Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is such a special holiday. I love that it is a final autumnal celebration before the Christmas season hits in force. Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas, but Thanksgiving embodies what I believe all holidays should - quality time with loved ones, warmth and comfort, traditions, and of course, delicious food.  

While we've hosted plenty of meals and celebrations, this will be our first time hosting family for Thanksgiving. While I'm slightly nervous about making sure we get the turkey just right, I'm excited to welcome loved ones into our home for the holiday. While I tend to be Type-A about making sure every detail is perfectly executed, I'm finally at the point in my hosting journey that I tend to be composed and cheerful while entertaining guests. For me, the key to enjoying the day is to plan copiously and do the prep-work early, so I'm not rushing around right before or during the time we have company. 

While it is inevitable that we'll have a snafu somewhere along the way, here are the steps I'm taking to make sure the day at least appears effortless.

1. Determine the vibe and plan accordingly 

Most of our family will be driving a couple of hours that morning, so I want everyone to be comfortable while traveling and once they arrive. I hate dressing up, driving a few hours in the car, and then feeling wrinkled and constricted in my outfit all day, so the vibe I'm going for is "festive casual." Is that a thing? I'm planning to wear this burgundy sweater with cream cords and these leopard flats.

Accordingly, I don't want the tablescape and decor to be too formal. Channeling Ina Garden's understated elegance, I'm planning to use a simple table runner with white tealights, white flowers, greenery, and if I can find them, white pumpkins. I'm adding these round water hyacinth placemats and muted blue and greige ikat napkins with my everyday white dishes to finish out the table. 

2. Create a detailed menu a couple weeks in advance and make a master grocery list

Making a menu for Thanksgiving isn't too challenging because it tends to consist of the classic dishes. However, I circulated my menu to a few family members to make sure I wasn't leaving off someone's favorite dish or missing anything. I then spent about an hour earlier this week pulling out family recipes and cookbooks to create a huge grocery list. Even though I normally keep plenty of staples like flour, spices, and chicken broth on hand, preparing a large meal can easily clean you out of those. I can think of nothing worse than making mashed potatoes 15 minutes before the meal and running out of butter and salt, so I took stock of my pantry and added a lot of basic items to the list. 

3. Grocery shop early

While I'm planning to make a run to the store next week to purchase perishable items, I like to make a big trip to the grocery about a week in advance. Lots of grocery shopping will happen over the weekend before Thanksgiving, so I want to make sure I have the turkey and non-perishable items before the shelves are depleted. If the grocery is already out of something or doesn't have great options, I still have plenty of time to find what I'm looking for.

4. If people offer to bring a dish, let them!

I used to frequently respond that I had it covered when people offered to bring items because I didn't want to burden them. Now, I happily oblige! I always ask what they'd like to bring instead of telling them something because they may have a recipe that is meaningful to them or want to make sure what they bring travels well. Either way, we either have an additional dish at the table, or I can cross something off of my list.

5. Think of all of the tiny details and create a timeline

After planning the menu, tablescape, and knowing what others are bringing, it is time to make a timeline. I generally plan a week out, and have specific tasks listed for the weekend, Tuesday night, and Wednesday night. My timeline for Thursday is very detailed, and I have tasks listed for every half hour until the meal. Not only do I list chores like food preparation and when to put various items in the oven, but I plan when I'll run the vacuum a final time, walk the dog before guests arrive, and take a shower that morning. 

What are your Thanksgiving plans this year? Do you have any hosting tips?