Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a day for families and friends to get together for a special and hearty meal. It’s usually celebrated with a turkey dinner, but whether you’re hosting an elaborate party or an intimate meal, nothing describes the season quite like being with the people you love.
Of course, the food is the main event during Thanksgiving, but it doesn’t mean you don’t have to give your guests anything else to delight themselves with. Setting up a theme, deciding on how to decorate, and looking for activities to do can help you be the best Thanksgiving hostess ever.
If you’re looking for ideas for your next Thanksgiving feast, here are some clever ones that may help:
Choosing a theme at the beginning of your party can set the tone for the event and streamline everything – from decorations to food to party games and activities. These are some of the themes that you may want to try at your next Thanksgiving gathering.
1. Rustic gathering
Bring the outdoors in with a rustic theme. Focus on muted hues like sand, khaki, off-white, and burnt orange while choosing your party essentials. Use natural wood chargers on the dining table and incorporate pinecones to give your party a natural feel. Use woven napkin rings for dining and a burlap table runner for your table. Decorate the room with a Thanksgiving banner, fall leaves and put some creamy florals on your vases. Think greenery and white accents for a rustic Thanksgiving theme.
2. Harvest celebration
In addition to being thankful for your family and friends, Thanksgiving is about the bountiful harvest in front of you. Focus your décor around the harvest by adding gourds and bright orange pumpkins – and use them as decorative pieces. Decorate using corn husks and even a cornucopia on your dinner table. Rather than using a traditional tablecloth, try using a woven or burlap material. You may want to add rustic brass vases filled with dried flowers. Incorporate scarecrows and hale bales to bring the theme to life. Incorporate thank you messages and sayings on canvas prints to hang around the home as a reminder of what Thanksgiving is about.
3. Sophisticated bohemian
If you’re tired of all the orange hues on Thanksgiving, upgrade it with your theme. You can create a flashy but laid-back thanksgiving event with a bold mix of gold and black, starting with your tablescape. Use black and gold plates, cutlery, and cups. Include patterns like marble to make it look sophisticated. Script thank you notes on each place card to elevate the table setting. Add touches of bohemian by adding feathers, pampas grass, greenery pieces, and cream-colored pumpkins. Decorate your table with succulents in gold-rimmed planters for an on-trend feel with hints of refinement.
4. Outdoor theme
You can bring the outdoors in for your Thanksgiving celebration. Decorate with some colorful leaves and branches, and set your dining table to resemble a picnic. Use a plaid tablecloth, breadbasket and paper plates and serve your meal in a buffet style where each guest can help themselves.
5. Formal affair
If you missed out on all the parties because of quarantine restrictions, make a fine party for this year to make up for it! You can turn your traditional Thanksgiving party into a formal affair and by glamming up. Ask your guests to dress in their best attire, and serve the dinner on fine china. Use the best table linens and accent the room with candles in elegant candleholders. Hand each guest a glass of champagne when they arrive. Serve bite-sized gourmet appetizers.
There wouldn’t be a proper Thanksgiving party without a wide selection of menu items. This is a yummy holiday that is all about the roasted, crisp, creamy, baked, buttery, and candied – so make sure you offer a wide range of items for people to rave about! Here are some food ideas for a holiday:
1. Upgraded side dishes
If you’re serving a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, assure that your side dishes are something out of the ordinary. Some people might get tired of eating the same thing over and over every year, so surprise them with new twists!
- Mashed potatoes – Throw in some roasted garlic and some mascarpone cheese. Or make it ala-KFC Famous Bowl without the chicken by topping it off with corn, grated cheddar, and homemade gravy.
- Sweet potatoes – Sprinkle marshmallow and pecan on top of your sweet potatoes. This side dish is sweet that it could be mistaken for a dessert.
- Stuffing – Add more savory layers in the form of bacon, chopped-up sausages, and tasty leeks.
- Brussels sprouts – Add some pan-seared pancetta and garlic to the Brussel sprouts for yummy flavors your guests will remember.
