Cool Ideas

Host the Perfect Thanksgiving Dinner

Whether you are dreading or looking forward to having family and friends over for Thanksgiving this year, every host or hostess could benefit from a little planning. From the menu and d├ęcor to your ever-so-picky mother-in-law, there are countless things to consider when planning the perfect dinner. But if you follow this handy guide, you can take stress off the table and give thanks for a job well done.

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  • Get a headcount: First things first, you need to know how many guests you are expecting—which is different from the number of people actually invited. Encourage guests to RSVP when you extend the invite, so you can plan accordingly. This will impact everything from the size of turkey and number of table settings to the amount of wine or champagne you will need.
  • Plan your meal: This is easily the most crucial part of your planning, and for obvious reasons. Think about dishes you can make in advance, in order to cut down on cooking tasks on the actual day. You can make your cranberry sauce and casseroles days in advance, and then store them in the freezer. It's also a great idea to make desserts one day ahead, so they are ready to serve and checked off your “to do” list. Keep in mind how many dishes will need to be heated the day of, and for how long. Make sure you have enough oven and burner space to get everything done in time. And on that note, it's never a bad idea to incorporate cold dishes into your menu! Finally, prepare some appetizers for guests to snack on as you get the finishing touches ready.
  • Set the table: Of course you will want your Thanksgiving table to look pretty, so it's important to plan ahead. Perhaps you found a centerpiece that you love, or you know you want a certain color scheme. Pick one design element and go from there. See that you have enough matching napkins, dishes, glassware, silverware, and chairs for all of your guests, as well as serving dishes and serving spoons.
  • Designate a children's area: Fondly called the “kiddie” table, this is a Thanksgiving staple for good reason. You'll want to have an area where children can safely play and eat, and where you won't have to worry about your good china being dropped on the floor. Pick up some paper or plastic plates and kid-friendly cutlery for this table.
  • Get the guest bathroom ready: Don't overlook this room when planning your dinner! Guests will inevitably need to use the restroom, so stock up on toilet paper, hand soap, and hand towels. Check out in throughout the day and clean up as needed.
  • Wake up early: There is going to be a lot to do on Thanksgiving, so get an early start, make a “to do” list, and start getting things crossed off. There is a strong chance guests will arrive early (or late), so it's important to get done ahead of schedule, so you can have free time to welcome and mingle with your guests.
  • Relax: Remember, this is the day to give thanks. So no matter what mishap arises—and it will—take a deep breath and enjoy the day dedicated to family and loved ones!