The invitations have been sent. It’s done. There’s no turning back now.
As a host for what’s perhaps the most culinary-centric and generally elaborate holiday of them all, you have your work cut out for you. But you already know that.
And you probably also know that hosting Thanksgiving, at its best, can be an absolute joy.
So from here on out, let’s focus on that joy. Let’s toss the stress and worry behind us, and instead focus entirely on the obvious upside.
It all comes down to one big word: comfort.
When you’re fully prepared, everything falls neatly into order. When everything is in order, you’ll feel comfortable. And when you’re comfortable, you’re guests are too. Win, win, and win.
Now, here’s how to do just that:
Let’s start with a few tips for the dinner side of the preparation – all the magic that happens in the kitchen and on the dining room table. Afterwards, we’ll move into preparing your home as a whole.
First: What’s on the menu?
If you’ll be able to outsource a few dishes to guests, that’s great. But for everything else on the menu (i.e. everything you’ll be preparing), it’s best to start with a solid plan.
Once you know what you need, search around online and through cookbooks for recipes that give you a balance of elegant and manageable. These shouldn’t be hard to find – there are virtually limitless creative and inspiring ideas out there to get you started.
Like any good to-do list, knowing exactly what’s in store will take a lot of stress out of the process.
A quick bonus tip: many dishes can be made in advance, frozen, thawed the day of – and still taste freshly made.
What’s on the table?
Once you’ve planned dinner, it follows to plan out the table the dinner will go on. From over-the-top formal, to more laid back, start thinking about which plates, linens, serving ware and flatware you’ll need.
Try not to overthink this step – a little will go a long way. But with both the menu and the table settings planned out, a huge hurdle is already well behind you.
Chances are, you’ll know ahead of time how many guests to expect in your home. This is information to hold dear.
Because with a head count, you’ll know roughly how much space you need. Fact is, your guests will need to move around without tripping over stray ottomans. They’ll also need a place to sit down.
So plan for this. If need be, temporarily relocate some furniture. If you have the opposite problem, purchase or rent additional furniture. With enough seating, room to breathe, and places to chat and mingle, you’ll be as ready as ever.
Another quick bonus tip: Coats and jackets. Be sure to have a place for hanging or storing.
Sprucing the Decor
Having space is one thing. Having a beautiful, fall-themed space is another.
You don’t need to go out and get actual decorations – although that isn’t a bad idea. Setting the Thanksgiving mood can be as simple as a few throw blankets, pillows, candles and serving dishes.
In either case, adding a bit of themed decor (inside and out) is a nice, subtle gesture that won’t go unappreciated.
Often, entertainment will come naturally. So don’t consider this tip a must-do. Rather, consider a few extra entertainment options to have on hand – just in case.
Children will love to have fun things to do, be it Thanksgiving activities or coloring books. And for all ages, board or trivia games are always a great option.
Perhaps the most important thing here is this: try not to put too much pressure on yourself. Everyone, your guests included, understand the challenges of hosting. And the worst critic out there will almost always be yourself.
Prepare, yes. Do your best, of course. But have a little fun – and in moments of worry – just remember the purpose of the holiday itself: to give thanks, to show a little love, and to take a moment to appreciate the ever-growing list of reasons we all have to celebrate.