10 Tips for Hosting Your First Thanksgiving in a New Home
Without a doubt, one of the most important aspects of homeownership is hosting. Whether you are hosting overnight guests, hosting a holiday celebration, or hosting a dinner with friends, hosting is truly one of the most rewarding parts of owning a home. Bringing people together around a unifying cause is always a treasure, and being able to do so in your own home just magnifies that experience.
With that being said, hosting an event as big as Thanksgiving can be quite stressful – especially for the first time. Many new homeowners aren’t sure where to begin when it comes to planning their Thanksgiving dinner, as there are simply so many elements to consider. From the food, to the entertainment, to the decorations and beyond, effectively planning a good Thanksgiving day takes a lot of work and preparation. This post is going to be your best friend, helping you to organize your efforts and plan a great first Thanksgiving in your new home this year. Hopefully these tips are useful as you begin zeroing in on the details of your Thanksgiving celebration!
1. Confirm Your Guest List as Early as Possible
From immediate family to extended family and friends, deciding who to invite to Thanksgiving is a task in and of itself. Especially as you are hosting your first Thanksgiving in a new home, it can be hard to figure out how much space you really have and how many people you can accommodate. For this reason, it is important to think critically about how much space you have, determine a maximum number of guests, and go from there.
While your previous Thanksgiving celebrations may have had more or less people depending on where they were hosted, it is important that you don’t invite more guests than your home can accommodate. You only have a finite amount of space, and overfilling it is a big hosting error to avoid. Nobody want to be bumping elbows throughout all of dinner if they don’t have to, and you shouldn’t feel pressured to invite every member of your extended family if you don’t have the space. After all, whose house is Thanksgiving dinner being hosted in?
Once you determine your maximum threshold of guests, you can start determining who makes that list. Once you have sent out invitations or alerted your guests of the details of the day, it is important to follow up and get a head count as early as possible so that you can purchase the appropriate amount of food, beverage, and place settings. While it is normal for your guests list to ebb and flow until Thanksgiving, having a good estimate of the number of guests will go a long way in hosting an epic Thanksgiving.
2. Curate Your Thanksgiving Menu Early
Thanksgiving is a huge tradition in the United States, and the foods that you serve say a lot about where you are from. People all around the country celebrate with different foods on Thanksgiving, and this is part of what makes the holiday so unique. From the mashed potatoes versus stuffing debate to the question about canned or fresh cranberry sauce, you have a lot of decisions to make when planning what you and your guests will eat. You should absolutely feel free to express your own creativity and preferences when curating your menu for Thanksgiving, too.
While it is your meal and you should certainly make your favorite foods, you should also be considerate of the guests that will be sitting around your table. When inviting them in the first place, it is a good idea to ask them if they have any dietary restrictions or strict preferences. Some people might not like mushrooms, for example! If this is the case, you will likely want to make a smaller, reserved portion of each part of the meal that normally has mushrooms, that way that guest can fully participate in the meal, too.
Curating your menu and making these dietary considerations early can help you to beat the rush at the grocery store and effectively plan your grocery shopping. Shelves tend to get a bit emptier around the holidays, and knowing exactly what you want to have can help you to get in ahead of the crowds and make sure you are able to get all of the ingredients that you need. Further, having a set menu and a rough estimate of your guest list can help you to properly plan portions and not overbuy on food.
3. Prepare Some Foods in Advance – But Not All!
Once you have figured out what you are going to make and how much of it you will need, the next step is figuring out when you are going to make it. Cooking every part of Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving Day is both impractical and unnecessary. There are aspects of the meal that can be cooked as early as days in advance, and getting as much done before Thanksgiving is a crucial way that you can help yourself before your guests arrive.
There are some dishes that you can cook a day or two in advance and simply store in the refrigerator. Many desserts, vegetables, and side dishes fall into this category. So long as the vegetables are not sitting in a wet sauce, they are normally fine to prepare a day or two in advance. Similarly, it is unlikely that a pie in the fridge for a couple of days will go bad! These foods can be prepped and fully prepared before Thursday rolls around, making your Thanksgiving Day much easier.
While there are many dishes that can be cooked in advance, there are a few categories that typically should only be cooked on the day of Thanksgiving itself. Your turkey (or other meat option), for example, should be fully cooked on Thanksgiving Day. If you cook it early, it will dry out before it ever makes its way to the dinner table. Dry turkey is not very good. Similarly, certain fresh fruits will go bad if they are cut too far in advance, and many freshly baked bread options will get stale if made any earlier than the day of dinner. While it is good to make as many dishes ahead of time as possible, it is important to make sure that those dishes won’t spoil or lose their quality once they sit in the refrigerator for a day.
4. Decide Whether or Not You Want Paper and Plastic Products
Here, the question isn’t the old “paper or plastic” question at the grocery store, but rather you want to use both paper and plastic options at your table, or neither. When you host Thanksgiving in your home, you do have the option of using your real, nice plates and silverware. This leads to a more sophisticated experience, for sure, but comes with several drawbacks.
