There’s nothing I love more than hosting dinners and parties (and dinner parties!). Last year, Kevin and I were dating long-distance and he was planning to spend Thanksgiving in LA with me. I had also just closed on my condo a month before (and threw an awesome Fall Housewarming Party) so it was the perfect opportunity to host my first Thanksgiving! Read on for my tips for planning and hosting your first Thanksgiving with some modern etiquette advice sprinkled throughout!
Etiquette Tip: Plan to invite guests at least a month in advance. Thanksgiving invitations can be as formal or informal as you’d like! I sent ours electronically – I created mine on Canva.com, saved it as an image, and texted it!
Hosting Thanksgiving (not to mention your first one!), can be a daunting task. First, there’s the issue of preparing a variety of hot dishes that all need to be served at once. Second, there’s the fact that everyone has their own opinion about what should be served at Thanksgiving and how it should taste. Third, there’s the task of creating an ambiance for this special occasion. And finally, there’s the turkey. I mean, you have to clean, cook, stuff, and carve a GIANT BIRD. Um, no thanks.
Luckily, I was prepared for all four of those tasks.
Tip #1: Plan your first Thanksgiving menu.
I wanted to serve traditional Thanksgiving food that was delicious, easy, and would appeal to most diets. I knew we had two vegetarians on the guest list, so other than the turkey, all recipes were vegetarian. Vegetarian? For Thanksgiving, you say? Yes! And think about it… most traditional Thanksgiving sides are already vegetarian (mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing) or can easily be prepared vegetarian with a few simple tweaks. I found some great traditional Thanksgiving recipes on Pinterest. To save time and make things easier on myself, I didn’t make everything “from scratch” (gasp!). I found a few organic pre-made basics that lightened my load and were just as tasty as homemade. I also asked each guest to bring a side dish. This helped to lighten my load, and it was a great opportunity for guests to share their own Thanksgiving traditions or family recipes.
Etiquette tip: Check with guests on dietary restrictions prior to menu planning. If that’s not possible, make sure to have at least one or two vegetarian and gluten-free dishes (since those are the two most common restrictions).
This was the menu for my first Thanksgiving:
- Turkey (pre-ordered from Whole Foods)
- Gravy (organic vegan mushroom gravy from the box – easy time saver!)
- Stuffing (organic vegan multi-grain from the bag – easy time saver!
- Cranberry Sauce (organic vegan from the box – easy time saver!)
- Green Bean Casserole (recipe from Pinterest)
- Creamed Corn (recipe from Pinterest)
- Rolls (traditional Pillsbury – easy time saver!)
- Mashed Potatoes (recipe from Pinterest)
- Macaroni and Cheese (contributed by our friends Chris and Courtney)
- Pumpkin Pie (contributed by our friends Tali and Ron)
Tip #2: Create a Thanksgiving day timeline.
Creating a timeline for the day ensures that all of the dishes make it to the table at the same time and at the right temperature. Once I decided which dishes we were going to make, I drafted out a timeline with the order that dishes would be prepared and when they would be put in my single oven. I also planned out when I would wash the cookware and set the table. Here’s a picture of my timeline:
Etiquette Tip: Try to have cookware washed, dried, and put away before guests arrive. You don’t want to distract from your beautiful table setting with a an unsightly sink filled with dirty pots and pans or a disorderly kitchen counter with cooking remnants!
Tip #3: Design your Thanksgiving table setting.
To create a beautiful and modern Thanksgiving tablescape, the tip is to keep it simple. I’m a fan of saving money by keeping a few key pieces of decor that work for all seasons. For me, that’s silver and gold vases and candle holders. I then add some seasonal flowers and a few holiday-specific decorations. This saves closet space and money! For our first Thanksgiving table setting, I used a burlap runner and filled my vases with deep purple calla lilies. I also incorporated the pumpkins we painted at my fall housewarming party, and I created a Thanksgiving banner using letters that are removable and can be used again for other parties.
Tip #4: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. (Pun intended!)
For our first time hosting Thanksgiving, Kevin and I decided to go easy on ourselves and order a pre-cooked turkey from Whole Foods (they come in different sizes, so make sure to “reserve” your bird a few weeks in advance!). This was the best decision we made, and well worth the additional cost. Cleaning, stuffing, and cooking a raw turkey is a big task, and making five side dishes seemed like enough of an accomplishment! The pre-cooked turkey from Whole Foods was delicious, and we simply had to cook it in the oven for a few hours. It looked picture-perfect out of the oven, and Kevin did a fantastic job carving it! We kept the rest of the sides warm by placing them in the oven at 250F until it was time to plate and serve. To make our Thanksgiving table look nice, we served everything in mix-and-match white dishes.
Etiquette Tip: Make sure each dish has it’s own serving utensil so guests do not have to use their own.
After dinner, we all sat around the fire and enjoyed Old-Fashioned cocktails… and, of course, pumpkin pie! It was the perfect ending. We will have many happy memories of hosting our first Thanksgiving!
What are your tips for hosting Thanksgiving? Leave them below!
For more modern etiquette tips, check out more of my blog articles here. 🙂