February 22, 2019

Do’s and Don’ts for Thanksgiving Hosts and Guests

Thanksgiving stresses me out. Besides all the cooking, I have the added pressure of creating showstopping centerpieces and décor — like the time I spray-painted 600 ping pong balls gold and suspended them from the ceiling.

That’s why I’m relieved that, this year, I get to play guest and just show up.

Whether you’re a host or a guest this Thanksgiving, here are some do’s and don’ts for a truly memorable holiday.


Do be specific when guests ask if they can bring anything. Instead of just asking for a side dish, specify if you need a salad, potatoes or cranberry sauce. If you’re asking for wine, say red or white.

Do play with the lighting in your home to create a welcoming environment. Avoid harsh overhead lighting. Turn off lights in rooms and hallways where you don’t want guests to venture. And use candles to create a warm ambience.

Do clean the bathroom. Tuck all your personal toiletries and medications out of sight. Put out some fresh hand towels. And light a candle or two.

Do dress up for the occasion. And dress up the kids and pets too.

Do have a place set aside for coats and purses.

Do offer light appetizers before dinner, especially if there are cocktails. You don’t want guests drinking on an empty stomach.

Do be present for your guests. They want to spend time with you, not see you constantly disappear into the kitchen.

Do have plastic takeout containers ready for guests to take home leftovers.

Don’t expect perfection. Better Homes & Gardens is not coming to photograph or critique your Thanksgiving.

Don’t worry if all your table settings match, or if you’re using paper plates.

Don’t look disheveled and complain about all the work you’ve been doing for the past week to prepare.

Don’t have the football game on TV during dinner. Sorry, guys.

Don’t enforce a no-shoe policy, even if that’s what you require every other day of the year. It’s awkward for guests.


Do arrive about 10 to 15 minutes late. As a host, I am always running behind, and people who arrive early or right on time are usually in the way. But don’t show up more than half an hour late.

Do dress up to show respect for your hosts.

Do bring a small gift, and attach a thank you card to it so your host remembers who gave the gift.

Do let your host know in advance if you have dietary restrictions or food allergies. And don’t make a big deal about it when you’re at dinner.

Do offer to help in the kitchen or wash dishes.

Do compliment your host on the food and décor. But be sincere about it.

Do take photographs and send some to your host the next day. It’s a great way to say thank you.

Don’t bring flowers unless they’re already in a vase. Your host will not have time to stop everything and arrange your flowers.

Don’t bring someone who wasn’t invited. Don’t even ask if you can bring someone, as it puts the host on the spot.

Don’t just pick up a pie at the supermarket if you said you would be bringing a dessert. Put some effort into it.

Don’t bring something you need to heat in the oven. Oven space is precious in the hours and minutes before mealtime.

Don’t check your phone constantly.

Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at jonathanfongstyle.com.