Hosting a Successful Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving – a day of forgiveness… it’s a day of being thankful. A day gratitude and blessings and being with friends and family. If you didn’t get my Friends reference, you may not understand some of my jokes in this post, but try to follow along and use the images as reference. My husband and I are huge fans of the show Friends and no other sitcom did Thanksgiving nearly as well.

One of the biggest things that I can provide you on hosting Thanksgiving is to give yourself plenty of time to prepare. Though Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday with presents to give, the meal is the focal point and you want to make sure it’s memorable. My friend started a “Friendsgiving” tradition with our group five years ago and two years ago I hosted. I didn’t realize how much prep went into serving everyone a huge meal at one time. But I received many compliments, and everyone had a fantastic time. Take some advice from me to have the best chance at a flawless day. 

1. Plan, Plan, Plan- channel your inner Monica Geller. If you have hosted before, challenge yourself to host even better. If you haven’t hosted, make sure you create a plan in advance, so you don’t miss anything. You don’t want to be light on food or you won’t be able to have Ross’ favorite leftover sandwich with The Moistmaker. 

2. Guest List – Create your guest list and check it twice—you don’t want to risk forgetting anyone. Create a Facebook invite, Evite, or get notice to everyone at least three weeks out. Having a solid headcount in advance will help plan for everything else for the day. Are you inviting old friends, like Will (Brad Pitt), that you haven’t see in a while?

3. Menu – Come up with your menu and make sure you have all the staples: turkey, stuffing, rolls Chandberries, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pumpkin pie. Or go unique and do ham or chicken and Rachel’s traditional English trifle with ladyfingers, peas, jam and meat! Custard good, jam good, meat good; it tastes like feet!  

Whatever you decide to serve, write it all down so you don’t forget anything when grocery shopping. Let friends offer to make things to lighten the load on the host, unless you are like Monica and want to do it all. If Chandler can make cranberries, anyone can be capable of making or bringing something. 

Take dietary restrictions of your guests into account as well. You don’t need to go overboard but having variety on your menu will help satisfy everyone. My two biggest enemies, Rachel Green and complex carbohydrates. 

And tell people to wear their Thanksgiving pants, jeans have no give. 

4. Test Run – if you haven’t cooked a turkey before, I recommend a test run. I did this the year I hosted Friendsgiving and had “Thanksgiving in September” to make sure I knew what I was doing. This also helped me know how long the food was going to take to cook so I could plan my timeline. And if you are making something new, try it out before. Again, the trifle! 

5. Week Of – Make a timeline of everything that you need to cook and plan out where everything is cooking to ensure you can make it happen. If friends are bringing things, account for how it will stay warm or if it needs fridge space. And remember to thaw out your turkey so that it’s ready when you need it to be. But don’t let anyone be funny and put it on their head or it could get stuck, like when Joey wanted to scare Chandler. 

6. (Phoebe) Buffet Setup – Large parties usually mean buffet-style and you need to make sure you have enough space for the food and that everyone can reach everything. And the buffet needs to run smoothly. Have a plan and figure out what dishes and space you need. Here’s a good hack I learned from my mom; write each food item on a sticky note and stick it to the dish to use. Put the utensil with that dish. Then you can map out the space you need, and it also ensures that you don’t forget a food item, like Monica’s stinky brussel sprouts in the oven.  If you need more space, use large bowls upside down (with a grippy in between) to help raise up items so you can put things closer together. Desserts can wait to be put out later to save on space. 

6. Seating – Thanksgiving is a time to sit together and be grateful. But that doesn’t mean you have to have everyone at one long table. My house doesn’t have the space to do that, so I did three tables in the same room. The biggest thing is to make sure everyone has a spot to eat at the same time. Along with seating comes décor. I found great deals at Hobby Lobby on my Thanksgiving plates, napkins, and tablecloths. And Dollar Tree provided little knick-knack squirrels, pumpkins and fall-items. I didn’t over do it because I knew the tables were going to be full of friends, but I did want to make sure there was a theme. The year I hosted, I did have some fun and did a Friendsgiving theme with images of the show posted all over my kitchen and banner on my fireplace. 

7. Beverages – Because Thanksgiving is such a joyous occasion, make sure you have beverages that suit everyone’s fancy. Or ask that they bring what they like. We always provide everything from water and milk to wine and cocktails. And be willing to share your beverages with others and let them try your treat you brought. Don’t worry, you don’t have to share your food, Joey! 

8. Activities – If you are going to have a wide range of ages and people are going to be socializing for a bit before the meal, consider having some activities for them to be a part of. Going around the room and saying what you are thankful for is a great one. Other fun games would be Headbands, Uno, coloring books for kiddos, beauty pageants (oh wait, that’s just Rachel)

9. Relax – Take time to enjoy the day with your family as well. You put in the work, so relax a bit. If people offer to help, give them tasks to do. Don’t try to take it all on yourself. I’m a “Monica” and want to do it all on my own, but I will let others help in the heat of them moment to make sure the meal comes out on time. 

And all else fails, if you don’t want to host or make a dish to bring, there are plenty of places in the area that offer full meals ready to pick up, side dishes already prepared, fancy desserts to purchase. And I also believe there are a few places that you can even go out to eat on Thanksgiving. 

I love that I get to celebrate Thanksgiving twice each year, one with Friends that are like family and one with my dear family as well. I am hosting my family this year and I have already have my plan of attack in place to be the best Thanksgiving ever. You’re going down last year me! 

Sarah Appleton

Hi! I’m Sarah, 38, and have lived in Waukesha for over 10 years. My husband has two tweenage daughters, Violet and Samantha, and they live with us half the time. This past June I gave birth to my baby boy, Cameron, who is my whole world. We have a rescue pup, Letty, who is an Alabama Designer dog–an Australian Sheperd/Catahoula/who-knows-what-else mix. She keeps us on our toes, wanting food and attention all the time. Being a new mom to Cameron and an insta-mom to the girls brings joys and challenges, but I am soaking in every minute because kids are only kids for so long. I love Waukesha and have my own blog about my experiences in the area. When I’m not out and about in the city, I’m enjoying time with my friends grilling out, drinking wine, and playing games—Uno is one of our faves. Or I’m in my kitchen trying new recipes or recreating ones I have had at local restaurants.   // FoodFunWaukesha Facebook // Instagram // Blog

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