That’s Thanksgiving: 15 Ways to Host Outdoor Thanksgiving Like a Pro

That’s Thanksgiving…the time of year that brings my family together. I’ve found 15 ways to host your outdoor Thanksgiving like a pro! The bustle of the holiday has already started, and this year I’m hosting an outdoor celebration.  Several members of my family are vegetarian, and honestly I’m not crazy about turkey either.  Anything that looks like the animal I’m eating kinda gives me the creeps.  That said, I try to focus more on the outdoor experience, decor, and people and let my husband do the cooking. 

The Atlanta weather has been beautiful so this year we have decided to take our feast outdoors.  Armed with movable fire pits and heater, I’m preparing for the big day. 

I’ve come up with a list of 15 ideas to create the perfect outdoor ambiance for my family.

No. 1//

Get Them Out:

People naturally want to stand around a kitchen.  The kitchen smells good, it’s warm, and usually there’s like a bustling kind of feeling.  That said, because we are doing Thanksgiving outside, I don’t want my family loitering in my kitchen.  I’ve hired a couple college students home for break to walk around the backyard with small appetizers and to pour drinks.  

No. 2//

Go Natural:

When you’re outdoors, use that to your advantage.  Go natural with napkin rings and table accents.  You can do a lot with small pumpkins, gourds, leaves, lanterns, sprigs and candles. If you have children or you’re a DIY’er I’ve seen precious napkin rings kids can make from empty paper towel tubes, cut in thirds or fourths, or bottle caps and googly eyes. 

Thanksgiving napkin ring ideas

No. 3// 

Make it Comfy:

Nothing is worse than sitting through a long meal on an uncomfortable chair.  Skip the fold out chairs and opt for something a bit more comfortable. If your seats don’t match, that’s o’kay.  Remember the Bravermans? All the meals they had outside at a big table and different chairs only brought them together! 

Braverman's table
Blankets on chairs for cozy Thanksgiving

No. 4// 

Music Makes a Party:

I learned from my parents, at a very young age, music is a huge part of setting the tone of the evening.  People enjoy mingling when there’s light music in the background; therefore, create a playlist for the event with songs your guests can enjoy.  Music should be playing outdoors as your guests arrive.  Last spring I went to a birthday party and the music ruined the experience.  It wasn’t the selection of songs; however, that’s important too.  It was the volume!  If you stood anywhere near the speaker you were literally blown away.  Everyone ended up off the porch and in the grass because you couldn’t hear the person standing next to you.  Keep that in mind!  Alli has these great, bluetooth, Sonos, outdoor speakers.  I’m placing two in different parts of the yard so the music is surrounding and not booming from one location.

No. 5// 

Lighting is Critical:

If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving in the evening, lighting is critical! Eating by candle light is beautiful but probably not ideal for your big meal; however, if you pair a few lanterns and string lights that’s the perfect glow.

Duomo Lanterns
Commercial Outdoor Lights

No. 6// 

Linen Napkins:

Yes, you need linen napkins for the big day! Chasing blow away napkins through the yard isn’t a great way to spend your afternoon.  Cloth napkins take your event up a notch! Plus, it’s Thanksgiving.  Splurge on the napkins.  World Market has inexpensive, simple, cloth napkins that are perfect for this occasion.

No. 7// 

Place Cards:

Where everyone sits is always a thing with my family.  I don’t know why….It doesn’t matter where we are, everyone is always, “Do you wanna sit here or possibly right there? Somebody needs to stay close to Reid.  Let’s put Grandma and Grandpa in the middle…. Should the kids all be at one end and adults at the other?” It’s endless for every meal.  Because of that, I’m doing place cards.  They’re fun to make or buy, cute to look at, and eliminate the stress of finding a spot. 

