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10 Tips for the First Time Thanksgiving Host for Success

Updated on December 3, 2015

Preparation and planning will get your first Thanksgiving Day as a host as close to perfect as possible

The day may not be perfect, but these tips will get you close enough to touch it.
The day may not be perfect, but these tips will get you close enough to touch it. | Source

Make the first Thanksgiving as a host a success with these techniques and tips

Every one that has a family feast at Thanksgiving may find that they are the host for the first time. Being a first time host for Thanksgiving dinner for your family as well as friends can be a daunting task. As the host for this special occasion you want things to go well. Face it; you want things to be perfect. Of course no one is Martha Stewart, but you would like to have things along the same par as the famous hostess. This is the day you will be in charge of the fixing and the feast and having everything as close to perfect as possible is your goal.

The weight of the world may feel like it’s on your shoulders, but don’t faint. No family get together is ever perfect, but these are 10 tips for the first time Thanksgiving host for success on this very extraordinary day.

1) Guest list

Make a guest list for your dinner party. As a first time host try not to invite too many people. Of course you don’t want to leave anybody out and you cannot invite Aunt Marge without Uncle Bob, but keep in mind the amount of food you will be preparing, seating folks as comfortable as possible and even parking in your neighborhood should be considered. Too many people will leave you overwhelmed and add even more stress to an already stressful event. Even if you don’t invite everyone, there will be other Thanksgivings and the holidays aren’t over yet.

Do you have room for children to play or watch a movie? Consider all of these things when you decide who you will or will not invite this year for the celebration.

Set a time for dinner that works for you and don’t try and accommodate everyone’s schedule. You simply cannot do it. If you have your brother flying in from Las Vegas at 3pm you may want to work around him. However, trying to get a time that will be perfect for everyone is impossible.

2) Menu

Once you complete your guest list start on your menu. Now that you have a head count for who will be attending you can organize how much you need of what food. The Thanksgiving Day menu should also be something that you don’t overwhelm yourself with. Keeping things somewhat simple is great for you and your guest. The people you have invited are friends and family and you don’t need to impress them. Make foods that you are familiar with and you feel comfortable serving. Trying new recipes will add more stress to an already stressful event.

Bring a dish

If your family has a tradition of pot luck or anyone offers to bring items for the menu you can accept them. If you love Cousin Edith’s Lemon Meringue pie, accept her offer to bring one or two. This will get your guests involved in the festivity of the day as well as helping you with less to do in the kitchen.

Food limitations

If anyone has any sort of food limitations such as allergies make a note of this and accommodate them wherever possible.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

3) The turkey

If you are planning on getting a fresh turkey or having one prepared, be sure and order it early. Some companies or stores will even cook and deliver for you. You should plan a turkey to be big enough for 1 ¼ pounds for each adult. If you are preparing your own frozen turkey permit at least 24 hours for every 5 pounds of the bird. This means you should start the defrost process at least a couple of days ahead of time. Also be prepared for cooking time for your turkey and have room for it to be done before the guest arrive.

4) Shopping list

A shopping list should be made after you know if others will be bringing items for the menu. Figure what you will need from the store to make this dinner work. Two lists work best. One list for shopping should include things that can be bought ahead of the day. This would include things such as a new table cloth, napkins or even decorations. Your second list is for things you plan to buy fresh. The second list will generally have things such as your eggs, milk, etc.

5) Cleaning

Get the house in order. This is a chore that you should start early. You definitely won’t be comfortable if your house is cluttered or not in order and neither will your guests. Pay close attention to areas that will receive a lot of the traffic for the big day like the bathroom. Get a new scented candle. Give the house an extremely good cleaning at least a couple of days before Thanksgiving and as you get closer to the big event, you can touch up whatever is needed.

6) Decorating and setting the table

Decorating and setting the table can be a fun thing as the first time host. You want to make it festive, but remember there will be a lot of traffic and movement around the table so don’t go overboard on this one. The table will be full of people, plates and food. You want the mood to be festive and relaxed. Though, you still want your table to be attractive. Try a couple of candles or colored gourds to make the surroundings while your guests enjoy their meal appealing.

Some hosts will use a seating chart when setting the table. This is totally a personal decision. If your family usually doesn’t have one for Thanksgiving, you certainly don’t have to break the tradition.

7) Get the Shopping Done

You can shop from your first list all at once or different days before Thanksgiving. However, make certain you don’t wait until the last minute for your second shopping list. There is nothing like running around trying to get your items before the stores close on the eve before the event. Do not become a last minute shopper for your first Thanksgiving as a host. Many stores resemble a field that has been eaten by locust with nothing on the shelves and a visit to the store turns into a visit to several stores trying to fight the crowds to get the items you need.

8) Cooking your food

When you cook for an event such as Thanksgiving as the host will need to have cooking times for many of your dishes staggered. Dinner is usually served around an hour after everyone arrives. Start to plan your cooking backward from your dinner time. Write down what you need to cook and when you need to cook it. Cross off items as you complete them to stay on tasks. If you are able to make your pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving eve and throw it in the fridge, do so. Know the times that everything needs to be in the oven or microwave to keep cooking running smoothly and eliminate your stress.

9) Be thankful

Thanksgiving is about being thankful. With this joyous occasion of getting together with family and friends should be celebrated. At times it’s easy to lose sight of what the day is about. Take just a moment after everyone is assembled to eat to say thanks.

10) Enjoy the day

As the host it’s easy to lose sight of appreciating the day with family and friends. After the meal is done and the guests have arrived, make certain you delight in the day. Don’t worry about the dirty dishes and the crumbs on the table. Take a moment to sit back and give yourself a pat on the back for a great get together after your hard work.

Cooking the turkey for the big day is easier with a great recipe. Check out this wonderful instructional video


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    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Detailed and comprehensive approach to a wonderful holiday. Good Hub.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 6 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      I love how you've broken everything down here. Great advice! I've hosted Thanksgiving a couple times now. It's so helpful to have lists, including the menu, ahead of time to keep everything organized and to keep from getting stressed out.

    • pmccray profile image

      pmccray 6 years ago from Utah

      Sensible advice . . never thought of making a guest list. Your Hub is not only for those new to hosting, but some of us who thought we had experience. Marked useful and voted up.

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 6 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Very sound advice, great hub! I've used most of these the years I had family over for dinner. :o) Voting up.