Here are some tips for hosts and guests to help make your Thanksgiving both happy and memorable.
For the host
The key to a stress-free Thanksgiving dinner is to plan early. Once you commit to yourself to hosting, the first thing you need to do is invite every single person you want to come to your dinner. Even if your friends and family are spur-of-the-moment types, they very likely commit to their Thanksgiving dinner plans by the first week of November, Invite anyone and everyone you would want to have at your dinner, and then let them tell you if they can make it or not.
Developing a theme is a fun part of event planning. Use it as your guide for all decisions from invitations to party favors. A theme can be as simple as selecting a color palette that is used in all the details. Create an original center piece by filling vases with cranberries or kumquats, and then add water and flowers in complementary shades.
Think outside the dining room. If weather permits, set up a table on the front or back porch. By mixing things up, you are increasing your entertaining space. Consider renting chairs or tables just for the night, cover rented chairs with formal slipcovers for a beautiful addition to your holiday table and decor.
Plan some entertainment for guests to enjoy. If inviting children have a tv, playroom, or coloring book activities. The kids can write their own stories about Thanksgiving and then read them after Thanksgiving dinner. Or, if you have company, the kids can read their stories while everyone is waiting for dinner to be served. For adults, consider having music and other entertainment on hand for everyone to enjoy while mingling.
For the guest
Arrive on time. Yes, it is a day of feasting, but that turkey is going to be done at some point and your hosts are trying to plan around that magic moment.
Contribute to the meal If you have special dietary needs, it is very gracious to offer to bring a dish that meets those needs. There’s nothing more awkward than arriving to a dinner and not being able to eat much. You don’t want the hostess to feel badly.
Bringing your host a small, thoughtful gift shows your thanks for all their work. While a good wine or a nice cheese is always a great idea, something more creative is always nice. Being a good guest means socializing – don’t obsessively check your e-mail or Twitter. That said, you should of course take photos of what you’re eating, and who you’re with.
Offer to help with the clean-up. Family or non-family, this is one day where it is a great idea to pitch in.
Enjoy your time together; while this step isn’t about preparation, it is more important than the others. The holidays only come around once a year, and Thanksgiving is a time to cherish those around you, and give thanks for having loved ones near.
Remember to say “Thank You”.
It is Thanksgiving after all!