# Etiquette # Holiday entertaining

Hosting Thanksgiving? My Best Tips

Hosting Thanksgiving is a lot different than attending a Thanksgiving gathering as a guest. After hosting several Thanksgivings over the years, I have gathered together my best tips for hosting for this festive holiday. I hope you enjoy today's video!

Here is a brief summary of the main points I make in the video:

Don't forget to provide food before and after the Thanksgiving meal. Sometimes guests arrive hours before the meal and it's nice to have appetizers out to whet their appetite. This seems obvious, but sadly many people have had the experience of showing up with no food for hours. When hungry and thirsty travelers are coming to your home, you must feed them and give them refreshment.

Accept help from your guests. Most people like to bring their signature dish. Make them feel special by complimenting them on this "famous" dish.

Set the table the night before. Make your tablescape spectacular with what you already have. When you set the table the night before, you are able to really focus on the details and make it look special. For inspiration from previous years, check out My Thanksgiving Table 2015 and my New Year's Table 2016.

Pre-cook as much as you can the day before, so the day of, you just need to reheat the dishes. The turkey is best cooked on Thanksgiving day.

Place all of the little things like salt & pepper, water pitchers, etc. on the table before serving. Many times these necessities are forgotten and you end up popping up every few minutes to get them.

Serve buffet-style for ease, especially since you don't want to crowd your beautiful table setting. Unless you have a very large table, it's impractical to have all of the serving dishes displayed on the table. Serve buffet-style and make the buffet look beautiful and enticing.

Lay out your outfit the night before. This should be easy with your ten-item wardrobe :)

Refresh the guest bathroom several times throughout the day. Try to go in at least once or twice an hour to make sure it's tidy and has all of the necessary supplies.

My book, CONNOISSEUR KIDS, will be released in the fall of 2019 from Chronicle Books. Read all about it here. And thank you so much to everyone for your wonderfully supportive comments and input. I am really enjoying writing this book!

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This course is inspiring. I'm so thankful for my friend who told me about this. I have to travel a lot and I am so tired of dealing with all the luggage. I live in a tiny house in a country that is not my own and storage is a problem. I have been reading up on capsule wardrobes and just didn't think I could do it. After watching this course, I bought your book Lessons from Madame Chic and I am ready to take the plunge. Thank you so much!!!!

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Comment of the Week
On the Traveling with Kids post, Gwen B writes: I love these tips and agree with them all.
My girls are a similar age to yours at 8 and 4, and love travelling and flying especially. It is about the magic of it. When it gets turbulent my children love the "roller-coaster" experience, and aeroplane food can be a "midnight feast" or TV dinner. Seeing the excitement from their eyes helps so much. One thing that also works really well for us is to buy a magazine at the airport on the way out so they choose their treat and have something new for the journey, and save a new activity book for the long flight home. Always something fresh that way.
I have been really enjoying your videos from abroad, although I'm a little disappointed that you didn't get the chance to travel from England up to Scotland. I am sure that you would have so much to share. Maybe another time?....

Gwen, I love how you creatively re-brand the general airplane activities to make them more exciting for your children! I would love to visit Scotland one day. What a beautiful country from what I've seen! Thanks for your comment.

Today I would love to know... have you ever hosted Thanksgiving? Do you have any triumphs to share? Any horror stories? Do you have any interesting stories from the guest's perspective? Let me know and your comment could be chosen as comment of the week on The Daily Connoisseur.

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karen said...

Love your tips Jennifer! My best thought on Thanksgiving-like our wardrobes, less can be more! I focus on quality, not quantity. I've found I don't need a bajillion side dishes, if each dish/dessert I make is exquisite.

Lori said...

