12 Tips To Be The Best Thanksgiving Guest

Get tips for being the perfect guest when you are invited to Thanksgiving and find the perfect hostess gift to take with you.

pumpkin on a stack of plates

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and meal. For decades, Bobby and I have hosted Thanksgiving dinners and filled our home with family and friends. We have, on occasion, been guests at a friend or family member’s homes. What a pleasure and a blessing! In this post are 12 tips for being the best Thanksgiving guest.

I’m sure you already know all these helpful tips for being the best Thanksgiving guest, but here is a gentle reminder and refresher!

RSVP Right Away

How wonderful! You’ve been invited to Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is probably the most loved and most work-intensive meal of the year. And as a guest, you get to enjoy all the conversation, food, and good vibes in someone else’s home. Someone loves you and wants to be around their table for Thanksgiving!

As a Thanksgiving guest, it is important that you acknowledge this amazing offer as soon as you possibly can. Let your hosts know if you will or will not be able to come. No, maybes, please! It might also be nice to send a little note (email and text are okay for this one) that tells your hosts how kind they are for inviting you and how much you are looking forward to being with them. Or how disappointed you are and are so grateful for their kind offer.

Offer To Contribute To The Meal

bow of cranberry orange sauce

I particularly love it when a Thanksgiving guest offers to bring something to dinner! Even something as simple as store-bought dinner rolls. As a Thanksgiving hostess, my plate is full (pun intended), and a guest who brings food is speaking my love language!

One of my rules for being invited to someone’s home is to never show up empty handed. You probably follow that rule, too. It’s so nice if you help by bringing something to Thanksgiving dinner that is meal related. Tell the hostess you would love to bring something to contribute to the meal or bar. Maybe offer both.

Ask your hostess what she would like you to make. If she is a little hesitant, say something like, “Why don’t you think about what you need and let me know. I’m looking forward to contributing to the meal.” Some hosts have trouble thinking of something you can bring on the spot. If your host does not say anything further, it’s best not to bring a food item. Instead, bring a bottle of wine, sparkling cider, or a box of truffles.

If you bring food, make sure you also bring everything to serve it.

You might like to offer this delicious and easy to make Cranberry Orange Sauce. Or take this Pumpkin Spice Cake With Maple Glaze. It’s made from doctoring a box mix, and everyone loves it!

Bring A Hostess Gift

A hostess gift is a little thoughtful thank you for being invited into someone’s home and enjoying a meal and/or an evening together. It acknowledges their kindness, effort, work, and expense for including you. A host or hostess will be delighted to get something small and thoughtful from you. If you know the hostess well, try to personalize it. If you know your hostess loves to cook, a couple of pretty tea towels or specialty cooking oils make a very nice hostess gift. If your host likes cigars, tie a trio of cigars with a velvet bow, and your host will be thrilled.

Here are a few guidelines for a great hostess gift…

  • A hostess gift should be something small and not too expensive.
  • Wrap your gift and leave a little note saying Happy Thanksgiving.
  • If you bring flowers, make sure they are in a vase. A hostess should not have to hunt for something to put them in on Thanksgiving Day.
  • If you bring wine, bring your host’s favorite (within reason).

Arrive On Time

table set for Thanksgiving

Arriving too early or too late is Thanksgiving bad form. There is really no soft way to say this. Unless there is a legitimate emergency, be on time. The French have a 15-minute window of being considered on time before you are late.

Offer To Help

“Can I help you?” is music to most hostess’s ears! I never turn down help. It’s such a nice idea and much appreciated to offer a little help. My favorite job to give anyone who offers to help is to put ice and water in the glasses on the table. Others are to open the wine, replenish the appetizers, collect empty drink glasses, and tend the bar.

As a guest, it’s a good idea to stay out of the kitchen unless the hostess asks for help in the kitchen. I know our kitchen can get very crowded, and while I’m opening and shutting the oven, basting the bird, and making the gravy, I like to be in the kitchen alone so I don’t have to work around my guests.

Drink In Moderation

Thanksgiving place setting

Nothing ruins a communal meal like someone who has had a few drinks too many! Being a good guest means drinking in moderation! Many etiquette experts say to have one drink if you imbibe.

Be Friendly and Conversational

As a guest, part of your responsibility is to help to keep interesting conversations going. If you are dining with people who are not your family, read the room and find people you don’t know and get to know them. Keep conversations cordial. Ask open-ended questions and be interested in what someone is saying.

I love this Bible verse: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Stay away from controversial subjects. Others might not, but you can!

Put Your Phone Away Before Sitting Down To Dinner


A good guest will not bring a phone to the dinner table. Be in the moment and participate in our All-Amerian tradition! Appreciate your hostess’s hard work, the delicious food, and the fellowship around the table without a phone.

Wait To Eat Until Everyone Has Their Food

If you have your meal before others, it’s polite to wait until everyone has their food and grace is said to eat. If your host or hostess tells you to eat so your food does not get cold, then go ahead and dig in! YUM!

Offer To Clean Up


Oh, this is just the best idea! As the hostess of decades of Thanksgiving dinners, I so appreciated anyone who was willing to help clear our table. By the time our Thanksgiving meals are over, I’m usually very tired, and someone giving me a little help is so appreciated!

Offer to help clean up. You don’t have to do it all. Just do something. And as much as you can, stay out of the kitchen.

Don’t Overstay Your Welcome

Read the signals, verbal and non-verbal, of your host and hostess to know when it is time to go home. And make sure you personally thank both of them for a great time.

Enjoy Yourself


We can walk and chew gum at the same time, so we can also have fun and be a great Thanksgiving guest! Enjoy the day, the people, the meal, and everything in between!

Send A Handwritten Thank You Note

Send a personal, handwritten thank you note expressing your gratitude for being included in their Thanksgiving celebration. And send it sooner than later.

Other Ideas For Being A Stellar Thanksgiving Guest

Here are a few more ideas for being a good Thanksgiving guest…

  • Don’t steal the spotlight. A good guest helps everyone feel comfortable.
  • If you can’t eat something, just pass it up quietly.
  • If the centerpiece is too high and you are having trouble seeing over it, don’t remove it yourself. Talk privately to your hostess.
  • If you spill something, clean it up.
  • Dress up. Look nice and neat.
  • Offer to provide the centerpiece. Ask the hostess what she would like and order one from a florist.

Click On The Video For More Inspiration

pumpin on a dinner plate

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  1. Jina Sheppard says:

    Wonderful list for any guest on any occasion!

    1. Thanks, Jina! My readers certainly did not need this post, but I thought they would appreciate it.

  2. Dennie Brooks says:

    Wonderful Ideas
    I especially like the manners mentions as this country is getting away from these customs
    We need to maintain them for the next generations to have a civilized society

  3. Yvonne, these are all wonderful ideas. For years, I have set a table in my garage with dollar store basins for dishes and silverware organization after dinner, based on one of your posts. I have a compact home, but always have enough tables and chairs for everyone to sit down. (the living room sofas get moved for the day.) I like to gather everyone together for Grace and then open the buffet and allow everyone to serve themselves. They can start eating when they get back to the dinner table. That flow works best in my home. The turkey is cooked and out of the oven before guests arrive so I can heat all the sides. Also, I find if I have a cocktail before the guests arrive, I’m less nervous! I love for guests to bring a room temp appetizer or a dessert, and I do the main dinner, preparing all the sides in advance. It’s my favorite holiday, this year on my birthday!

  4. MARY-ANN (FROM CANADA!) says:

    Yvonne, thanks for all the great reminders! Have a great week! Bless you for being such a great hostess and sharing all your ideas with us!