13 Tips For How To Host Thanksgiving Like The Grown-Ass Adult You Are
Hosting Thanksgiving in your home for the first time ever has to be one of the more stressful parts of growing up. Nothing makes you feel more like an adult than entertaining a room full of people while also trying to anticipate what they need before they ask for it — especially on one of the biggest holidays of the year. People have big expectations for Thanksgiving: a delicious spread with both classic and new recipes is only the tip of the expectation iceberg. It's enough to totally freak anyone out. If you're getting ready to set up for your first official Thanksgiving as host, you're probably about ready to enter panic mode. Don't worry! There are a few things you can do to ensure that you host Thanksgiving like the grown-ass adult you are.
Now, I did host Friendsgiving this year, and even though this is a much more casual celebration, it still left me feeling totally stressed out. It felt like no matter how much I prepared, I was somehow still unprepared. To be fair, I... did not prepare as much as I should have, but hey, I'm still learning! And the good news is that you, now, can learn from my mistakes.
You might be wondering, "Why am I taking hosting advice from someone who didn't prepare enough for Friendsgiving?" Good question! I might not be a hosting expert, but I have watched my mom host not only Thanksgiving, but many other holidays and celebrations since I was a kid, and I think she's always done an excellent job. I've learned a lot from watching her, both the good (she makes everyone feel welcome) and the bad (she could use some help with the planning ahead stuff). So, I've taken what I've learned from my mom and what I've learned from hosting a few events at my house these past few months, and I've written out a little guide on how to host Thanksgiving that should help. Don't even attempt it without reading these tips first:
1. Plan The Meal And Make A Schedule
The key to hosting a big event like Thanksgiving is to stay as organized as possible. Don't just think of some recipes and jot them down in random spots, never tell your guests to just "make anything," and don't go into Thanksgiving week without a game plan. Plan your meal out exactly: Figure out what you're comfortable making and what you'd like help with. Most guests will ask what they can bring, while others will just offer something up. Feel free to tell them what you need without being too anal about it (i.e., say, "it would be great if you could make sweet potatoes!" instead of "can you make this sweet potato recipe exactly?"). If a guest offers to bring a dessert and you already have six of them, say, "Would you actually mind bringing an appetizer? We really need more of those!"
A few nights before Thanksgiving, make a schedule on what needs to get done. To-do lists are, to me, total lifesavers. Write a list of what needs to be clean, what needs to be prepared, and anything else you have to remember. A structured schedule could be really helpful.
2. Avoid Overly Complicated Recipes
Thanksgiving dinner is not the time to try out that brand new, fancy-schmancy potato recipe you found in a gourmet cookbook. Sure, I understand the desire to impress your guests with your cooking skills, but if you're never made something before or it seems like it's going to take hours to put together, skip it. People want to eat the food they love on Thanksgiving: classic dishes like yams, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, stuffing, etc. They might be impressed by a fancy recipe that involves none of those things, but they'll also low-key be bummed that they aren't having their childhood favorite. Keep it simple!
3. Figure Out How Much You Can Do Ahead Of Time
Food prep is essential to pulling off a stress-free Thanksgiving. As the host, you'll most likely be making most of the food, which means you'll be putting together a few different dishes at once. In advance, this doesn't seem so horrible, but once it's nearing closer to dinner and your kitchen looks like three hurricanes went through it, things get bad. There's nothing wrong with prepping food ahead of time! In fact, a lot of recipes for Thanksgiving will tell you if you can make it in advance, and if so, how to do it.
Know that there are some recipes that are better fresh: roasted veggies tend to get soggy after a while, but others can be done the day or two before. And sometimes, you can at least get parts of the recipe done. It will make your life so much easier!
4. Do A Lot Of Setting Up The Night Before
Hosting Thanksgiving means you don't only need to worry about food — your home needs to look A+ too. Try setting up as much stuff as you can the night before. Set the table the night before, straighten up a few days before, and set out the bottles of wine/beer/alcohol. Keep certain things for the day of — vacuuming is best done at the last minute — but generally, try to get the cleaning done in advance so you can really just focus on the food and guests on Turkey Day.
5. Ban Politics
This year, talking politics is essentially asking for a fight. You never know who is on opposing sides of this election, and it's one that has people so heated, that emotions and tempers are flaring before a conversation even begins. While it's always great to encourage intelligent conversation, having two of your relatives scream at each other over Trump doesn't seem like the best way to spend the holiday. For Friendsgiving, my friend and I politely sent everyone a text saying, "No talking politics tonight please," and it was the best decision. No one came close to bringing it up, and we all got along, despite the fact that many of us have different views from each other.
