How to Host Thanksgiving Dinner WITHOUT a Dining Table

The ultimate low-maintenance fete.

 how to host thanksgiving without a table

photography by URBAN OUTFITTERS


This post goes out to the apartment dwellers, the newlyweds, those not-quite-settled-in folks. Did you, in your zest for a good time, accidentally agree to host Thanksgiving dinner this year? Did you realize, exactly one hour later, you have no dining table for your guests to sit at and eat? Don’t cancel just yet. With a little prep work, and a lot of love, you can start a new tradition--one where friends and family gather for an evening of intimate gratitude and good food.

Take things down a notch
We get it. The holidays are meant to be shared with the people you love, and the more the merrier right? Still, if your place is small, too many guests can really cramp the experience.

Our suggestion? Cap the list at six people. That’s just enough for an easy flow of conversation, but not too many to fit comfortably around the living room. Up the festive feeling by sending beautifully designed invitations by email. 

 Dinner party cocktails

photography by ALPHA SMOOT


Ask for help and be specific
Most guests hate showing up for dinner empty handed, especially on Thanksgiving. Help them help you by sending out specific requests--one for rolls, another for sweet potato or green bean casserole and a third for a special drink. 

Clear the coffee table
For just this evening, hide your beautifully curated coffee table decorations in the closet. Stack the magazines and books elsewhere and give your living room a blank slate--a place for guests to gather and a surface for drinks and plates to rest. 

 meal prep before thanksgiving dinner

photography by MICHAEL WILTBANK


Do your cooking ahead of time
Take advantage of the number one rule of Thanksgiving--holiday leftovers are somehow better than fresh food--and make everything the day before your party. You’ll have plenty of time to clean up and put everything away before your guests arrive, a major plus in a small space.

Shop your apartment for seating
Start by rearranging the furniture in your living room. Bring chairs a little closer together, and move any large dressers or side tables away. Then, look around your home for footstools, poufs and chairs that will fit next to the coffee table. It’s not necessary for all of the seats to be around the coffee table, but each should be within arm’s reach of a flat surface. 

Bookshelf decor ideas

photography by SINNENRAUSCH


Make room for dishes on a bookshelf
You’ll need enough space for a stack of small plates, cups and silverware. By moving dishes from the kitchen to main eating area, you can better manage the flow of traffic in your tiny space and encourage a server-style, versus buffet-style dinner. 

Go old school with dessert
Resist the urge to offer a spread of cakes and pies and brownies and cookies. Instead, place a single pie on the windowsill. Focus your energy on making this one delicious dessert, or buy your favorite from a local baker and call it done.  

 first course thanksgiving dinner ideas

photography by CODY GUILFOYLE


Eat dinner in courses
You can keep the plates small and your guests entertained by eating your Thanksgiving meal in courses. Start with bread already on the coffee table so everyone can dig in while you serve the drinks. Then grab plates from the shelf and move through each course--cranberry salad, a macaroni dish, turkey with stuffing and gravy, sweet potato or green bean casserole--as you see fit. 

Serve drinks in pitchers
Forget the drink station, which looks pretty but takes up valuable space. Have a couple of pitchers in the fridge ready to serve drinks in rounds. You can even leave a pitcher or two on an end table in your living room for easy access. 

Cozy living room decor ideas

photography by URBAN OUTFITTERS


Embrace the cozy feeling
So this year’s dinner is looking a little tight. Take advantage of an intimate atmosphere by hanging string lights, putting together a playlist, and holding a few conversation starters in your back pocket. Center your prompts around holiday and childhood stories, asking for the funniest/worst/best moments.

This story was originally published on October 29, 2015. Updated on November 7, 2017. 

See more Thanksgiving entertaining ideas: 
10 Fresh and Colorful Ideas for Your Thanksgiving Table
16 Questions to Ask Before You Host Friendsgiving

The Best Thanksgiving Recipes, From Cocktails to Make-Ahead Sides

Published on November 07, 2017 - 3:00pm EST

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