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10 Tips for Hosting Your First Thanksgiving

Hosting your first Thanksgiving can be both exciting and daunting, with all the trimmings of drama, laughter and family memories that make this holiday a favorite for many of us. Whether you are 25 or 55, these tips will go a long way to helping you embrace your hostess role, and those enjoying this holiday with you.

Having a succesful Thanksgiving dinner is so much more than just cooking up an irresistable meal. Our tips are here to ensure a night of smooth sailing. Here are our top 10 tips for hosting your first Thanksgiving dinner:

Start Planning

1. Map out a plan. 6 -8 weeks before Thanksgiving, map out a calendar that includes grocery shopping, ordering your turkey, party rentals, invitations, menu planning and cooking; taking care to be realistic with your goals and open to the idea of enlisting family members to lend a hand where needed.

2. Meal Prep. Many dishes can be made in advance before Thanksgiving morning. When menu planning, build your menu around those dishes to ensure that you have less to cook on the big day. Dishes like mashed potatoes, fresh bread rolls, gravy, pie crusts, soups and basting stocks, can all be made up to 2 weeks in advance and frozen to help lighten your cooking schedule.

3. Give your seating arrangements careful consideration. Assigned seating is the best defense against conflict at the table - it not only allows you to arrange your guests by temperament, it ensures that you are seated next to those that will bring you the most enjoyment of your holiday gathering. When mapping out your seating plan, place elderly guests in the middle, pregnant guests at the end and always place your self closest to the kitchen.

Think of the generations.

4. Family Activities: Plan pre-dinner group activities that will keep your guests active until the meal is served. Board games, walks, football and family slide shows are all popular alternatives  that include a variety of generations.

5. Old and Young alike: If space allows, and when several children are present, hiring a bouncy castle or some sort of play equipment will keep the younger generation happy for hours. Keep the older generation happy by setting up a quite nook in the house for them to rest.

Avoid Disaster

6. Family Feuds: No one brings drama to a party quite like family. The best defense against family tension and flaming tempers is to be prepared, play offense, and enlist the help of those around you. And if all else fails, remind everyone why you are together, and how much a harmonious day means to you – a little sugar coating can go a long way in these incidents.

7. Stay calm. Be prepared for late guests, cooking dramas and the unexpected family conflict. A calm host that deals with Thanksgiving disasters with confidence and humor will give her guests a holiday they can both laugh about and enjoy without letting a few disastrous moments get in the way.

Get a Taste for Thanksgiving Hosting

Looking for an easy way to test your appetite for being a Thanksgiving hostess?

8. Host a Thanksgiving Breakfast: Many of us start Thanksgiving Day off watching the parade, so why not skip the big lunch this year and host a Thanksgiving Parade Breakfast. Offer a menu of your favourite breakfast and brunch items, and a few Thanksgiving classics to create a unique Thanksgiving celebration.

9. Host a Pot Luck Thanksgiving. Take the stress out of planning a large dinner by hosting a potluck Thanksgiving with a handful of close friends. Either keep it traditional with the standard turkey day menu or set your menu around a theme. For example, a Mexican Thanksgiving, complete with Turkey tacos, margaritas, refried beans and flan, will bring the turkey to the table without all the kitchen drama usually associated with Thanksgiving. Take a peek at some of our potluck party ideas for inspiration.

10. Set up a bar that is easy and user friendly. Let your guests make themselves at home by setting up a drink station complete with a bottle bucket for beers and soda, and then a cocktail bar with a recipe card and all the ingredients needed to mix the perfect cocktail. To keep your younger guest happy, set up a child friendly drink station with clear juices, infused waters and clear soda options. Just be sure you have all the necessary bar tools in case guests want to get fancy with their drinks.

Find more party planning inspirations for Thanksgiving

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Meet our Writer
Jennifer Geddes
Celebrations Writer

Jennifer Kelly Geddes has hosted Christmas cookie swaps, New Year's open houses, Thanksgiving for 22, and all manner of dinner parties in her Manhattan and Ghent, NY homes.

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