Thanksgiving Printable Place Cards

No. 8//

Christmas Drawing and Thankful Friend:

My place cards are multipurpose.  This year every card is printable (as seen above) and going to have a picture on the outside. Your picture is going to match someone else’s at the table.  Before our meal starts, we share why we are thankful for the person with the matching picture.  It also becomes the one you buy for at Christmas! Every year it’s different… some years it’s matching napkin rings or a secret number.  Keeps it interesting!

No. 9// 

Fire Pits:

If you don’t have a movable fire pit, now is a great time to invest in one or two.  They are usually on sale at this point and will be needed as you spend more time outdoors this season.  Sprinkling your yard with 2-3 fire pits is a great way to add warmth and beauty.  I found this neat idea called a Rocket Stove or Swedish Torch.  This is definitely on my list of things to try before the big day!

Manta Ray wood fire pit

Alternative to fire pit

No. 10// 

Cozy Blankets:

Reading my blogs, you know I love a cozy soft blanket.  Keep a blanket draped on the back of your guests’ chairs.  This will provide warmth even after the food is finished! I recently saw a post about making blankets for guests to keep…. This may be a way to keep kids busy during fall break, so they’re ready to be used in November. If I could sew at all, I love the look of the fringed flannel! 

Fringe Fleece Blanket

No. 11// 

Alcohol and Drinks:

Wine is definitely a staple at my Thanksgiving this year; however, we do have some kids and non drinkers.  There’s sparkling juice that creates a celebratory feel as well as hot cider to keep your guests warm.  To me, the drinks are just as important as the food! Keep in mind, a tipsy host is not a good look and will be talked about later. 

No. 12// 

Plates and Silver:

You have a couple choices…  Because most of the children are getting older, this year I’ve decided to do my everyday white china and accent with beautiful bread or salad plates, from The Bone Room as seen below. They are festive and classic looking with just a wishbone in the middle.  Also, they will be covered with food, so keep that in mind! Keeping it simple is the key.  You’re outside so you don’t need to bust out the fine china or stemmed crystal wine glasses.  Also, an alternative, use melamine plates which are stronger than paper plates, washable, but not breakable. 

The Bone Room Wishbone bread plate

No. 13//

College Kids and/ or Garden Wagon:

College kids and/ or a garden wagon come in really handy when it’s time for clean up. Kids are home from school and looking to make a little extra money.  I have a few around here that always offer to help when they’re around.  This is a game changer! They pass out appetizers, pour drinks, help clear the table, put out dessert, be sure the music stays on and the fire lit, etc.  It’s just nice to have a couple extra hands that don’t mind the work. Also, if the kids aren’t available be sure you have a garden wagon to help with clean up! I like this wagon because of the holes… it’s easy to hose down if something spills inside. 

garden wagon to use for Thanksgiving outdoors

No. 14// 


Are there outdoor games your family enjoys? If so, set them up or get them out. At some point Thanksgiving Day we have an annual “Family Olympics.”  This started years ago by my sister, Alli,… the athletic, completely in shape sister. What began as a yearly family flag football game when the kids were little has morphed into more of a football toss and cornhole situation, as now most of the kids are in their teens and twenties and grandparents in their 70’s… frankly, everyone but Alli, can’t keep up! 

No. 15//

Football on TV:

I’m still not quite sure how to keep our sports fans away from the TV as football plays endlessly. Of course the Saints are playing the Falcons at 8:20pm.  Being that my brother in law is from New Orleans and named his Great Dane Dempsy… and we’re living in Atlanta about two miles from the stadium, I’m thinking skipping this rivalry game is out of the question.  Therefore, dinner will be done by 8pm! 

Overall, I love Thanksgiving because it’s time to spend with family. The food may be overcooked and the seating not quite as comfortable as I hope.  But, the fact that we drop everything and show up for each other is what it’s all about. We bring our baggage, joys, worries, struggles, and accomplishments and just lay it out there… knowing that we are surrounded by the ones that celebrate our victories and pick up the pieces when things are rough.  That’s Thanksgiving.

If you need help with your home’s exterior, brick&batten would love to partner with you on virtual exterior design.  Let’s get your space ready to host celebrations outside!