How to Host a Great Thanksgiving Dinner

It is your turn to host Thanksgiving and you might be freaking out right now. Where do you start? What do you make? Where will you seat all these people?

This guide is here to help you plan the perfect Thanksgiving dinner.

Start with writing down a plan. Write a list of everyone who will be showing up. Since mostly this consists of family, formal invitations aren’t really necessary. Just a brief call to all involved to remind them you are the one hosting this year is really all is needed.

Make another list of what everyone plans to bring in the way of side dishes and desserts. This way you will have a better idea of what you should make. If you are the type of family who does not “potluck” then use this list to write out everything YOU will be making. Start with just the names of the dishes. Another thing to consider when making this list are any allergies or special diets (diabetes, high blood pressure, etc) that your guests may have. Be sure to ask all of your guests if they have any special diet needs in this regard. This is especially important if children will be attending.

Get together all the recipes you will need for the dishes you are making and keep them in one place for quick reference on the “big day”. Also, this is the time to create your Thanksgiving shopping list.

Look at the layout of your house and decide where you will be able to seat everyone. If you are like me, you will have more people than you do seats at the dinner table. That is OK. Creative thinking can make everything work out. If you have a family open to non-traditional seating, maybe sitting everyone in the living room with trays can be a viable option. If you would rather everyone sit together you can look into renting a catering table just for the day. Start pricing the rental now to give yourself a head start. Another idea is to host Thanksgiving outside! (if you live in a warm climate) If it is a nice day and you prefer to have Thanksgiving lunch rather than Thanksgiving dinner, having the dinner in the back yard under a rented tent and tables can be a good idea.

No matter where you choose to have everyone sit, make sure you are happy with the seating and that no one will be crunched into a corner with no way to get out due to lack of space. Make sure every seat is in a comfortable position.

Plan for games, movies on DVD, etc. Depending on the size of your party and the types of people invited, you might want to look at some entertainment options for before and after dinner. Board games are always a big hit with these types of get-togethers, but if you think something other than that is needed, get creative and think of things that can be fun and different. Try Pin the Tail on the Turkey (of course using a cut-out turkey, not the real thing), etc. You can get more ideas by surfing the web and looking for unique games for all ages.

Another idea is to rent or buy movies. Make sure they are all age-appropriate though! Mix it up with comedy, horror, action, etc. You might not get to watch all of them, but having a wide selection would probably make it easier for a larger group to agree on one or two.

If you have children, you can include them in the planning process as well. Talk about how you will tackle the house cleaning by assigning small chores to the children to take care of the morning of Thanksgiving or even the night before! That way the kids feel like part of the planning and they can happily admit to helping you out with the dinner.

A few days before Thanksgiving, give everyone a call one last time to make sure they are still attending and to see if they are still bringing what they agreed to bring as a side dish. Nothing is worse than having 3 potato salads but no cranberries. Go through the list you made and update it as time goes on so that you can make any last minute changes if needed. Remember, most grocery stores are closed on Thanksgiving so your last chance to get a new dish in will be the day before.

On the day, stay organized as much as possible by using your lists. Check off everything as you get it done. That way you won’t forget to make a dish or forget to set out a particular board game. Stay calm. Every plan has a mini-crisis but usually there are quick remedies so don’t fret. Have fun!!

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