I have 33 years' worth of experience hosting holiday meals, and my top tip is this: Make the turkey a day or two ahead of time. Seriously, if you do not have to have a whole bird to present at table, roast the turkey, save the drippings, carve it, wrap in foil, pick the carcass, make stock -- get it all done ahead of the day. On the day of, remove the turkey from the oven about 1 hour before you want to heat it, and then warm, wrapped in foil, in the oven for about 30 minutes. Slide it onto a platter and you're done!
The benefits:
-- it frees up the oven for baking side dishes
-- all of the mess is dealt with privately and in your own time
-- you can chill the drippings and then easily remove the layer of fat, which gives you much better control of how much fat you use in the gravy
-- you can even make a gravy base ahead of time -- make the roux with fat and flour, add defatted drippings, and simmer and stir for a few minutes. Remove to a bowl, cover, and chill. Shortly before serving time, return the base to a saucepan, bring to a simmer, and add defatted stock to make the gravy. No need to pull out the flour bin, etc.
I started doing this the year after the oven went out on Tgiving morning, and I have never looked back. If you are serving buffet-style and want the turkey carved in the kitchen anyway, I highly recommend this practice!

R. Nesbit said...

1. Don't try new recipes the day of! If you didn't have a chance to practice ahead of time, save it for next year.
2. Aim to have everything ready one whole hour before meal time. Why? Because preparing a Thanksgiving meal always takes longer than you think it will.

DPMindy said...

The husband and I love to host Thanksgiving! We have both families to our house and typically enjoy prepping and hosting the meal. Most of my advice boils down to three tips:

1. Plan, plan, plan. Make a schedule starting at dinner time and working backwards. It's always great during the chaos to know exactly what time to start which dish. We have a daily schedule that starts about 4-5 days out from the actual holiday. It starts very generally (shop, clean bathrooms, set table etc.) and gets more specific on the day of the meal (11 AM -- peel potatoes, etc.). Build in time for something to go wrong.
2. Consider making more than one turkey! Smaller turkeys take less time. We typically do one traditional oven bird and cook a second one outdoors on a grill or smoker. It frees up kitchen space, oven space, and time as well as offering guests more options.
3. Enjoy the chaos in your own way. If we've planned and executed well, we usually have time to open one of our favorite bottles of bubbly and have a little while our food cooks away and before our guests arrive. Our private "calm before the storm" has become a ritual.

What we have not been successful with is saying "no" to overnight guests after the meal. I wish there was a graceful way to say, "Please stay at a hotel. We are exhausted!" Still working on that.

Robyn said...

HI, love your suggestions. We have been hosting Thanksgiving for about 25 years. The number of people attending has ranged from 8-25. One of the things I do is always allow people to contribute. Secondly, I keep notes on what I have done from year to year. I write down the food we had, the place settings we used, flowers etc. The most helpful notes are the grocery list I keep from year to year and my reflections on what worked, what didn't and what I'd like to do different.

JanElise said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marsha said...

I have hosted Thanksgiving for many years, and I have always done the Turkey the day before. It is a large item to have our of the way. It heats well in a foil line pan on Thanksgiving. I also lay out all my serving bowls, platters, and serving spoons and have even labeled what goes into each dish if I have someone like my husband helping me dish up the food. I agree with Jennifer, do as much food prep,and cleaning, the day before, and set the table early. It is easier to enjoy the day when you are extra prepared.

Ladylike said...


This was such a happy video. I laughed out loud a couple of times. I am a seasoned hostess, but I appreciate your reminders.
1. My top tip is one of your old favorites. Have a file of signature recipes. This may take a few years to create, but it will last for decades, once you've found your winners. I have a folder containing nothing but my Thanksgiving goodies, to which my family members look forward every year. At the front of the file is a list of everything I plan to make so that I don't forget anything.
2. I am in the camp of starting a few days in advance. I find it impossible to make everything in two days in a calm manner. Some things can even be made far in advance and canned, such as my cranberry apple chutney.
3. New recipes can, of course, be tried and added. This year, I am planning to try three new recipes, all from Ree Drummond's "A Year of Holidays." They are her burgundy mushrooms (can be made ahead), her brussel sprouts with cranberries, and her broccoli-wild rice casserole. They sound good to me. The proof will be in the pudding, as the saying goes!
4. Although I did it once, I am not a person who likes to delegate. I like my own cooking best, and I believe that my children and my husband agree!
5. I think people make too much of a fuss about the turkey. It's basically a large chicken. I've never had a turkey that didn't roast in 2 hours at 350 degrees, and I've had some large ones, 20 lbs.! I know many people roast their turkeys much longer, but I never will!

