virtual thanksgiving tips
Entertaining Winter Holidays

How To Host A Virtual Thanksgiving

These tips help you host a virtual Thanksgiving dinner party while still socially distancing and keeping family and friends safe.

It’s no secret that Thanksgiving is going to be different this year, and it’s safe to say that nobody really knows what to do about it. The CDC is recommending sticking with outdoor gatherings only, and avoiding traveling outside your local area.

Throw in the fact that some cities have restrictions on how many people can hang out in one place, and that guarantees some changes to your Thanksgiving traditions.

But instead of calling off the whole thing and sulking because you didn’t get your favorite meal of the year, what about getting hip to the times and trying out a virtual gathering for your family meal? Sure, a virtual Thanksgiving may sound crazy, but this guide will walk you through how to pull it off and actually enjoy it almost as much as the real thing.

Planning A Virtual Thanksgiving

When you used to host Thanksgiving back in the good ol’ days, you spent a ton of time planning. Guess what? You still need to do quite a bit of planning for a virtual event, too. Here’s a few must-do’s.

make virtual thanksgiving e-invitations

Start With Killer Invites

Just because you aren’t actually inviting your friends and fam over to your perfectly decorated house doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get a formal invitation.

By still sending out invites, you and your guests will feel like it’s still a typical-ish Thanksgiving. I love making invitations with and I can download the image to send via email or text message for free.

Decide On A Streaming Platform

When it comes to actually getting everyone together virtually, you have a few options. The most popular ones are Zoom, Google Meet, Apple FaceTime, Skype, and Facebook Messenger. Each of these has different pros and cons, mostly on limitations of party size and ease of use.

When trying to decide which platform to choose, I recommend looking into a few of them and seeing which one meets your needs, and then considering your least tech-savvy guest and which one they’ll be able to figure out easiest.

I also recommend doing a “test run” a few days before Thanksgiving. Schedule everyone to hop on a call at the same time one day just to make sure everyone can access it and they’re all comfortable with how the platform works. If anyone has trouble, you or someone else can do a mini coaching session so your Turkey Day is as smooth as it can be.

Shorten Your Timeline

Typically, a Thanksgiving gathering can last from 3 to 5 hours. Nobody is going to be able to sit on a Zoom call for that long, plus the app won’t let you anyway. It’s a good idea to plan your entire virtual meeting to be 45 minutes or less so everyone stays engaged.

Of course, you can always stay on longer, and if you get kicked out from time constraints you can always start a new meeting, but don’t make all guests feel obligated to hang out for dinner, a game, and a coffee chat.

virtual thanksgiving meal ideas

Ideas For The Meal

You won’t all be sitting down to enjoy a meal together, so the way you typically cook is going to look a little different. Obviously you’ll be making less food, but here are a few ideas to make the meal special for not only the family inside your dining room, but also for everyone on your screen, too.

Recipe Swap

Did someone in your family make the best sweet potato casserole and you’d be in tears if you didn’t get it this year? And is your uncle’s famous pecan pie the best you’ve ever had? You don’t have to miss out! Invite your family to share their best recipes via email so everyone can make them at home.

Get Creative

Why not think out of the box with presentation and have a little contest? Since guests can’t actually taste the food you’re having, and you can’t taste theirs, what about eating with your eyes?

Tell everyone to create the best presentation with their plate and have everyone vote on the best. You can have categories like “5 Star Restaurant Quality” and “Craziest Combination”.

Share The Love

If you have older family members that live nearby, it would be super sweet for you to prepare them a meal and deliver it right to their doorstep. Or maybe just ship out a batch of your rockin’ “I Can’t Believe There’s No Gluten” peanut butter cookies via UPS to family all over the country.

ideas for virtual thanksgiving party

Ideas For Entertainment

It’s not a party without some fun and games, right? Just because you’re hanging out on a computer screen doesn’t mean you have to give up a good after-dinner competition, so snag one of these ideas to keep the turkey naps from kicking in too early.

Play A “Board” Game

Welcome to the year 2020 when board games became digital. Yes, I know they’ve been digitized way before this year, but back when the early stages of quarantine happened, a lot of popular board games hopped on the train of online gaming.

Don’t think of teenage boys in headsets screaming at each other about llama pinatas and dance bombs, I’m talking REAL classic board games. You can play all your favorites online, most of the time for free or very cheap, like Monopoly, Clue, Sorry, Uno, and more.

My family’s favorite holiday game is Taboo, and you can play it online at this website. You better believer that’s what we will be doing after we stuff our faces with pumpkin risotto.

Bring Back Charades

When was the last time you played Charades? Been a while? Why not bring back this oldie but goodie? You’re on camera so everyone can see you, and your cousin won’t be able to cheat by looking over your shoulder at your paper slip this time.

To play Charades virtually without dealing with all the paper slips, use Random Word Generator and have it pick a word for you to act out. I think it’s easiest to choose only verbs, but nouns are doable as well. You’ll have a blast!

Have A Talent Show

Are you a member of talented family? Or maybe no one in the family is talented at all (even better!) but you love to laugh with each other? A talent show is a great option for a virtual party because it’s fun, entertaining, and doesn’t require any other software or websites.

Take it a step further by appointing judges and creating categories. You can take it seriously and actually show off real talents, or be ridiculously hilarious by coming up with outlandishly terrible un-talents.

ideas for hosting a virtual thanksgiving

A Few Final Tips

Just because guests aren’t stepping foot into your house doesn’t mean it isn’t still a holiday. Do it up Girl! Decorate the hell out of your table, and create the best Zoom background you can possibly come up with.

Put on your fanciest dress or your old Halloween costume (why not?) and wear that lipstick you never have the right occasion for.

By making the most of a Virtual Thanksgiving, you’ll forget about all the restrictions and realize you’re connecting with your family on a whole new level. And who knows, this may become a new tradition!

Read More: How To Host A Less-Stressed Thanksgiving


  1. something we need to think to do in Christmas if things not settle by then, thanks for sharing…

    • Brad - Admin

      Happy to help. This time is stressful for all of us, so getting a chance to be creative with the holidays is a nice change of pace.

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