Thanksgiving mistakes making your holiday hosting harder – and how to fix them

These five last-minute changes are essential to impressing your guests this holiday

A light wood dining table with a blue runner and blue fabric pumpkins in place settings
(Image credit: Sophie Allport)

No matter how much you plan ahead, there are a few Thanksgiving mistakes you might need to fix on the day that will make your hosting job harder if left unaddressed. 

Whether that means preparing a guestroom for Thanksgiving last minute or making a quick table adjustment to break outdated dinner party hosting rules, these five changes are easy and certain to simplify your hosting. 

These are the mistakes you need to avoid this season, and why hosting experts say even last-minute changes are worth the effort.

Thanksgiving mistakes

When making last-minute changes to your Thanksgiving setup, remember to always take things away, rather than add them. Adding elements will only serve to complicate your layout or your meal planning. Stick to your plan, and make things easier where you can.

Minimalist Thanksgiving decor ideas, simple tablescape with candles, tableware and flowers and foliage

(Image credit: Chloe Deane, photography by Sumaira Amber)

1. Not spending time with your guests

The biggest Thanksgiving mistake is spending so much time engrossed in making sure your meal is perfect and your Thanksgiving decor is on point that you don't spend time with your guests, begins Genevieve Dreizen, COO and creative director at Fresh Starts Registry:

‘Yes, you are undertaking a big endeavor with everyone at your house, but if you feel overwhelmed, ask for help before and during the event so you can actually see people,’ she recommends. ‘It drives my dad crazy when we go to celebrate at my grandma's and no one gets to talk to her because she's busy in the kitchen the whole time. 

‘The reason for the season is connection, I'd much rather store-bought pie than lose time with my loved ones.’

2. Overcrowding the table with decor

Our Thanksgiving table decor is the centerpiece of our festivities, but it shouldn't be so overwhelming as to overcrowd the table and make eating and conversing more difficult, warns Kate Rumson, Villeroy & Boch’s hosting expert. 

‘Let each element breathe; consider candles, seasonal foliage, and a few well-placed centerpieces,’ she recommends. ‘It's about creating a visual feast that complements, rather than competes with, the delicious dishes you're serving.’

Take a seat at each spot at your table and see what you can see as you look around. If you notice you can't see over some decor, or can't reach over for another plate, take at least one thing away.

Kate Rumson
Kate Rumson

Kate has been designing, building, remodeling, buying, selling and investing in real estate for over a decade. She is also a licensed real estate advisor and founder of Private Client Luxury Division with Sotheby’s International Realty, a luxury real estate company.

3. Going overboard with your dinner sets

Similarly to decor, you need to find a careful balance when it comes to your Thanksgiving table settings, and dinnerware sets, too, Kate Rumson, hosting expert, continues. 

‘Thanksgiving is a time to indulge, but don't let the table become a casualty of excess – especially if the host is tight on space. Choose a set of timeless dinnerware that complements your space and can effortlessly handle the feast and opt for functionality over fluff. 

‘A thoughtfully arranged table sets the stage for a memorable Thanksgiving, where each element contributes to the overall warmth and joy of the occasion.’

One great way to save some space on your table is to break a common dinner party hosting rule and forgo making a seating plan. Removing placeholders, table favors, and personalized place settings and letting people sit where they want will create that little bit more space and allow guests to eat and converse more easily. 

4. Not balancing lighting correctly

Dining room lighting for hosting is a tricky balance to get right, begins Artem Kropovinsky, interior designer and founder of Arsight. The room should be lit intimately, but not left so dark that your guests can't see what is on their plate.

He suggests starting by lighting candles for a soft, warm light that makes your home cozy for Thanksgiving, and then layer more functional lighting from there. Using lights on dimmer switches with warm bulb temperatures is a good way to keep the cozy atmosphere while also ensuring guests can see, he says.  

Artem Kropovinsky
Artem Kropovinsky

Based in New York, Artem Kropovinsky, founder of Arsight, has a decade of extensive and considerable global design experience. Prioritizing minimalism, sustainability, and authenticity, Artem, alongside his team of professionals, works on projects in the US and worldwide.

5. Not asking for help

Thanksgiving is a communal holiday, so avoid trying to do all of the work yourself and juggling multiple dishes while also trying to welcome guests, urges Laura Cassell Fischer, VP at over&back

‘You do not have to do it all just because you are the host. Your friends and family would like to help, and you just need to ask!’ she reminds us. 


Is it rude to not bring something to Thanksgiving?

When going to someone's house at Thanksgiving, it is customary to take a gift. Sometimes the host may ask you to bring something specific, for instance, if you are all contributing to the meal, in which case, take that. In other circumstances, it can be a good idea to take a non-perishable treat that can be enjoyed at any time and the host doesn't have to shoehorn into their meal plan last minute such as a drink, or a sweet snack.

How can I make hosting Thanksgiving easier?

To make Thanksgiving hosting smoother, remember to ask for help, or never turn down help from guests. Just because you are the host, it doesn’t mean you have to juggle everything alone, get your guests involved to make the event more communal and bring people together. It could be something as simple as a guest getting the drinking glasses out of the cabinet for you, any help is a big help.

Avoiding these common Thanksgiving mistakes, especially when hosting Thanksgiving in a small space, will ensure that your hosting runs smoothly – just be prepared for your guests to want to come again next year. 

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.