How to host Thanksgiving

Photo by Libby Penner

Whether your Thanksgiving guest list just includes your nearest and dearest or is a whole neighbourhood bash, a forearmed host is always a happier one. Follow our top tips to ensure you not only survive the holidays – you own them. 

Be Prepared

Photo by Debby Hudson 

An obvious one but preparation is absolutely vital to ensure your party’s success. Make a list and segment it into manageable tasks, follow-ups and logistics. Identify things that can be done way in advance and do them ASAP.  If you really need an RSVP by a certain date don’t worry about emphasizing this in the invite.

Choose your menu wisely

Photo by Food Photographer | Jennifer Pallian

While modern cookery shows try to convince us that nothing short of a Medieval banquet will do, your best bet is to choose a menu that a) your guests will enjoy eating and b) you’ll enjoy making. Opt for dishes that can be prepared in advance or that don’t require you to stand over them constantly – and avoid meals where success balances on a knife-edge. Your guests will have a far better time if they get to hang out with a relaxed and happy you, not a flushed, stressed-out version of yourself with an ominous smell of burning drifting from the kitchen. 

Alongside checking dietary requirements, it’s a good idea to find out if there are any foods that your guests simply cannot stand. Fish, for example, can be a divisive choice. If you’re bombarded by a large number of requests and preferences, consider a buffet or tapas, and be sure to label each dish carefully.

Make it beautiful

St Ives large hutch / Canterbury dining table / Cross back dining chair

It doesn’t matter what amount of space you have available or if you live on the noisiest street in town, you can always make your Thanksgiving home a welcoming and enjoyable place to get festive. When it comes to seating, extendable tables are really handy, as are benches.

Whether you’re a dab hand with crafts or more likely to glue your fingers to the table, a few simple decorations are always appreciated. Some seasonal fruits and foliage, especially those displaying glorious Fall colors are a great addition. And Thanksgiving just isn’t the same without at least one pumpkin! Handmade decorations are such a joy for any festival so how about getting the kids busy creating in the craft area (keep reading for our tips). 

When it comes to your tableware, don’t be fooled into thinking that you need perfectly coordinated crockery or that your tablecloth has to match your curtains. Choose a look that suits your home, your style and that puts you in the mood for celebrating with your nearest and dearest.  

Don’t leave the kids out in the cold

While initially kids might be excited to be sitting at the ‘big table’ it will soon wear thin. Discussions about your boss or how much you’re looking forward to the Oscars red carpet just aren’t going to cut it. As soon as you see the dining chair slump set in, have some activities ready. Depending on your space, resources and the children’s ages, this could be an area to do some festive crafts, a board or computer game, or even a treasure hunt. If there are older children present, see if they would enjoy being a ‘group leader’ (especially with a few dollars incentive added to the mix…). If all else fails, a festive movie is a great diversion, though stay clear of any with a Halloween theme.

Know your guests

Orrick large sideboard

There will always be members of your group that get on better than others – the same applies to your guests. If a suitable seating plan comes naturally to you and you’re confident that guests will enjoy their allocated neighbors, then go for it. If you can’t be certain then head back to that tapas/buffet format and let your guests locate their own kindred spirits. That’s not to say you can be miss making introductions or pointing out common interests amongst the group – that’s a big part of your role and helps make your party one to remember. 

Fingers crossed your guests will know how to behave themselves, but when the wine is flowing it’s a good idea to situate some peace-keepers in your group. A diplomatic friend or two is a valuable addition to any party. If you have a specific concern about a guest you could consider warning others beforehand and let them know if there are any topics that should be avoided.

Accept help

Finally, don’t forget that you are treating your guests to a fabulous party and most people in attendance will be close family or friends. They’ll be more than happy to lend a hand bussing plates to the kitchen, refilling the odd glass and even helping out with entertaining the kids. So don’t be the martyr that won’t accept help. This holiday is all about saying thanks, and that works both ways.

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