Maybe you’ve dreamed of the day when you could host your own Thanksgiving dinner — or maybe you’ve dreaded it. Either way, hosting Thanksgiving for the first time can be stressful. I hosted my own first Thanksgiving a few years ago — read on to discover what I would do differently and what worked.
In times of stress, I tend to fixate on the one thing that would theoretically make everything “perfect.” A few days before the big day, I decided the missing link was steel grey napkins. I went all over town before locating them, wasting valuable time and energy in the process. You don’t have to tell me how nuts this is — just take my advice and plan your tabletop and décor at least a week in advance. You’ll thank me later.
It doesn’t hurt to plan your menu early, either. Our friends at The Kitchn have some great Thanksgiving recipes. Once you’ve set your menu start thinking about what you can make ahead and store in the fridge or freezer. I made cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie a few days in advance, which really minimized the stress of cooking for a crowd. Also, if you’ve invited someone whose family always serves a particular dish at their Thanksgiving dinner, ask them to bring it! They’ll appreciate having their traditions included and you’ll appreciate having one less thing to make.
You’ve planned and purchased and made-ahead and now the day has finally arrived! There is no way around this—you will have to get up early. Once your bird is in the oven though, time is on your side. If your dinner guests are your houseguests as well, enlist someone to take the gang out for the morning. Many towns and cities have parades and a game of touch football or a walk around the neighborhood is a nice way to get ahead of those Thanksgiving calories. In the meantime, you can prep your remaining menu items, set out cheese and crackers, set the table—and enjoy a cup of coffee in the last quiet you’ll get all day.
Once everyone gets back (or starts to arrive), hand them a drink, point them towards the crudité and let them entertain themselves while you finish everything up. Don’t worry about serving dinner at 2:00pm on the dot—as long as your guests have something to nibble and a drink in hand, you can relax about the timing. When everyone is finally sitting around your beautiful table enjoying your delicious meal you’ll be as thankful as I was that there’s only one first Thanksgiving.
Image: Bethany Adams