Hosting Thanksgiving: A Survival Guide

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Hosting Thanksgiving
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This will be my fourth year in a row hosting Thanksgiving at my house. We usually have about twenty guests with my husband’s and my family combined.

My extended family thinks I’m a saint.

As my husband’s Aunt Barb likes to tell me, “We’re so happy you joined the family, Lindsay. We will always love you as long as you keep hosting Thanksgiving and none of us have to do it!”

(Or something like that. I know it’s something about how no one else wants the duty of hosting Thanksgiving and how I’m so awesome.)

But really…I have a little secret. For me, hosting Thanksgiving is actually a breeze!

And no, it’s not because I’m secretly a Martha Stewart homemaker who is super-organized, crafty, and an amazing chef. Not at all. I just happen to know the shortcuts to make hosting Thanksgiving easy.

So now I will share them with you…my list of ten tips to make hosting Thanksgiving a piece of cake.

10 Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving

1. Have wine on hand. Lots. (This first rule is very important.) For you, for the guests, for you…just be sure to get enough. Or you could make one of these Big Batch Cocktails to Get Your Family Drunk on Thanksgiving. Either way, getting liquored up is one of the best ways to cope with family dysfunction!

2. Plan out your menu in advance and then work off that list on Thanksgiving to make sure everything is accounted for. Use a printable menu to help organize who is bringing what, plus what you need to buy. Don’t forget extras like place settings, utensils, cups, and drinks! Here are two printable menus I like, because they are blank and have lots of room to list all the wine food.

Note: This is just your working list of dinner foods. You still must create your easy DIY Fancy Thanksgiving Dinner Menu to display in a frame. So your guests think you’re fancy.

3. Get everyone to bring something. (Another very important tip!) If everyone brings a side dish, appetizer, or dessert, all you have to worry about is the turkey and drinks. Even if the person in question is your 20-year-old brother who doesn’t cook, make him bring paper products or use his fake ID to get beer.

4. Use an Evite. If you invite everyone electronically, you will always have the guest list nice and handy on your phone or computer. Also, you can literally make a list of food you want people to bring right on the Evite and have them sign up right there. No extra texting/phone calls from your cousins necessary. 

5. Have an end time to your gathering. Make the invitation say that Thanksgiving dinner is from 2:00-6:00 or something like that. Tell everyone you have to get ready for Black Friday shopping at midnight.

6. Convince your husband that turkey prep and cooking is a guy thing. Ever since we got a deep fryer, my husband has been all into doing the turkeys every year. (We make two.) He researches the perfect brine or seasoning for the second non-fried turkey and always ends up with something outstanding. Last year he did a bacon-wrapped turkey on the grill. This year he is planning a sriracha turkey. This is helpful because getting a turkey right seems difficult and I don’t want to mess with it.

7. Use a four item kitchen timer. Even if you’re not making a ton of sides (since your guests are), you still may have to pop some frozen dinner rolls in the oven or even heat up your guests’ food in the oven. Have that sh** planned out in advance, so you aren’t surprised by your sister saying, “Oh I made spinach-artichoke dip, but it needs to bake for 45 minutes. Right now.”

Look at this handy Quad Kitchen Timer with Whiteboard! It keeps track of four different cooking times and you can jot down what they are right next to each timer.

8. Be pregnant. Or pretend you’re pregnant. People will say things like, “Sit down. Rest. I’ll get that for you.”

9. Hide a piece of your favorite dessert. Cut that slice of apple pie before anyone even sees it. Then place it in your cabinet for later. It’s your special reward for hosting such a fabulous holiday for your family.

10. Arrange for your child to have a meltdown right when it’s time to do dishes. You’ve made it through dinner and dessert…but look at the kitchen. Time to use your kids to your advantage. Create a situation where a crying, screaming meltdown ensues so that you and only you can take your child off into the TV room for some “quiet time.” You have now gotten away from the messy kitchen and others will be forced to clean up. Suggested tactics to cause the tantrum:

  • Dangling candy in front of them and then taking it away.
  • Threatening to call Santa and report misbehavior.
  • Telling them that Caillou/Dora/Jake & The Neverland Pirates has been canceled.
  • Saying “I think you need to go to bed early tonight.”

And there you have it!

Want more Thanksgiving ideas?

Check out my list of 20 Thanksgiving Books for Kids (All Under $10) & my easy way to make a DIY Fancy Thanksgiving Dinner Menu.

Good luck with your own hosting Thanksgiving adventures! If you have any tips to share, leave them in the comments…
Gobble, gobble!

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  • Sara
    November 13, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    Love that timer!!! We have hosted for the past 5 years for a similar crowd (one year was 35 though, yipe that was a mess) and just handle turkey and drinks too! We tried Evite one year though, and asked people to post what they wanted to bring so everyone would see what was taken, and then we would comment back and adjust if needed… It seemed like a great plan. We thought we were geniuses. and then it resulted in several house phone RSVPs from aunts over 65. Literally one of them said “I got your email invitation thingy, and I wanted to call and say all four of us are coming, what time do you want us, and what should we bring? Call me back”. So we went back to old-school email and phone. And of course our siblings say, can you just text me the info?

  • Allison
    November 21, 2016 at 10:32 PM

    Just read this old post as I host my first Thanksgiving! Wish I could try number 10!

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