2. Dessert bar
A festive dessert bar is the best way to display all the sweets in your Thanksgiving feast. You may want to make your pies bite-sized so guests can easily grab them and eat. Instead of serving a large pumpkin pie, serve as mini pumpkin pie bites. Instead of getting a large pecan pie, make pecan bars. Then, display cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and more in a tiered dessert tray.
3. Cocktail hour
If you’re hosting a Thanksgiving party for grownups only, a cocktail party is a great idea. Instead of sitting down to a big turkey dinner and having loads of turkey leftovers, everyone can catch up over seasonal cocktails and festive hors d’oeuvres. Offer people a taste of fall with cranberry margaritas, pumpkin pie sangria, apple cider mimosas, or mulled wine. Make these cocktails ahead of time and arrange the glasses on a bar cart. Decorate with tea light candles on turkey candle holders, autumn leaves, and orange pumpkins.
Since no one likes to drink on an empty stomach, prepare brie bites with cranberry sauce, sweet potato sliders, mini pies, and shrimp cocktail. You may also arrange a cheese board in the shape of a turkey.
4. Pie party
If you don’t feel like cooking everything yourself, a pie party is a perfect Thanksgiving idea. Have everyone bring every kind of pie – from traditional Thanksgiving sweet pies like pumpkin, apple, sweet potato, and pecan, to savory pies, like pot pies, pizza, quiche, and more.
Assign guests or plan it ahead on a group chat so that you won’t have too many duplicates. Set up a couple of different tables to display the pies by group, so the savory and the sweet are separated from one another.
One of the most exciting and enjoyable part of party planning is choosing the decorations. There are endless ideas for styling a Thanksgiving party for various themes, but here are some ideas to keep in mind:
1. Fall leaves
Fall leaves make for great garlands, mantle decorations, table place cards, placemats, or hanging items. Bring it to your home to set the tone for the holiday. You can easily DIY some of these pieces by picking up some fall leaves outside your home!
2. Mini pumpkins
Mini pumpkins are cute enough on their own, but it helps to add some paint to them to establish your color scheme for the party. You can always buy fake colored pumpkins, so you don’t have to DIY!
3. Fresh fruit display
If your theme for Thanksgiving is harvest, add some fresh produce to your dinner table. Display them in a beautiful fruit display bowl and add produce like apples, small pumpkins, pears, figs, grapes, and more. Don’t forget to add some greenery like eucalyptus to style it out.
4. Festive napkins
Embrace the holiday using festive cloth napkins. Lay them diagonally over the edge of the table for a little extra flare. These are some great cloth napkins for Thanksgiving:
- RUVANTI Fall Cloth Napkins
- Elrene Home Fashions Swaying Leaves Allover Print Cloth Napkins
- SARO LIFESTYLE Feuilles Collection Fall Leaf Design Dinner Table Napkins
- The White Petals Set of 6 Thanksgiving Cloth Napkins
- DII 100% Cotton, Oversized Basic 20×20” Printed Napkin
5. Thanksgiving plates
Sometimes you just have to let the plates do the talking. Since a Thanksgiving party is really all about food, for most people, it doesn’t really matter if there are decorations as long as there is good food. Why not make the plates the statement pieces in your party by choosing beautiful, Thanksgiving-themed plates. Disposable plates make it easy for you to clean up after. Here are some choices:
- Thanksgiving Paper Plates and Napkins Disposable Dinnerware Set Maple
- Thanksgiving Paper Plates and Napkins Disposable Dinnerware Set Gold Foil
- Fall Theme Party Supplies Thankful Pumpkin Thanksgiving Party Supplies
- Thanksgiving Luncheon Disposable Paper Plates
- Thanksgiving Thankful and Blessed Fall Party Paper Plates and Napkins Bundle
- Crisky Thanksgiving Disposable Napkins Plates Cups Set
- Thanksgiving Turkey Dessert Party Bundle
- Thanksgiving Give Thanks Party Pack
- Fall Paper Plates for Thanksgiving Party
- Thanksgiving Holiday Oval Paper Plates
If your table lacks a special touch, add some greenery. It can make a table more appealing and makes a great addition to an otherwise plain table runner. Just bundle together a bunch of leafy green things, or get a garland, so you get a seasonally-inspired centerpiece with your turkey. These are some greenery you can decorate with:
- Fall Maple Leaf Garland
- COCOBOO Artificial Eucalyptus Garland
- Winlyn Artificial Greenery Vines Faux Mixed Seeded Willow Eucalyptus Twigs Garland
Sometimes, making the candles the star would be enough to set the mood for your dinner. Get autumn candle holders, golden candelabras, or keep it rustic with an antler candle holder to make it feel more seasonal.
