photo of traditional items on a seder table
(Getty)

How to Plan a Passover Seder

A simple, step-by-step guide to hosting Passover.

Hosting a Passover seder can be a deeply meaningful opportunity to participate in one of Judaism’s most ancient and significant rituals as well as a chance to shape the holiday experience for your family and guests. But it can also be daunting to plan for the food, ritual and comfort of your guests. This step-by-step guide will help you through the process. 

Invite Your Guests

Are you having seder with only your immediate family? Will you invite extended family? Friends? Or perhaps you’re planning to have seder alone? The seder is a learning experience that changes depending on who comes to the table. It’s never too early to extend invitations and firm up your guest list. 

Choose a Haggadah

The Haggadah contains all the blessings, prayers and songs you will need to host your seder, and it can be helpful if everyone at your seder is using the same one. There are an overwhelming number of Haggadahs on the market, and many that are free for download. You may also be able to borrow a set from a friend. If you don’t know where to start, check out our guide to choosing a Haggadah.

If you are planning a seder with young children, our colleagues at Kveller have produced a Haggadah that may work well for you.

Plan Your Menu

Now that you know who will attend your seder, you can plan a dinner that all will enjoy. You can review this article about what is kosher for Passover and ask guests about their dietary needs. Consider whether there are any family recipes you look forward to making. If you need something new to try, our friends at the Nosher have curated wonderful Passover recipes for every diet and course. Because dinner can come late in a seder, it is helpful to have some appetizers on the table as well so your guests don’t get too hungry.

Plan for the Ritual

Do you have a seder plate or other physical items that are used during a seder? If not, consider purchasing or borrowing those things. There are myriad ways to make a seder ritual meaningful. You might start by familiarizing yourself with the 14 basic steps of a Passover seder and get to know the Haggadah you’ve chosen. This is a starting point, but there is much more you can add. For example, the traditional Haggadah doesn’t tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt — it leaves seder participants to do that in their own way. How would you like to tell the story? There are also many ways for people to participate, either with planned additions or spontaneous conversation. Consider asking your guests to bring articles, poems or other passages to read that are particularly meaningful to them. You might also figure out who will ask the Four Questions so that person can prepare. And think about keeping young children happy and comfortable for the night, either with materials appropriate to them or things like Lego. This might also be a good time to ask your guests to contribute dishes to the meal.

Finding the Haggadah overwhelming? We have an email series that will break it down for you.

Clean

Clean your house and prepare your kitchen the way you ordinarily would for Passover before you start cooking. We have tips for making the cleaning more manageable

Shop

In addition to whatever you need for your meal, you will also need special foods for the seder ritual. This includes lots of matzah, which you can purchase or even make yourself. You will also need a generous amount of wine. For your seder plate, you will need parsley, romaine lettuce, haroset, bitter herbs, a shank bone and an egg.

Set the Table

In addition to setting a festive table for your guests, you will want to add items needed for the ritual. Each guest will need a comfortable seat (ideally with a pillow for leaning) and table setting, a glass for wine and a Haggadah. The center of your table will also require a seder plate, a plate with three covered matzahs, a bowl of salt water for dipping the parsley, a cup for Elijah and candles to light as the seder begins.

Take a Deep Breath

Creating a relaxed and warm atmosphere is your last job. Welcome your guests with a smile, and don’t worry about every detail being perfect. The wine spilled on the tablecloth or the afikomen that got permanently lost will just be stories to tell in future years. Chag Sameach!


Prep for Passover like a pro with this special email series. Click here to sign up and you’ll receive a series of helpful, informative, and beautiful emails that will help you get the most out of the holiday.

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In 2025, the first seder is held on the evening of Sunday, April 13th.

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In 2024, the first Passover seder is on Monday, April 22.

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In 2024, the first Passover seder is on Monday, April 22.