When it comes to hosting Thanksgiving , it’s easy to bite off more than you can chew (no pun intended). From a turkey that needs hours of attention to a beautifully set table, attention to simplifying tasks and organization will help make the day more enjoyable.
Hosts can have a mixed relationship with the holiday. There’s the anticipation of how many guests will show. Do you prepare the entire meal, get premade items, or ask attendees to bring something? Will you be in total host beast mode that prevents you from enjoying the holiday? Will there be enough food? What is the cost? And will there be enough leftovers to make your favorite turkey chili the following day?
Here, we provide 10 simple Thanksgiving host tips that will help the host feel like a guest at their own celebration:
1. Smart planning
Your computer’s calendar is all that’s needed to be organized. Sketch out an idea of the hosting responsibilities and set the dates to complete them. Include everything from what to serve, the days to shop for food, and table setting needs.
Find uninterrupted time, like a Saturday afternoon over a workday, to review your tabletop inventory. Organize what will be used for the gathering and group items together, like a set of linen napkins and napkin holders. During your routine market trips weeks before the holiday, pick up basic Thanksgiving needs that have an extended expiration date such as salad dressing and butter so you won’t have an epic shopping excursion close to the holiday. This also simplifies unloading and storing the food in what’s sure to be a jammed refrigerator and pantry…and that extra fridge you have in the garage.
2. Secure the guest list
Firm up the number of guests as quickly as possible. Think of the event as a regular family dinner with added holiday treatment, food, and seating. Also, make a list of what is needed for the entire guest list and if you have enough for your desired amount of leftovers. As the date draws closer, refrain from adding to the guest list unless there is enough food and space to accommodate them.
3. Contact guests for personal requests
Don’t be surprised by last-minute food requests on Thanksgiving Day. Once you have your guest list confirmed, contact everyone before the event for any specific requests, which will eliminate last-minute scrambling for alternative meals. It’s always a good idea to have fruit and crudité options that meet most dietary needs.
4. Create the menu and plan deliveries
A few weeks before the occasion, review your food supply and draft a shopping list of what is needed. When creating the menu, find shortcuts like pre-made rolls, nuts, fine cheeses, and desserts. Another option? It doesn’t get any easier than having beautiful meals delivered.
Arranging your flower delivery three to four weeks in advance is another important to-do, says Renato Sogueco, Vice President of Digital Strategy and Education of BloomNet, a floral service provider committed to providing florists with access to innovative technologies and education opportunities.
“This will guarantee a premium selection by giving the florist time to confirm availability with the supplier (even grower), the first choice in anything available. It also optimizes pricing, as well as allowing for time to comparison shop with other florists,” he says. “Anything ordered within two weeks and you’ll end up with whatever is available, which will not be optimal given the holiday demand and supply challenge.”
5. Avoid shopping at the last minute
With your guest list secured, reserve a time to buy everything that’s needed, including the food, beverages, candles, and cleaning products. Keep a budget in mind so you don’t overspend on non-essentials, like fancy seeded crackers no one likes. Cross out another step by selecting online meals that are sent to your home.
Pro tip: The Monday before Thanksgiving is a good time to purchase the turkey and shop for fresh foods. Anyone who has ventured into a supermarket the day before the holiday understands that it’s sensible to avoid the shopping pandemonium associated with crowds. Monday also leaves enough time to defrost a frozen turkey.
Martyrs are for fantasy novels. When it comes to hosting for the holidays, taking on all the challenging tasks is a setup for a cranky host. From asking guests to bring their favorite side, setting the table, and cleanup duty, outline tasks that can be farmed out so you can focus on your favorite parts of the celebration.
Pro tip: Set the table the night before to remove a step on Thanksgiving day.
7. Dust off the formal china and silver
Make polishing the silver part of your task list and handle the weekend before Thanksgiving. Also, review your table setting favorites that will make an appearance on the holiday table. Forego any important pieces if your guest list has younger members this year, and simply dress up your everyday tableware with added accents like flowers and favors guests can take home. Not only will the table be eye-catching, but it also updates the look.
8. Add trending touches
Using the same tablescape each year is predictable and lacks the wow factor. We are no longer in Thanksgiving’s past where the ceramic turkey centerpiece is pulled out annually for its one-day-of-the-year viewing. Instead, decorate the table with current inspirations and a one-of-a-kind flower arrangement. Even holiday candy displayed on a pedestal plate or vintage teacups can be part of the table’s décor.
9. Modern traditions
There are certain must-haves to the Thanksgiving meal. Can you imagine reactions if you decided to serve a roasted chicken with French fries? However, having your favorite dish that may not fall into the traditional menu could be the hit of the meal. Start a new tradition where you include a trending fall food that will delight guests and guarantee to get a large serving on your dinner plate. Another option is adding a delicious dessert along with the pie staples that are certain to be devoured.
Before you serve the meal, arrange a large, lined trash receptacle in a visible yet out-of-the-way area so guests can discard their scraps. Fill the sink with warm soapy water so everyone can easily attend to their dishes. Keep cute dish towels on hand to add holiday flair, even during cleanup. The pre-meal cleaning task may sound odd but the objective is deliberate by alleviating the host of an added step after the dinner. Guests will also feel useful by helping with minimal effort.