How to Host an Outdoor Thanksgiving


It’s no secret that the holidays are going to look different this year. Many people are unable to travel right now, and even when families live near each other, some are hesitant to gather in person. Canceling thanksgiving can be an unbelievably difficult decision, especially when we need the comfort of family and tradition more than ever. As an alternative to canceling thanksgiving altogether, my family is hosting an outdoor thanksgiving this year. It won’t be exactly what we’re used to, but it will be fun! If your family is considering hosting an outdoor thanksgiving, here are some ideas and things to consider:


Set expectations about thanksgiving outdoors

Make sure all the guests understand that this will be an outdoor thanksgiving. Make sure cranky Uncle John knows you’ll be eating outside! Encourage everyone to dress appropriately for the weather. If you normally watch football on Thanksgiving, a fun alternative is to plan a game of flag football outside. You can order affordable flag football sets online. Who knows, it could end up being a family tradition for years to come!


Have a thanksgiving backup plan

Consider what you will do in the event of bad weather. If you plan to dine on a covered porch, the weather may not be an issue. Otherwise, you will want to have a tent or awning available if the forecast looks questionable. You could order a pop up canopy to ensure you have some overhead protection. Also consider if you should set a rain date in advance. Although it’s hard to imagine having thanksgiving on a day other than thanksgiving, for some people who cannot waiver on social distancing, setting a rain date may be their only opportunity to have thanksgiving dinner with friends and family this year.


thanksgiving picnic table


Plan your thanksgiving table and chairs

Depending on your family’s comfort level, you may all choose to sit at the same outdoor table. Consider staggering each place setting to ensure 6ft distance between diners. Or maybe your guests will be most comfortable if each household will have their own table. Consider the extra space that this will require and plan ahead! Affordable card tables can be dressed up with a cute tablecloth. You could even dine on picnic blankets depending on the age and health status of your guests. If you’d rather rent tables and chairs, many event rental companies offer delivery and set up service-check if this is a possibility in your area.


Consider a heat source for your outdoor thanksgiving guests

Depending on your local climate, you may need to consider a heat source to keep guests comfortable while eating thanksgiving dinner outside. Patio heaters are a great option if you can find them, however, many are sold out due to overwhelming demand. Check your local hardware stores! Another fun option for a heat source is a fire pit. My family loves the Breeo because it is made in the USA and is nearly smokeless! More traditional fire pits can be found here and here. Be sure to have marshmallows on hand!


pecan pie slice


Place a throw blanket on every guests chair

Adding a throw blanket to each chair will make the event feel more luxurious and thoughtful. Guests will love wrapping up in their blankets and lingering over their pumpkin pie. Mix and match blankets you already have for a cozy and collected look. If you don’t own enough blankets for each of your guests, check out this cute option under $20, and this super cozy one under $9!


Use disposable plates and utensils for the thanksgiving meal

I love using my grandmother’s china on special occasions like Thanksgiving. But this year I’ll be using disposable dinnerware because I don’t want to risk breaking pieces while carrying them around outside. I also don’t want to have to hand wash dishes that guests have used, simply out of an abundance of caution with sanitation this year. If you decide to go with disposables, there are lots of cute options for paper plates and napkins online. For disposable flatware, I suggest buying some with strength and thickness to them, because thanksgiving foods are not the time for flimsy flatware!


carving thanksgiving turkey


Serve your guests their thanksgiving dinner

Consider how you will serve the food. Some may feel comfortable allowing people to serve themselves. I like the idea of setting up a buffet of the food outside and filling each person’s plate as they view the offerings from a safe distance and make their requests. Another idea is to print little menus and set one for each guest along with a pencil for filling out their “order”. You can then take each order form inside and fill each guest’s plate based on their requests. This eliminates multiple people touching the serving utensils etc.


Remember, do what makes you most comfortable! Keep in mind, I’m not a doctor, and these ideas are not intended as medical or social distancing advice. You know yourself and your guests best, so do what is safe for you and consult your doctor if you need guidance.


pie on board

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving this year, because despite it all, we have so very much to be thankful for!



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