Plan The Perfect Guest List and Eliminate Thanksgiving Day Stress

We’ve all been to that awkward Thanksgiving dinner.  Aunt Jane is not talking to uncle Marty because of the fight they had on the way over. Your socially awkward cousin will be there. Or, that family friend that tends to make inappropriate comments towards you will be there this year. Thanksgiving can evoke a lot of emotions for people because it usually means being around our odd family members. Most of the time, Thanksgiving comes and goes without any major drama. However, each family has that one Thanksgiving that no one likes to bring up. Whether you’re planning your first Thanksgiving or your tenth, I’m here to help you plan the perfect guest list and eliminate Thanksgiving day stress.

Fortunately, times are a changin! People are branching out and hosting friendsgiving, along with other things to bring the life and fun back to turkey day. (Check out my Countdown To Thanksgiving Planner if you happen to be hosting Thanksgiving this year!) Kevin and I decided a while back that our home will always be the home where everyone is welcome. So, no matter what drama may be going on with family or friends, it does not matter. Everyone is welcome in our home. Because we have adopted this all are welcome policy that means that our gatherings have the potential to be quite large. Not only do we like to include family, but we like to include friends as well. If you’ve downloaded my Countdown to Thanksgiving Planner you will have already received my Guest List Planner, YAY!

The Guest List

Guest List Graphic.jpg

I love to use my Guest List in the planner whether I’m hosting Thanksgiving or any other gathering.  My Guest List allows me to see everything I need to know about who is coming. I can glance at my Thanksgiving Guest List and immediately know:

  • Who I’ve Invited,

  • Who has RSVP’ed,

  • Their Contact Info,

  • The Number in Their Party, and

  • What I’ve Assigned Them to Bring.

Yup. You read that correctly. I assign my guests an item to bring! Why? Because otherwise I end up with three different bowls mashed potatoes. Assigning side dishes to guests ensures that you have just enough of what you need. If you have a guest that isn’t comfortable in the kitchen, no worries! Have them bring a bottle of wine, dinner rolls or a store bought pie. But again, assign the specific pie. Otherwise you may end up with multiple pumpkin pies.

But, Ginger. What happens if Sally goes rogue and decides to bring mashed potatoes too? Not worries. I’ve got a solution for that! But, we will talk about that when we discuss planning the menu a little later.


I generally start planning Thanksgiving, if I am hosting, 4-6 weeks in advance. What that means is that at around 6 weeks out (mid-october) I start to think about my Thanksgiving Guest List. I start early so that I can send out physical invitations if I choose. This year, I’m not. Instead what I am doing is calling everyone, and then following up with an email or text message. Following up with a text message allows me to offer a subtle reminder of when they need to RSVP. I generally let people know that I would like a RSVP with in a week. Why such a fast turn around?

Well, most of the time people have a rough idea of what their Thanksgiving tradition is, and they know whether or not they will be able to attend. I also like to know with enough notice so that I have time to rent tables and chairs if need be. That’s right! I will rent tables and chairs if we are hosting enough people.

Getting Creative

Kevin and I don’t have a huge dining room table right now. Nor do I want to rush out and buy something. So instead, I opt to rent tables and chairs for larger gatherings. It allows me to seat everyone at one table (no more kid and adult table). Plus! You can have them delivered and picked up for a fee. To me, it just makes sense, and it eliminates the excuse of not having enough space.

If you’ve ever used the excuse, “we don’t have enough room at our place…” I’m here to tell you, you do. You just have not gotten creative enough, yet. But, that is why I’m here to help! The other great thing is that renting tables and chairs now frees up your current table to be the food table. You can set out all the food, have guest serve themselves -- buffet style -- and not have to worry about passing the turkey gravy around the dining table.  

Be sure to checkout my Countdown to Thanksgiving Planner if you’re in need of more ideas, tips and help for planning a Thanksgiving Day dinner that will wow guests and take stress off of you. What was your favorite Thanksgiving? Is there someone you look forward to seeing each year at Thanksgiving? Tag them below to let them know you’re looking forward to seeing them this year!