How to Host a Large Holiday Gathering

Hosting my second Thanksgiving in our home is in the books, and I am whooped! There is a lot that goes into holiday hosting.

I remember hosting my first Thanksgiving. Growing up in a large family and marrying into an equally as large one made preparing a smidge easier, but there was still much more I never thought of.

I thought there might be a few more people in the same shoes, so I’ve put together a few helpful tips to get you through this holiday season and any other large family get together.

How to Host a Large Holiday Gathering

It’s your first, second time hosting…or maybe you just need a refresher. I’ve got you covered with helpful hints below.

1. You Are the Host(ess)

Remember that. If you are hosting in your home, you run the show! Yes, I do know how counter-intuitive that feels/sounds, but you have to own this gathering.

Pick a time or times that work for your family members (that live there) and then give attendees an opportunity to weigh in, OR simply pick the date and time. Understand that not everyone will be able to attend or make it on time, and that’s ok!

The holidays are such a busy season for many, so don’t go into this thinking you will make everyone happy with what you choose.

You are not pizza. You cannot make everyone happy.

2. Make Lists and Get Organized!

If you watched my live video on Facebook right before Thanksgiving, you know I make a lot of lists when prepping for big gatherings at our home.

Lists to make hosting easier:

  • Guest List: Include only those who will occupy a chair. No need to include your six-month old nephew who won’t eat a bite.
  • Menu: List out everything you intend on serving and what others will bring to avoid duplicates and three different kinds of potatoes.
  • Grocery List: Make sure you have all of the ingredients necessary to carry out the best holiday (and least stressful!) ever.
  • Timeline: Write down the temperature and cooking time of each menu item you will prepare, including the time it should go into the oven.

How to Host a Large Holiday Gathering Project Stepmom

3. Prepare Early

With your menu and lists in hand, you are ready to get the show on the road a few days before chaos ensues. Anything that you can do prior to the day of, do it.

For Thanksgiving, I prepare my cornbread dressing, cranberry sauce and other dishes well in advance, which allows me to relax and plan for hiccups in our plans. There will always be a little something that goes awry, so the more you have done ahead of time, the less stressed you will be.

Related Post: Top Thanksgiving Leftovers Recipes

In fact, I like to have everything ready to rock by the night before the event. The day of, I wake up, enjoy coffee and breakfast and can leisurely prepare for the gathering. It makes life so much simpler and more enjoyable!

How to Host a Large Holiday Gathering Project Stepmom


Keep It Simple Stupid. The more simplistic you can make your event – the better. That doesn’t mean you don’t put forth effort. It means that you focus on the important parts of having everyone gather instead of the insignificant details.

It’s not about the tablescape, the perfectly polished silver platters or matching holiday napkins. It’s about gathering and enjoying each other’s company. Plus, when was the last time you reflected on Aunt Myrtle’s perfectly coordinated tablescape and setting? What did it look like last year? ….That’s what I thought.

For us, Thanksgiving dinner is served buffet style on disposable tablecloths and paper plates. Why? So I can enjoy the company of my family instead of loading a dishwasher with 15 people in my kitchen.

5. Enjoy it.

These people love you – that’s why they are there! Enjoy the holiday and reflect on the reason for the season. Be thankful that you have too much food or too many people. That means you have so much love in your home.

Don’t worry about the things you cannot control.

If you have any tips for other first-timers, leave them in the comments!

How to Host a Large Holiday Gathering Project Stepmom

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