Whether you are a veteran Thanksgiving host or it’s your first time entertaining, hosting over the holidays can seem intimidating. Adding in the fact that it may have been a bit since the whole crew got together for the holiday (thanks, Covid) doesn’t make things any less stressful. Here’s some tips that will set you up for success as you plan your Thanksgiving dinner:
Where To Start…
Make a To-Do list. Keeping everything on a schedule and together guaranties that all your tasks will get done. First things first, make your menu. This includes deciding who is bringing what and what you as the host are responsible for. Once you have the answers to these questions you can then make your grocery list. Just knowing you have obtained all the ingredients and supplies you will need ahead of time helps you breathe easier.
Kellie, D&B Elite Custom Estimator and Assistant Project Manager, suggests “doing as much as you can in advance.” This will help keep the day from being stressful so you can enjoy the holiday and be present in the moment. Our Marketing & Communications Coordinator, Angela, has lived through such last-minute stresses. “The first time we hosted Thanksgiving for all of our friends and family, I overlooked one major detail. It wasn’t until less than two hours before guests started arriving that I realized I didn’t have 10+ of the same glasses, and I couldn’t not have them much. The solution? A quick trip to the Dollar Store!”
Our Office Coordinator, Rachel, reminds everyone to “take it hour by hour and try not to stress. Everything will be okay.”
When It Comes To Preparing The House For Guests…
Arrange your house for the room you need. No open concept floor plan? No problem. One easy and quick way to trick your guests into making your home look and feel bigger is to place your furniture on the outer parts of the room. Doing this will make the room look larger and give more space for the items you need and want in the center (like the dinner table, perhaps). Here’s some things to consider as you determine how to re-arrange your furniture and décor to make your home feel bigger:
-What’s the main purpose of the room? How many people will use it? This will help you prioritize your furniture. Another good tip: It is always best to prioritize the largest pieces of furniture.
-Find the focal point of the room. This could be a large window, TV, or fireplace. Arranging your furniture around this feature will help give the room structure.
-Layout matters and determines the feel of your room! An asymmetrical arrangement will give a more casual feeling, while a symmetrical layout gives the room a formal feel – especially when it comes to dining rooms.
-Be mindful of foot traffic and how it will flow, especially in a room with two doors.
-Always maintain comfort. Examples of this include making sure that coffee tables and lamps are within reach of sitting areas and that there is enough room to pass behind pull-out chairs when in use.
-Stripes elongate a room. Making sure linens align lengthways with the room is always the way to go.
-Placing mirrors strategically around your home can do a lot to extend a room. Facing them lengthways gives you an optimal effect.
-Glass tables are something that can be taken advantage of! Their transparency helps give the room an airy feel.
-Hanging artwork lower than usual gives the impression of a taller ceiling.
-Arranging furniture diagonally leads your eyes smoothly around the room.
-Always opt for arranging lamps throughout the room instead of one light source overhead. Our eyes are drawn to different corners of a room as light fills dark spaces.
A Word on Cleaning (Everyone’s Favorite Chore):
“There can’t be any sign of living in this house. Get rid of the couches! We can’t let people know we SIT.”
Chances are you either live with someone who becomes this person when guests are coming over – or you are this person. And that’s okay. We all do it! (Just check out the viral video “Company is Coming” for a few good laughs).
Remember to focus on the big picture when it comes to cleaning. Guests won’t think twice about one of your kids’ runaway doll clothes in the corner of the room, but they will remember the delicious food and good company you provided. Keep it simple. Clean selectively. Your guests aren’t going to notice all the little things that might be catching your eye. Put emphasis into decluttering as you clean. The less clutter you have, the bigger the area looks.
When It Comes To Decorating…
If you need some fun, inexpensive décor items, you can never go wrong with holiday-themed plates, napkins, tablecloths, and candles. If you are looking for that “wow” factor consider splurging on a statement piece for the table. Head out to local antique and home décor vendor shops, like The Primitive Barn in Sinking Spring, The Mint Leaf in Leesport, Five & Divine in Womelsdorf, or Park Road Antiques / Ann Henry Antiques in Blandon, and find a unique antique or home décor item that will be a talking point for your guests. Make sure it’s something you love and can use to decorate after Thanksgiving dinner is complete and the guests have left. (We like to call this a thank you present to yourself for hosting dinner).
If you have little kids running around your home chances are that easily breakable décor items may not be a remote possibility. We have a solution for that, too! Kellie suggests having the kids “help” with decorating. With eight grandkids of her own, Kellie lets all of the kids decorate the place with pinecones and leaves. “This keeps them occupied while you are trying took, plus it helps get the decorating done,” she says with a smile.
Want bonus points as a host while simultaneously supporting local businesses? Take some of your décor budget and put it towards a favor for your gusts. Head to your favorite small shops, like some of our favorites on Penn Avenue: Muddy Creek Soap Company or Zipf’s Candies by Sweet Surprises and grab some favors to give to your guests.
When It Comes To Food…
-Cook ahead of time. This gives you a leg up and helps ensure that all of the food is prepared on time. Plus, it also leaves time for mistakes if something burns or you have to make a mad dash to the grocery store because you forgot that one important ingredient (We’re speaking from experience here!)
-There’s no shame in buying some items – especially when it comes to dessert! This is another opportunity to shop small this holiday season. Plenty of great restaurants, like Crave Café and are taking Thanksgiving dessert orders now! And don’t forget about Café Sweet Street’s Thanksgiving Dessert Sale!
-Delegate who is making what. There’s no reason to make all of the food yourself and no shame in asking for help. Two words: Potluck Dinner! Invite guests to bring a dish. Oftentimes, your guests will be excited at the opportunity to share their favorite recipe with you and the other guests. Plus, it makes your guests feel less guilty since they aren’t just showing up empty handed to eat the meal you prepared. It’s a win-win situation: Your guests get to help prepare the meal, and you don’t have to stress about making all the food.
You can phrase the request asking your guests to bring a dish like this: “Do you have a dish that was always a tradition in your family growing up, and it just isn’t the holiday without it? We welcome you to bring a favorite dish to share!” One of the best parts of Thanksgiving dinner (aside from the food – obviously) is the stories shared at the dinner table. Inviting people to bring their favorite dish can serve as a great conversation starter, especially if not everyone at the table knows one another.
-Still need some recipe inspo? The Internet’s got you! You can always count on Pinterest. Other resources Kellie uses include “Taste of Home, The Pioneer Woman, Paula Deen recipes, and Joanna Gaines.”
Most importantly, remember to not be so hard on yourself! Your guests are coming to see you, not to judge your table setup. As Kellie reminds us, “Don’t stress! Cook at your own pace, and don’t let people dictate what’s going on. As the host, you set the time.”
Have any tips for hosting throughout the holiday season? Let us know in the comments below! We’d also love to hear which of these tips you plan to try or already do.