You may not have even begun taking down those Halloween decorations, but Thanksgiving is mere weeks away, and if you’re hosting, the time has come to plan out your guest list! We’d argue there are two reasons for doing this. First, while there’s technically no etiquette for how far in advance invitations should be extended for Thanksgiving, we believe three to four weeks is a thoughtful amount of time to allow people to figure out their plans. And second, if you nail down your Thanksgiving guest list now, you’ll be oh-so-grateful that you got a head start on planning when you get closer to the big date.
Start by Considering Size Constraints
To plan your guest list, start by considering the number of guests you can physically accommodate. You probably have a pretty good idea of how many people that is, but just in case you don’t, Houzz has some useful guidelines: Plan on four people for a 36- to 44-inch rectangular table, up to six people at a 44- to 54-inch table, and up to eight people for a 60- to 70-inch table. To allow for chairs to be pulled out with easy, leave at least three feet between the table and any walls to allow for guests to get in and out of their seats—and make sure that each place setting contains at least two feet of room to avoid any elbow-sparring at the table.
Factor in Financial Considerations, Too
Figure out how much you’re able or willing to shell out for Thanksgiving this year. Last year, the American Farm Bureau Federation reported the average American’s cost of Thanksgiving to be just under $5 per person, but this number is wildly unrealistic if you reside in a high-cost-of-living area. Rather, we’d recommend a more time-intensive—but far more accurate—calculation: Enter your headcount into a Thanksgiving food calculator, then price out the meal based on the average cost of various ingredients like turkey, potatoes and bread where you live. Don’t forget other costs (for instance, do you have enough dinnerware, or if you’re hosting a large party, will you need to purchase more place settings?).
Draw Up a List
To determine who should be invited, start by brainstorming everyone to whom you’d potentially extend an invitation. (If you find it to be unrealistically long, it’s helpful to sit down and prioritize by creating an ordered list.) Even if you are sad to have to curtail a few invitations based on that list, hang onto that piece of paper: As you extend your invitations, be sure to keep a running tab of who has accepted, and that number may open up the opportunity to invite a few more guests.
Take Note of Your Guests’ Needs
Once the RSVPs begin to roll in, keep tabs on the number of adults versus children attending (in the event that you’re serving alcohol or planning a separate table for kids), and any of your guests’ dietary restrictions (if they’re gluten free, dairy free or vegetarian, for example). This way, down the line, you can create a dinner plan that accommodates any special dietary needs.
Be Honest About How Many Servings of Leftovers You Really Want
For many of us, half the fun of an elaborate, blowout Thanksgiving meal is in the next day’s leftovers (and while we’re being real here, even the guests are hoping to take some of it home). We would argue that planning for this is just as key to a fantastic holiday!
How early do you start planning your guest list—and when is the right time to send out invitations? Share your thoughts with us below.