8. Bold napkin rings
Add an entirely new design element to your tabletop with festive napkin rings. Choose a seasonal design, like those with autumn colors, or make a statement piece with large napkin rings. Here’s some great napkin ring choices:
- Thanksgiving Napkin Rings
- Alpha Living Home Turkey Bird Gold Napkin Ring Set
- Shaheen Home Collections Antique Finish Turkey Napkin Ring
- Kaizen Casa Handmade Round Mesh Napkin Rings Holder
- Alpha Living Home Fall Leaf Napkin Rings Set
- Searching Roads Fall Napkin Rings
- Alpha Living Home Napkin Rings Set
- Thanksgiving Napkin Rings with Orange Pumpkin
Before the turkey is ready, or after you and your guests are finished eating, make sure that everyone is having fun by planning out a few party activities your guests can enjoy. It may not be too often that you get all your family and friends in the same place at the same time, so make sure you make it extra memorable with a few activities.
1. Message board
Create your message board for the harvest season. You can use a bulletin board or a frame, and on top of the board, write out “We are grateful for…” Set out pieces of festive note paper or fall paper for your guests to write on, then have them pin their messages upon the board. Display this piece somewhere all can look at it.
2. Who’s Who
Before the party, look through old photos and try to find baby or children’s pictures of the folks who will be attending. Put the photos of each guest on a hanging picture board and designate a number to every photo. Create the form with every guests’ name with a blank space next to it. Then, let each one guess who is who by writing the number of the picture in the blank next to their name. This is a fun way to bring back old memories with one another.
3. Thanksgiving Bingo
There’s nothing more classic than a round of Bingo. Buy Thanksgiving Bingo cards and have fun with the family.
4. Thanksgiving coloring
Little kids may get bored and cranky while the grownups talk, laugh, and catch up. To keep them busy and entertained while you’re enjoying the party, provide them placemats that double as coloring sheets and some crayons.
5. Trivia game
Inspire some friendly competition by putting your guests’ knowledge to the test. Get a trivia game card set full of questions on a wide range of topics and serve as game host!
Mix up Bingo and Poker with Pokeno. This game of chance is extra entertaining, and if you’re a gambling group, raise up the stakes by playing for change.
7. Thanksgiving charades
Put a holiday spin on the classic game of charades by using Thanksgiving-related words. Use this Thanksgiving charades kit and get all your guests involved by designating prizes for the winning.
8. Mini pumpkin hunt
If your kids can’t get enough of the Easter egg hunt, you can host a pumpkin hunt on Thanksgiving. Coming up with genius places to hide the pumpkins before the hunt is fun for adults as finding the pumpkins is for kids.
9. Pumpkin ring toss
This game is perfect if you are hosting a harvest party and have some outdoor space outside. Set up two rows of hay bales and place large pumpkins at different distances between the bales. Group the guests into two competing teams, and have each player step up to the hay bales and try to toss the ring around the pumpkins. This game is fun for both kids and adults.
10. Puzzle race
Putting together a jigsaw puzzle as a family is a great way to pass the time. If that’s something you already do, make it a competition this year by buying a few of the same puzzle. Then, separate everyone into teams, and whoever finishes first wins.