Divine Dinner Party

What to Bring to Thanksgiving Dinner
(Besides Yourself!)

Sure, you're excited to be invited. But always that question arises: what to bring to Thanksgiving dinner?

You know your host has been slaving in the kitchen all day, and would probably like any help he or she can get. But you also know that this person has probably worked for days putting together the perfect Thanksgiving menu. You don't want whatever you bring to get in the way!

Foods to Bring to Thanksgiving Dinner

Eating together for Thanksgiving DinnerWhether you're hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year and want to get a little help from your guests, or are invited to Thanksgiving for the first time in somebody's home, the question of what to bring to Thanksgiving dinner is kind of a biggie. Most people want to participate in this holiday in a personal way, and are happy to do whatever they can. They simply don't know the best thing to bring to round out the meal.

Your own Favorite Dish.

Let's consider some possibilities together. One option that comes immediately to mind is bringing one of your own favorite dishes for the holiday. After all, Thanksgiving is all about family and tradition, and bringing a great dish will not only help out your host, it'll give you a chance to savor your own family's traditions this Thanksgiving. Who knows? Maybe your personal favorite will become a favorite for some of the other guests, too!

To Consider: This is a wonderful, personal option for a smaller gathering. But be sure to warn the host ahead of time, just to be sure that your dish won't clash with the meal. And don't bring something that hogs up oven space-- chances are, your host will need all the oven space available.

Roll out the Dinner Rolls.

Another good option for what to bring to Thanksgiving dinner is a nice fresh loaf of bread or dinner rolls. This is an especially good option if you're on a tight budget. It doesn't cost much to get a nice artisan bread or dozen rolls, and both will certainly be a welcome addition to any Thanksgiving table-- no matter what else you might be eating. If you want to make your addition to dinner really special, think about bringing along a special kind of butter for your bread, such as herbed butter, or apple, almond, or pumpkin butter.

Booze is the Word.

One of the most obvious choices for what to bring to Thanksgiving dinner is, of course, wine! A rich meal like Thanksgiving dinner just isn't complete without a glass of wine-- and if your family is anything like mine, you can never have to many bottles at the ready. Want to be more original than that? Think about a liqueur, a pre-mixed before-dinner cocktail, an aperitif, or some fancy beer. Many folks enjoy a drink before or after Thanksgiving dinner, and having an extra beverage contribution stretches the options available to everybody-- something your host will probably appreciate.

To Consider: Be sure that anything you bring that needs to be drunk cold is chilled before you arrive. You won't know how much refrigerator space is available until you get there.

Craving Caffeine.

Hey, just because my family can polish off the wine doesn't mean everybody's can. Another good option for what to bring to Thanksgiving dinner is a nice coffee or tea. A fancy mix of coffees or a tea nobody's tried before (I love Chai at Thanksgiving, for instance) will always go over well. Plus, your Thanksgiving host will be able to keep any extras without having an extra dish in the fridge, making it a good Thanksgiving dinner gift as well.

Finger Foods.

Oftentimes, finger foods and appetizers (especially make ahead appetizers that don't need to be heated) are a great option for bringing food to Thanksgiving dinner. Smelling that turkey in the oven for hours at a time makes everyone hungry! You don't want people to load up on appetizers, but having a light snack certainly helps ease the wait. Don't make it too heavy, and go with something that can be served cold, as you probably won't have access to an oven.

A Dish of Dessert.

One of the things that makes Thanksgiving such a wonderful holiday? When else do you get to choose between up to a dozen desserts for one meal (of which you can eat several, if your like)? Having an extra option for dessert is never a bad idea. So if you have a favorite pie or a secret family recipe for Snickerdoodles, bring them along. As a bonus, desserts are the easiest things for your host to give away when they have too many leftovers.

Get some great ideas for easy Thanksgiving desserts here.

What to Bring to Thanksgiving Dinner: Beyond the Table

Good ideas for what to bring to Thanksgiving Dinner don't revolve only around food... there are a ton of non-food options that most people don't consider at first. Hey, everyone's focused on food on Thanksgiving, so why not dare to be different? If you're a clever guest you might not even have to ask your host or hostess for an idea.

Thanksgiving Floral Centerpiece with Pumpkin and Sunflower


For example, perhaps you can add to the ambiance by bringing a fall bouquet or some other suitable centerpiece. This makes a nice Thanksgiving dinner gift for the host or hostess-- one that they will enjoy for many days and that they won't have to, well, eat. Or pack into tupperware and stick in the freezer.

Thanksgiving Dinner Gifts.

If you don't want to bring a dish to Thanksgiving, bring a gift instead. I promise, any gift you bring will be a welcome change for your host or hostess. Give him or her a pretty picture frame and offer to take a photo of everybody enjoying the meal together. Bring a great book, or a movie to watch after dinner.

Fun for the Kids.

One of the best, most considerate ideas for what to bring to Thanksgiving dinner that I can think of is a gift that will keep kids or pets entertained (and out of the way). Think in terms of toys, craft projects, or kids' games. That way, when critters or kids get bored, they have something to make the holiday more fun for them. And you don't need to choose costly items-- just thoughtful ones.

Thanksgiving Party Games.

If your host or hostess likes the idea of keeping everyone entertained after (or before) the meal, Thanksgiving party games can be a great idea for what to bring to Thanksgiving dinner. Bring all the makings for your favorite party game (I've got some great ones here), or go simple and bring something from home. If you have an assortment of darts, cards, scrabble, monopoly, trivial pursuit etc. you'll likely get several takers and a hearty "thank you" from your host or hostess.

During or After-Dinner Entertainment.

And don't overlook some entertainment! A movie or some music can be the perfect way to finish out a holiday evening. Play music if folks are content to talk; pop in the movie if you're too full for conversation and just want to relax. An extra piece of pie, a cup of coffee, a full belly, and some quiet time together can be… well, heaven.

And When in Doubt... Ask!

If you don't know what to bring to Thanksgiving dinner, just ask! After all, the most polite and helpful thing to bring to Thanksgiving is whatever your host needs most! So when in doubt, just ask your host or hostess what they would find it most convenient for you to bring. That way, you'll know you're helping out instead of getting in the way, and they can plan for your contribution accordingly. Everybody wins.

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Share and share alike! If you have a great dinner party idea or tip, send it in!

After all, what better way to pass on your knowledge than to share it with other hosts and hostesses?

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