How to Host Your First Thanksgiving Like a Boss

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host your first thanksgivingMany new cooks are choosing to brave the preparation of the big holiday meal for their loved ones this year. If this is your first, or even third, year preparing a feast, it can be extremely overwhelming. But not to worry, I've gathered tips from experienced hosts to help you host your first Thanksgiving like a boss!

Preparing to Host Your First Thanksgiving

One key piece of information you need in order to be ready for your big day of cooking is a final head count. Try to keep the number of guests down so you're not too overwhelmed. You don't want to feed 20+ people on your first about pressure!

Make a list of what you'll be serving, including any appetizers, sides, desserts...everything. When your guests call and ask what they can bring, don't be shy, give them something off of your list to make. It's okay to accept help.

Browse recipes.

Once the menu details are worked out, watch for sales at your local supermarket throughout the whole month of November. When you buy your turkey, a good rule of thumb is one pound per person. So if you're hosting 6 people, you need a six pound turkey.

Nervous about the turkey? Alton Brown's old show, Good Eats, teaches us what we need to know for turkey perfection.

The Eve of the Feast

There are a few things you can get done before Thanksgiving day to help alleviate some pressure. If you're on dessert duty, you can make them ahead of time. You don't need to go crazy with the final course as everyone will be quite full at the end of your fabulous meal anyway.

In addition to the desserts, some of your side dishes can be made the day before, as well. You can make any sides that are still tasty after being re-heated, like stuffing. You can also take care of your recipe prep - this saves a ton of time on turkey day.

If your turkey is frozen, it's time to start thawing it. Leave it in the sink for the day in cold water.

Lastly, setting your table the night before will save time, too (see tips below).

Work out a schedule of cook times. Be sure to add some "buffer" time in between dishes. This way you will know what needs to cook at what time without second guessing that you have time for everything.

I've created a dinner prep planner template to help you schedule everything.


Get an early start and be sure to give your turkey enough time in the oven. Remember, you won't have much space in your oven when the turkey is cooking for many hours. Add an hour at the end that you can use to cook or heat appetizers. If you cover your bird well, it will stay warm for about an hour and a half after coming out of the oven.

Make sure you pace yourself throughout the day and remember to breathe. Consider asking one or two guests to come early to give you a hand, too. Most guests will offer, it's okay to accept the help!

Sometimes you get so caught up in cooking that you forget to shower. Be sure to budget in some time for that, too. My first Thanksgiving I had wet hair in a bun with no makeup when guests arrived. It was the one thing I didn't plan for lol.


So now that you have the most important part of the dinner under control - the food, that is - let's work on making your spread a bit more festive.

Since beautiful table settings is not my area of expertise, I reached out to my fellow blogger, Elena  at who offered some great tips:

host your first thanksgiving
Photo courtesy of

5 quick tips for table setting this Thanksgiving

  1. Create a base
    - Use a table cover, table runner or leave your table bare (show it off!)
    - When having trouble with a color palette, pick one vibrant color and then accent with black or white.
    -Low on funds? No problem, search your house! I am famous for grabbing a blanket scarf or place-mats and creating a runner with them, think outside the box.
  1. Build layers
    - Add napkins, chargers, plates and flatware.
    - Don’t get hung up on where the flatware goes, you get to decide. I usually provide one fork, spoon and knife to place on top of my napkins. For more formal occasions, I may change it up, but placing everything on the napkin is what works for me.
  1. Build various heights
    Add water glasses and wine glasses, even if you don’t serve alcohol you can always serve bubbly water or sparkling apple juice.
  1. Add a floral/food element
    - Choose a small house plant, succulents or flowers (fake flowers work too), pumpkins, squashes, etc.
    - There are cute and affordable arrangements already pre-made at the grocery store or even Walgreens sometimes. If the height is too tall for your table, cut them down and put them into canning jars or cute little cups.
  1. Add light
    - Pick your candles ... Chunky, votives or tapered, even if you don’t light them they will finish off the last layer and height of your table.

Read Elana's complete Thanksgiving table setting guide for more inspiration.

I've covered your planning, food prep, cooking schedule and table decor...the only thing left is, what happens if something goes wrong? Not to worry, Rachel Ray has your covered. Watch her tips!

I wish you the all the best for a great meal and hope these tips help you to host your first Thanksgiving!

From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

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