10 Tips for Being a Great Thanksgiving Dinner Guest

(Image credit: Rachel Joy Photos / The Kitchn)

Thanksgiving tips often focus on the host of the meal and their concerns — the scheduling, the cooking, the attention to details. But a lot of us won’t be doing the heavy lifting this year; we’ll simply be guests on The Big Day. Even though this role may be smaller, there are still things you can do to be an exceptional guest and help out your host.

Before Thanksgiving

1. Notify your host well in advance of any dietary issues.
Gluten-free, vegetarian, allergies etc. – make sure your host knows if you need anything special for dinner.

2. Ask your host if you can bring anything.
Making all that food is no joke – ask if you can bring anything like a side or maybe a pie. If you have allergies, this is your time to make something you definitely can eat.

3. If it’s Thanksgiving potluck, or you’ve volunteered to make something, bring your own serving bowl and utensils.
Don’t expect your host to have all the proper utensils and pretty bowls to put your food in. Either ask in advance, or bring your own stuff.

4. Bring your host a small gift.
Bringing your host a small, thoughtful gift shows your thanks for all their work. While a good wine or a nice cheese is always a great idea, something more creative is always nice. I asked people last week what they bring to their Thanksgiving hosts, and there were some great responses. I particularly love the idea of bringing something delicious the host can enjoy for breakfast the following day.

On Thanksgiving

5. Don’t arrive early (but don’t show up more than 30 to 45 minutes late).
Thanksgiving hosts are often on a tight schedule, so don’t surprise them by showing up a half an hour early in the middle of their shower. That said, you definitely don’t want to arrive late either – you don’t want to hold up dinner, and you might miss the turkey!

6. Ask the host if they need help with cooking. If they decline, stay out of the kitchen.
After you arrive and have said your hellos, ask the cook or host if they need help in the kitchen. If they decline, get the hell out of there – there’s business to be done.

7. Be attentive and avoid your phone.
Being a good guest means socializing – don’t obsessively check your e-mail or Twitter. That said, you should of course take photos of what you’re eating, and who you’re with.

8. Don’t complain.
Repeat after me: I will NOT complain during Thanksgiving. I don’t care if the turkey is dry or the stuffing is awful, just please don’t express your feelings to the host. If you can’t eat some of the food, fine, but don’t say it out loud.

9. Help with the clean-up.
This is your time to shine! Assisting with the clean-up is the best thing you can do to help your host. There are a lot of dishes to be done, so let your host tell you where to help and do your best.

After Thanksgiving

10. Remember to say “Thank You”.
It is Thanksgiving after all! Make sure to send a quick note to thank your host for putting on an amazing show.