Let everyone know before they come over, or make a little sign for the front door saying, "Politics-Free Zone." Honestly, most of your guests will probably be relieved.
6. Keep Any Pets Out Of The Way
If you have cats, a dog, or some other kind of animal, have a plan for where to put him/her for the night. I know, I know — you love your pet, and he/she is basically part of your family. Who wouldn't want them around during dinner? Well, uh... a lot of people. While some people might be fine with a dog at their feet or a cat sneaking around near their food, others might feel uncomfortable with it, and might feel even more uncomfortable to ask you to get the animals away from them. Fair enough! Put your pets in another room and visit them throughout the night. They'll be OK, and it will be one less thing you'll have to worry about.
7. Stick To Your House Rules, But Don't Be Too Anxious
Some people are super laid back and don't mind what people do in their home when they come by. If you're one of those people, you can ignore this tip. But if you're like me, and you spend a lot of time worrying about whether or not someone is going to forget a coaster, read on.
You should definitely feel free to assert some of your rules — like asking guests to remove their shoes, or politely handing them a coaster when they put their drink down without one — but don't make things weird. A guest might, without thinking, put their dirty feet on your couch or spill a little bit of food on your new tablecloth, or something along those lines. Don't freak out or feel nervous or act annoyed (unless it's something bad). Stuff happens when a big group is over, so it's kind of to be expected.
8. Wear Something On The Lighter Side
This might sound like a superficial tip, but trust me — you don't want to be sweating over the food you're preparing for everyone. The night I hosted Friendsgiving, I put on a cute, but heavy, sweater right before everyone came. After a half-hour of finishing up the food and running around making sure everyone was comfortable, I had to change. You're off in something that isn't too warm!
9. Be Prepared For Early Guests And Late Guests
You can tell everyone a certain time, but expect at least one person to show up a half-hour early, and at least one person to show up a half-hour to an hour late. Early guests are usually more tough, since you don't feel prepared and it can make you stressed, so... prepare for it to happen! Make sure everything is set up ahead of time, and leave the little stuff for last. And if your guest comes alone and needs to be entertained but you need to get more things done, ask for their help. Which brings me to my next point...
10. Ask For And Accept Help
If you have guests who are polite, they will more than likely offer to help you when they walk in. Every person who came to my house either said, "Do you need help?" or "What can I do?" At first, while trying to be the "perfect" hostess, I denied help from everyone, waving it off like I had it all under control. As the night went on and they asked again, I realized I definitely needed their help — and once I accepted it, things were much smoother. Don't feel too proud to accept their help, and don't feel like you're being rude by doing so!
At the same time, though, you should be delegating help. When a guest asks if they can help, give them something to do — don't let them just do whatever. That will only make things even more confusing, which is the opposite of what you're going for.
11. Set Up Drinks So Guests Have Something Right Away
Thanksgiving is one of those celebrations where you'll be finishing up certain dishes and heating up many others, even when people are over. Doing so makes it more difficult to serve your guests. Before anyone arrives, set up a drink section that makes things super easy — put all of the beer, alcohol, wine, soda, and water bottles in one spot, with glasses and various drink toppers. This way, guests can make their own drinks, and everything is in one place. As a cautionary tale, I'll tell you I didn't do this, and it made things more stressful than I thought it would. I had to keep pausing what I was doing to grab glasses, find a bottle opener, fix the ice maker, etc. Trust me!
12. Clean Throughout The Night
This one is easier said than done, but try to do it. Thanksgiving is messy AF thanks to the amount of dishes that need to be cleaned and all of the food that needs to be put away. Make sure your dishwasher is empty (if you have one) before anyone comes over so that you can put things in there once you're finished with them. Buy drink charms so that people know which drink is there instead of losing their glass and then using a new one (making more wash work). Soak really stained pots and pans with hot water and soap as soon as you can. Don't make cleaning your priority — you should obviously have fun — but doing what you can throughout the night is very helpful.
13. Don't Get Too Drunk
This might sound lame or obvious, but seriously! If you're wasted by the middle of dinner, how are you supposed to do, uh, anything else? Enjoy a few glasses of wine and get a little toasty, but don't get so drunk that you're acting messy in front of everyone — especially if it's your family. Now, let me just sound like your mom for another minute: make sure no one leaves your house if they're too drunk and they have to drive. It's just the responsible thing to do, OK?