Your Holiday Hosting Timeline & Checklist

No muss, no fuss. With our guide (+ free printable!) the holidays will go off without a hitch.

We all know that there’s no place like home for the holidays. But if your home is where friends and family gather every Thanksgiving or Christmas, the holidays can end up feeling more stressful than cheerful. After all, there’s a menu to plan, a table to set and an entire house to clean. Eek!

That’s why we put together this epic holiday hosting guide. This timeline will spread out your duties over an entire month. And our printable checklist ensures no task gets left behind. (Because let’s face it, we’ve all forgotten to thaw out the turkey).

Download Your Printable Checklist


Your Holiday Hosting Timeline & Checklist

4 Weeks Before: Make a Game Plan

  • Send out invitations.
  • Take inventory of your tables, chairs, plates, cups, napkins and utensils. If you’re short on any items, make plans to rent, borrow or buy extras.
  • Order your turkey, ham or roast.

3 Weeks Before: Focus on Food

2 Weeks Before: Follow Up

  • Follow up with guests who have not RSVP’d.
  • Double-check your grocery list and add any missing items.
  • Polish silver, clean china and dig out your roasting pan.

1 Week Before: Start Shopping

  • Head to the grocery store to stock up on non-perishable items and beverages.
  • Set out seasonal decorations.
  • Make a party playlist. We love this one when we’re making Christmas cookies!
  • Start using up bulky items in your fridge or freezer (looking at you, gallon tub of ice cream) to make room for holiday prep.

5 Days Before: Clean It Up

3 Days Before: Keep Calm Before the Storm

  • Purchase remaining groceries. Don’t forget the ice!
  • Iron any table linens.
  • Come up with a warming plan to ensure all of your dishes will be hot and ready to serve at the same time. Consider utilizing extra appliances, like your slow cooker, to cook or keep food warm.

2 Days Before: Start Assembling

  • Set the table or assemble your buffet. Pull out any serving dishes you’ll need and use small pieces of paper to delegate which foods will go in each.
  • Spot-clean the house. Tuck away any items (especially in your kitchen) that you won’t be using for the party.

1 Day Before: Prep! Then Prep Some More

  • Set out fresh flower arrangements.
  • Make as many dishes ahead of time as you can.
  • Measure or chop ingredients for any dishes you can’t make ahead.
  • Place beverages in the fridge (or garage, if you’re short on space) to chill.

The Morning Of: Finish the Meal

2 Hours Before: Add Finishing Touches

  • Set up a bar so guests can pour their own drinks.
  • Set out fresh hand towels in the bathroom.
  • If you’re serving sandwiches, make sure the rolls are pre-cut.

30 Minutes Before: Get Ready to Host!

  • Set out appetizers.
  • Turn on your party playlist.
  • Light any candles and turn on any holiday lights.
  • Pour yourself a glass of wine and give yourself a pat on the back—you did it! Now, go enjoy the party.

Up Next: Learn how to host an unforgettable Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve

Katie Bandurski
As Senior Shopping Editor, Katie connects Taste of Home readers with the best gifts, deals and home products on the market. An avid foodie and a holiday enthusiast, Katie is an expert at cultivating meaningful moments. When she’s out of the office, you’ll find her exploring Wisconsin, trying out new vegetarian recipes and watching Christmas movies.