The 20-Something’s Guide To Hosting Thanksgiving & Staying Sane: 7 Expert Tips

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So, I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year for the first time ever. Maybe you are too. If you’re like me and tons of others of our generation, you probably live in a tiny apartment somewhere, and in a sudden fit of insanity you told all your friends you would host Thanksgiving this year. Me, too.

At first the idea was all butterflies and flowers, “Oh this will be so fun and festive!” But now that it’s right around the corner, I’m getting a little nervous. Can I afford to feed 10 people? How do I cook a turkey? How much stuffing do I make? Should I ask people to bring something? Will all these people fit in my apartment?

The whole thing was getting a little stressful, so I turned to my friend Google to ask the experts how I can stay sane and have an enjoyable time. Here are my favorite tips I found for hosting Thanksgiving:

1.Don’t invite the whole world.

When I decided to host Thanksgiving, I got so excited I wanted to invite everyone. Resist the urge! It might sound like a great idea to have a huge party, but the reality is that means more people to feed and to try to fit into your space. Keep the guest list short and sweet – a few close friends, just the nuclear family, or a mix of both. I’ll be hosting a couple of my very close friends, my boyfriend, his sister, and her boyfriend. I can count everyone on my hands. That’s manageable.

Thanksgiving Spread

2.Plan your budget ahead.

Once you have your guest list, sit down and make a list of the things you’d like to make. Then you should find out how much you’re going to need to make of them, and calculate how much it’s going to cost. I found these great infographics at that can help you visualize how much of each type of dish you’re going to need for each person.

Once you’ve run the numbers, does it look like it’s going to cost too much? Dont’ give up now! This takes us to my next point:

3.There’s nothing wrong with asking guests to bring something.

No one is expecting you to be superman. We’re all young and constantly verging on broke here, we get it. With this in mind, choose a couple of main dishes that you’ll make – maybe the turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. Then ask your friends to bring sides and drinks.

I’m having some friends bring a salad, others are bringing potatoes, and another friend is making a veggie side dish. And everyone’s bringing wine. Now my budget is much more manageable, and everyone feels like they’re part of the production. Win-win.


4.Don’t be afraid to borrow things either!

In the same vein, it’s not every day you host a crowd of people for dinner. If you’re like me, you probably don’t even have enough plates, forks, and knives to accommodate all your guests, and you’ve already spent all your money on the turkey. What to do?

Seriously, don’t be afraid to ask friends and coworkers for serving dishes, silverware, plates, or any other kitchen things you may need to borrow. Your guests are especially good people to ask, since they’re 1) already planning to come to your house and 2) definitely not hosting themselves.

5.Make anything you can ahead of time.

This is KEY. Not everyone gets the day before Thanksgiving off work, and I don’t even have Thanksgiving Day off! The easiest way to make sure you’re not all in a panic with nothing ready at dinner time on Thanksgiving is to start making things a few days ahead of time. Dishes like casseroles, potatoes, and pies are all good to make ahead and then heat up just before your guests arrive. They’ll never know!

6.Get creative with how you serve the meal.

When you think of hosting Thanksgiving, you probably think of that classic Norman Rockwell painting with the whole family seated at the dining room table eating. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a dining room and I certainly don’t have a very big table. If your space is like mine, then be a little creative with how you serve dinner.

You can create a buffet-style service in the kitchen, which will save room at the table if you have a small one. It will also mean less dishes to wash later, because you won’t have to put everything in a serving dish. This is what I’m going to do to save space and time.

Buffet-Style Thanksgiving

If your table is really small, try letting people serve themselves in the kitchen and then sit around the living room. The point is for everyone to enjoy the meal and each other’s company, not for it to be picture-perfect, so get creative!

7.Don’t expect your Thanksgiving to be perfect.

This was really good advice for me. Since it’s my first time hosting Thanksgiving, I got really excited and I started imagining how picture-perfect it would be. But the reality is, with the resources I have it’s just not going to be that way. You’re probably living in a similar reality.

So relax.

The point of hosting Thanksgiving isn’t for it to look amazing. As Anna Watson Carl wisely points out in her article, when you’re hosting Thanksgiving, “impressing your guests should not be your goal.” Your goal should be to have a nice evening enjoying each other’s company and being grateful for the good friends and family you have.

And anyone can do that, regardless of how big your apartment is, how good your cooking is, and how fancy your dishes are. So remember the number one rule of hosting: enjoy it!


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