Firstly, you might not even have enough plates in your home. If you are inviting 10+ people over for Thanksgiving, there is a good chance that you don’t have enough plates and silverware to begin with. That is a lot to have on hand, especially if you want matching sets. Further, if you do use your good plates and silverware, you will need to wash it afterwards. This can quintuple the amount of dishes that you have to worry about, which does not need to be the case.
These drawbacks are what lead many people to purchase disposable plates, cups, and cutlery to use at their Thanksgiving dinner. While plastic forks and paper plates are not as classy as fine China, they do make cleanup a piece of cake. On top of that, many paper plates come with seasonal designs that serve to decorate your table for you with minimal effort and added cost, which is another huge advantage.
5. Set a Budget and Stick with It.
One of the biggest restraints to hosting your first Thanksgiving in a new home is your budget. It can be tempting to want to show off your new home and spend hundreds of dollars decorating it and hundreds more on serving the best food possible. In essence, these are great ideas. You worked hard to be able to afford your new home, and you certainly deserve to show it off! However, there should be limits to everything, and you should predetermine a budget long before you start shopping for food and decorations.
After all, it all boils down to this; if you just moved into your new home, you might not fully know the expenses that will come with it. There might be a major upgrade that is needed soon that you are not yet aware of. Leaky rooves and faulty boilers can cost thousands of dollars, and you don’t want to learn of a leaky roof the day after you spent $3,000 on nice food to serve when you could have spend half of that. Basically, it is just important to be comfortable with what you have, and set a budget that won’t cause you any real financial strain.
6. Prepare for Overnight Guests
If you are hosting any out-of-town guests, there is a chance that they might need a place to stay. While you will usually know this long before they arrive, it is still good to figure out what sleeping arrangements would be if someone winds up needing to spend the night for any reason. While you may have a guest room, you also may not. Figuring out what to do with potential overnight guests is a great consideration to make, and it can wind up going a long way if someone does indeed wind up needing to spend the night. We recently wrote a post on how to go above and beyond when hosting overnight guests that is very applicable to this situation!
7. Consider Your Seating Options
While you will likely figure out your guest list early, it is important to think about where all of those people will sit! While folding chairs make setting the dinner table adequately fairly easy, you also need to consider how many seats you have in other areas of the house. While Thanksgiving dinner is the focal point of the day, it is likely that guests will spur off at some point to play games, watch football, or socialize in a smaller setting. Thinking about your seating options in those situations is crucial to make sure that people always have a place to sit, as the floor is not an option for some people, especially those of restricted mobility.
8. Make Sure You Have Containers for Leftovers
While your goal should not be to prepare too much food, there is a good chance that you will. After all, preparing too much is a lot better than preparing too little! If you think that there may be leftovers, it is a good idea to get appropriate storage containers for them. Tupperware is a great option if you are planning on keeping the leftovers in your own home after Thanksgiving. If you plan on giving them out to guests to take home, it is a great idea to get disposable leftovers containers so that you will not need to worry about getting your Tupperware back from your guests.
After all, Tupperware is expensive, and if you have any out-of-town guests, you might not see those containers for a very long time! You can get disposable aluminum containers at the grocery store that function very well with Thanksgiving leftovers, and they ensure that your Tupperware stays safely and soundly in your house.
9. Ensure You Have Adequate Beverage Options
Making sure that you have sufficient and adequate beverage options on hand is one of the most important parts of any Thanksgiving celebration. If you are serving alcoholic beverages, it is important to ensure you have enough for everyone to have their share. If you are serving soda, it is important to make sure that you have enough regular and diet options for people that will be having any. Most importantly of all, it is crucial to have enough water on hand for people to stay hydrated, especially if you will be serving alcohol. While alcohol can really enhance your Thanksgiving dinner, it is your responsibility to make sure that people are consuming it responsibly and safely. Having sufficient water on hand can help with this.
10. Ponder Whether or Not You Want to Play Games, and Which
Finally, you should consider what kind of entertainment you will have on hand for your guests. You may opt not to have anything, and that is perfectly your prerogative! However, it is often a great idea to anticipate some ways that your guests might want to have fun, and making sure that you are prepared for this is important. Some families play football on Thanksgiving. Some families just watch it. Some families don’t include football in their celebration at all, and would rather play board games at the table. Some families simply eat dinner and leave. The vibe of every family’s Thanksgiving dinner is different, and as a host you have the privilege of determining what that vibe will be. There really isn’t a wrong answer, either, but you should be prepared to host whichever option you choose.
Thank you for reading our post with tips for hosting your first Thanksgiving in a new home. Hosting your first Thanksgiving can be very stressful and challenging, especially if you haven’t hosted a big event before. Hopefully this post helps to put you in a relaxed position where you can sit back and enjoy your company, rather than stressing out about every detail. After all, you are supposed to be a guest at your own party, too! While preparing for your first Thanksgiving can be daunting, it is important to remember the central point of Thanksgiving – fellowship – and remind yourself to enjoy the fellowship with your loved ones throughout the celebration.
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