In Charge of Thanksgiving Dinner for the First Time? Here’s What You Need to Know

The author highly encourages small, limited holiday gatherings but still desires for families to be able to make Thanksgiving special!

Do you suddenly find yourself in charge of Thanksgiving dinner for the first time? Shake off those nerves and get excited, because while I can’t guarantee it will be completely stress-free, I can assure you that with the right kind of planning it can be fun! I’ve been hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas for our family for the last several years and I have learned many tips and tricks along the way.  

Here are some tips for first-timers in charge of Thanksgiving dinner at home!

DO start planning what you’re serving as far in advance as possible.  It can be a huge burden to wait to make your grocery haul right before the big day, so I’ve found if I sit down to make my list a few weeks in advance it helps me to think clearly and also start chipping away at the groceries I can purchase ahead of time.

DON’T forget to think about décor and dinnerware in advance, too!  To me, decorating for the holidays is fun and nostalgic, but I learned the hard way that waiting until right before the big day leaves picked over items in the stores.  It’s also not fun to have to rush out to buy more place settings, silverware, or napkin rings when you’re trying to get the house ready and cook.  Go over what you need first, then go over anything you’d like to add (maybe a gorgeous centerpiece for the dining room table) and you’ll be thankful you have it all ready to go!

DON’T set unrealistic expectations.  I tend to be a Clark Griswold when it comes to the holidays and want everything to be perfectly decorated and prepared, but sometimes life just doesn’t allow for that.  Think of what you can realistically get done and then think of things you’d like to have done but won’t change the outcome of the day if they don’t happen.  Prioritize what must happen first and give yourself grace for what seemed like a good idea but will have to wait until the next time you host.

DO remember the reason for the chaos.  I know the casserole may have come out a little crispier than you meant it to or your toddler didn’t nap and is cranky right when the family sits down to eat, but enjoy the goodness that comes from having your loved ones around a table and celebrating another holiday together! 

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Liz lives in West Wichita with her husband, Shane, and their two kiddos, Brynn (October '15) and Beckett (December '17). Liz loves her job as a Kindergarten teacher in the same district she grew up attending as a child herself. When she is not chasing after small children, Liz enjoys her coffee black (bonus points if it's still warm!), her wine red, attending church with her family, long lunches to catch up with her girlfriends, and exploring new restaurants and ice cream spots with her hubby on date nights.