Skip to main content

Hosting Thanksgiving in an Apartment: Checklists and To-Dos


When you picture the ideal Thanksgiving you may think of a large, lively gathering and a dining table filled to the brim with turkey, sides and desserts. Celebrating and hosting in an apartment can take some planning to ensure that there’s plenty of room for everyone to sit and enjoy a meal together. Whether it’s a Friendsgiving or a traditional family function, there are ways to make your apartment home, even a studio, feel like a comfortable gathering area for all.

Start Planning

Well ahead of the holiday, take a few days to think through your to-dos. Do you have enough serving utensils and dishes? Do you need to buy some extra cookware? Here’s a list of considerations to prepare:

  • Assess your apartment size and seating options to see how many guests you can entertain
  • Clean out the refrigerator so it’s ready to hold lots of holiday dishes
  • Find out who has certain food allergies or food-related preferences
  • Decide what you’ll cook and what you’ll allocate to friends and family to bring
  • Prepare a list of ingredients you’ll need to have on hand as you cook
  • Map out a timeline of how and in what order you’ll need to cook certain dishes

Invite Your Guests

After you’ve mapped out your space, you can start making a guest list. Taking into consideration the size of your apartment, it’s best to be realistic with how many guests you can truly entertain so you can enjoy the gathering comfortably. When you have your guest list outlined, then you can assess your seating. To supplement what you already have, you may want to use a rental company for additional folding chairs and/or tables.

Thaw & Cook in Advance

Don’t forget to defrost the turkey early! According to the USDA, to safely thaw your turkey, you need around 24 hours of defrosting in the refrigerator per 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. So, if your turkey weighs around 16 pounds, it’ll need about four days to thaw. Here’s a calculator to help you navigate your turkey day expectations.

Now, ask yourself: 

  • What are some dishes you could prepare ahead of time? There is only so much time on the morning of Thanksgiving, so try to narrow down the day-of cooking as much as possible. 
  • How much oven space do you have, especially while the turkey is staying warm? Will you have room for guests’ dishes when they arrive? 
  • Are there dishes you could cook on the stove or in a microwave or crockpot instead of the oven? If possible, use the stove to free up oven and counter space.

Thanksgiving Turkey


Are Any of Your Guests Vegan or Vegetarian?

As a host, it’s considerate to get all dietary preferences beforehand. If a guest says that they don’t eat any animal products, don’t be shy about asking them to help you refine the menu! They will (likely) appreciate your thoughtfulness. Ask them if there are any vegan Thanksgiving recipes they can point you to, or what they prefer to eat as a main course. 

You can find vegan versions of most dishes, including casseroles, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, cranberry sauce, stuffing and even pumpkin pie! Here’s a list of how to accommodate vegan guests.

Go the Potluck Route

It is more than socially acceptable to ask your guests to bring a dish. Not only is it courteous for the whole party to contribute, but it gives everyone a chance to showcase something delicious on the table. For the sake of variety, make sure to ask your guests about what they’re bringing so you don’t duplicate, and so you can make sure there’s enough room for heating in the oven or keeping cool in the refrigerator.

Get Your Apartment in Shape to Entertain

Prior to preparing for the Thanksgiving meal, you’ll want to prep your apartment.

  • Deep clean and tidy your space
  • Rearrange your layout to accommodate a group of people
  • Stock up on essentials like hand soap, paper towels, bathroom tissue and cleaning products

Pumpkin pie


Create the Thanksgiving Ambiance

This is your chance to set a cozy tone in your space. 

    • Choose small centerpieces for the table so that guests can see one another and mingle.
    • Let in the natural light from the windows. If it’s a cloudy day, add some sparkling string lights around the windows for a warm glow.
    • Add festive throw pillows to the sofa and/or a wreath on the front door. Light the fireplace if you have one or some candles.

Relax and Dine

When the table and ambiance are finally set, it’s time to enjoy the special meal with loved ones in your home. Enjoy making memories in your apartment home with those you care about most. Happy Thanksgiving!

Search Apartments in California