It’s always flattering to receive an invite to enjoy Thanksgiving at a family member’s or friend’s home during the holidays. And in many ways, it’s also a relief that you’re off the hook for hosting the mothership meal of the year.
A lot goes into planning a turkey day meal from compiling the guestlist, fielding questions and RSVPs, the planning, shopping, cooking, and of course, the big day when the crowd rolls in with boisterous chatter, questions, and sometimes, a little drama and the occasional spill or two.
Here are 10 ways to be the perfect Thanksgiving guest and guarantee yourself a spot on your host’s VIP list for many more Thanksgiving dinners to come!
10 Ways To Be The Perfect Thanksgiving Guest
- Do RSVP
Be sure to RSVP by the requested deadline so that your host can best prepare for the event. If you’re late to RSVP, contact the host directly, apologize for your tardiness, and ask if it’s possible to still attend.
This is also the perfect time to let your host know if you have any food allergies. If you’re worried it might be tricky to accommodate your food allergies or preferences, offer to bring a dish that suits your needs.
Although you may be tempted, it’s best not to ask who else is attending, especially ahead of accepting the invite as it may appear that your decision hinges on the guestlist. Trust your host to gather a group of like-minded people and be surprised when you arrive.
- Know The Right Time To Come…And Go
A good rule of thumb is not to be early—but also not too late. Most etiquette experts say the best time for guests to arrive is somewhere between 5 and 15 minutes after the posted invitation time.
As for when it’s time to gather your things and head out, first refer to the time on the invite. If the invite had an end time, that’s a good time to make your exit, or at least suggest it might be time for you to leave.
But above all, read the room. If the hosts are having a great time and telling guests to stick around, there is no harm. But if your host is yawning and shuffling around closing the house down and you’re one of the last to leave, you may have overstayed your welcome.
- Don’t Bring a Surprise Guest
Don’t bring a plus one unless you’ve been invited by the host to do so. And whatever you do, don’t show up with a surprise guest. If you have someone in town at the time of Thanksgiving dinner, or perhaps a new partner that your host is not aware of, ask them at the time of the RSVP if you can bring along a guest. Most hosts will happily accommodate so long as they have time to prepare for an additional guest.
- Do Bring A Token Of Appreciation
There are times where it’s acceptable to come empty handed, but the holidays are not that time. It’s best practice to bring something for your host—especially at Thanksgiving.
Even if your host says, “Just bring yourself!” A bottle of wine, cheese or chocolate, flowers, or a small hostess gift—such as a candle or salad servers—are all nice gestures to thank your hard-working host.
- Turn Your Dish Into A Gift
If you really want to wow your host and not trouble them with having to clean the bowl or dish you brought your dish in, go out and handpick a brand-new serving bowl, casserole dish, or dessert tray and gift it to them afterwards. The key with this thoughtful gesture is to know your host’s personal style and try to match it.
- Avoid Making More Work For Your Host
If you’ve been asked to bring a specific dish, make sure you finish the dish at home. Coming into a host’s home and requiring precious oven, stove, or counter space (not to mention kitchen tools) can be an inconvenience to a host that’s already got 20 things on the go.
And if you want to offer your host a helping hand, it’s very nice to offer. But if your offer is politely declined, don’t force yourself on your busy host who may just need to focus. Rejoin the party and have fun knowing that you kindly offered your services.
- Respect The Seating Chart
You may not know anyone in the corner of the table where you spot your place card, but that could have been an intentional move on the host’s part to mix and mingle various groups of friends. Embrace meeting some new people and rejoin your buds after dinner.
- Be Mindful Not To Overtalk
Every group has a chatterbox. And sometimes, without even knowing it, it could be you.
If you’re new to the group, make an effort to ask your new acquaintances questions to get to know them better and try to listen a little more than you talk.
If you suspect you might be getting carried away monopolizing the conversation, look for signs of people around you doing a lot of nodding, getting antsy, or starting to disengage—and if you catch this happening—say something casual like, “Enough about me!” And turn the microphone over to someone nearby with a question about them.
- Make A Crowd-Pleasing Dish
If you are invited to bring a dish and really want to win over the party guests, research some well-reviewed recipes that are free of all the top allergens such as dairy, gluten, and grains. This way anyone that is following a special diet will have something to enjoy and the host may be relieved to learn that there’s more for their selective guests to enjoy.
- Jump In To Help With Cleanup
If your offer to help prep the meal was kindly refused, we can almost guarantee that your offer to help clear the table and clean dishes won’t be. Once the table is cleared, if your offer to wash (or dry) is insisted against, then go and relax with the other guests—but this is one area of help that most hosts will gratefully welcome, especially after a long day of cooking and entertaining.
And last but not least, don’t forget to reach out to your host within a few days of the Thanksgiving meal with a heartfelt thank you for opening their home and throwing such a memorable Thanksgiving. This could be in the way of a personal phone call, a text message, or a hand-written thank-you card.