Whether you’re a seasoned pro at hosting Thanksgiving or it’s your first time, there’s a lot you can learn from the mistakes of Thanksgivings past. When you’re having a gathering with lots of people and way too much food, there’s always a chance for minor hiccups, but these lessons learned by those who’ve hosted Turkey Day feasts can help you avoid those turning into major disasters.
- Don’t mess with success - If you watch enough Food Network programming or look at enough Instagram food porn, you may be tempted to try out new recipes to wow your guests. But Thanksgiving isn’t the day for that. Your guests want familiar comfort food, so stick with what you know works and experiment some other time.
- Do the baby math - When half your guests are bringing babies, sometimes multiple per family, where does that leave your head count? Toddlers and babies have a different impact on seating and possibly how much food you’ll need, so if you’re not sure whether a niece is old enough to eat mashed potatoes or needs a high chair or regular chair, it’s okay to ask the parents.
- Be realistic about pets - Any animals in the house will likely find their way to the food, and may try to sneak a bite or two. So if you can close them off in a space guests can’t wander into, that may be the best place for pets during your gathering.
- Tell guests what to bring and be specific - If you tell them to bring whatever they like, you could end up with 25 bottles of wine and a gas station package of cheese and crackers. To make guests feel valued, you can give customized suggestions, like, “Oh, everyone always raves about your corn pudding. Could you make enough to serve 12?” People don’t like to show up empty-handed, so don’t make them.
- Have a game plan for oven space - This week is a good time to take the pans and baking dishes you’ll use and arrange them in a cold oven to get an idea what fits where. Then make a list of the order you plan to cook everything so all you have to do is follow that on Thanksgiving.
- Keep everyone out of the kitchen - Put drinks, glassware, and anything else guests will need anywhere but in the kitchen so you have the room you need to cook in there.
- Keep the kids entertained and mess-free - This means no Play-Doh or slime at your gathering, because it will end up everywhere and you’ll still be finding it on New Year’s Eve.
- Remember what really matters - Thanksgiving is all about togetherness, so if you’ve got everyone under one roof, don’t worry if things aren’t perfectly coordinated, as they rarely are, no matter how much you plan.