on the back—you did it! Now, go enjoy the party.
Up Next: Learn how to host an unforgettable Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve