How to Be a Good Thanksgiving Dinner Guest

Dinner Parties, Etiquette, Thanksgiving

Much has been written about how to be a gracious Thanksgiving host; today, we’re tackling an equally-important subject: how to be a delightful Thanksgiving guest. For the most part, it’s a matter of common sense and basic etiquette (offer to help, show up on time, be thankful); to take things to the next level, keep these dos and don’ts in mind.

Be Mindful About Your Dietary Restrictions

Do let your host know ahead of time (and no, the day before doesn’t count) if you have any food allergies or dietary restrictions. For extra points, offer to bring a crowd-pleasing dish that fits within your diet: If you’re gluten-free, bring a rice stuffing; if you’re vegan, a side of roasted vegetables. 

Step in to Help Without Offering

Do figure out what you can bring to help lighten your host’s load. Don’t ask, “Is there anything I can bring?” Just step in and ask, “What can I bring?” This is always a polite move, but can be extra helpful on a holiday with so many different moving pieces at place.

Be Considerate About Bringing Your Own Dish

If you like to cook, offer to bake a pie or bring your go-to stuffing recipe, and bring the serving dish and utensils to go with it. Don’t assume there will be space in the oven or fridge for your contribution; check beforehand with the host or hostess, or bring an item that can be served at room temperature. Lastly, don’t be offended if your hostess declines your offer; she might have a super-specific lineup of dishes in mind.

Ask to Help with Prep and Clean-Up (but Don’t Be Pushy About It)

Do offer up your help with prep and clean-up. That said, insist on helping if your host waves off your offer; sometimes an extra pair of hands can actually add to the stress level of a harried host.

Offer to Play Photographer

If you fancy yourself a decent photographer, consider offering to take photos. Chances are, the person hosting will be so busy prepping, cooking and making sure each guest is happy that it’ll be hard to document the occasion with photos, too.

Do bring a hostess gift like an after-dinner drink, a nice candle, or some granola or pastries for your host to enjoy for breakfast the next day. Don’t bring an item that requires special attention from the host upon your arrival like a bouquet of flowers (unless they’re in a vase) or a highly-perishable item (your host’s fridge is likely quite full as is).

Say Thank You Like You Mean It

Last, but not least: Do realize how much work goes into hosting a big meal like Thanksgiving! Be sure to sincerely express your gratitude—a thank you note will always be appreciated.

For more tips on being your host’s favorite guest, check out our Guest’s Guide to Thanksgiving.


3 comments about “How to Be a Good Thanksgiving Dinner Guest

  1. Allie

    Add to the list, don’t assume extra gusts are ok….just because they’ve said there will be tonnes of food, inviting an extra guest (or worse, guests) is ballsy and downright rude. If your cousin twice removed shows up out of the blue and you’re attending dinner at a friends house or in laws; don’t assume cousin Jenny will be welcomed with open arms. This is a huge pet peeve with me.

  2. Sandra

    If you bring a dish, use an attractive disposable container or, better yet, a pretty container that will remain behind as a hostess gift. That allows the hostess to simply cover the dish, leftovers and all, and deal with it another day; and the guest gets to leave unencumbered by a used dish (probably containing leftovers).


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