Happy Thanksgiving preparations!

Lollyg said...

I have hosted many holidays, and especially love to host Thanksgiving! Setting the table (plates, glasses, napkins and flatware) can be done several days in advance, and then covered with a large clean sheet. I start cooking on Sunday with cranberry relish and the gravy base, and have made and refrigerated unbaked fruit pies a few days in advance as well. Everything else is the day before, except the turkey, but it is cleaned, seasoned and in the pan ready to go. The most important thing to get ready on Thanksgiving is: Yourself! I wake up early, say my prayers, shower, make up and dress. I wear large apron, and am ready to greet the early birds unflustered. Happy Thanksgiving!

Ina said...

Dear Jennifer,
First of all congratulations on your new book!
I would love to hear more money related videos. About your journey, influences,books you've read and how you changed your life.
Thank you!
Lots of love,

Anonymous said...

Before everyone arrives make sure you have space in your refrigerator for guests bringing cold dishes or drinks, empty your dishwasher and rubbish bins and have some vases handy in case of floral offerings.

Anonymous said...

I start making dishes a few days ahead. If you do it all the day before, you have only transferred the stress from Thanksgiving Day to the day before. Some dishes actually taste better when they have had time to themselves in the fridge, for the flavors to permeate the food.

One thing that is a BIG time saver: I buy turnkey necks and wings from the farmer's market weeks before the day, and make a big pot of stock and freeze it. Then I can make the gravy and the stuffing a couple days ahead of time, and not be trying to make a pan gravy at the last second.

Also, you don't need a ton of side dishes, just because your mama always did it that way. You don't need stuffing AND mashed potatoes AND candied yams. One starch is enough. Roasted vegetables are nice side dishes, because you can do them days ahead and just reheat. Roasting brings out the sweetness of the vegetable. And you don't need several different pies. Pick the one you make the best, or that everyone seems to like the best, and go with that. It doesn't HAVE to be pumpkin pie. I make a wonderful applesauce spice cake. Not traditional, but well-loved.

Anonymous said...

Such good tips, Jennifer! Thank you for sharing your advice. A few years ago I hosted Thanksgiving for the first time. My pastor's wife had allergies that overlapped somewhat with mine, so I decided we'd have a menu completely allergen free for everyone attending. Since my allergies are the most challenging, it was easy to cater to hers as well. It was such a lovely evening and one of my favorite memories from our time in that house!

Gumbo Lily said...

I always allow guest to bring something to the meal. It takes so much pressure off cooking EVERYTHING for the day and makes the guests feel good about contributing to the big meal. If everything isn't absolutely perfect, don't worry or stress out about it. After all, it's the people around your table that are the most important part of the Thanksgiving gathering. ~Jody

Unknown said...

A good many years ago now we were hosting an Asian family for Thanksgiving. The turkey, perched beautifully in its heavy aluminum container was browning a lovely golden brown so I wanted to check the internal temperature to see how much longer it had. I wear glasses so as soon as I opened the oven door and slid the rack out just a bit, my glasses steamed immediately leaving me "totally blind" and, to my horror, the bird simultaneously flew out of its container, slid across the oven door and perched itself just as nicely as you please, breast side up, onto the kitchen floor!!! I was stunned, horrified, and, having regained my sight, stood there in complete disbelief. My family gathered round to see what the commotion was...I just busted up laughing!!! They thought I'd gone crackers! It was so absolutely unbelievable, what else could I do?? When I resumed composure, I just picked that bird right up, plopped it back in its tray, and back into the oven it went. And we're none the worse for it. The event was wonderful, our guests loved their first Thanksgiving meal, and I have an unbelievable secret story to "relish" the rest of my living days. The moral of the story: keep your face away from the outgoing steam and put the turkey/container on a cookie sheet for stability. This doesn't need to happen twice!! Haha

DJ said...

Jennifer, I loved all your tips. I'm glad you mentioned the bathroom as often it's forgotten! Always best to leave out extra supplies - extra roll of tissue, a few extra hand towels - go in and toss out the old hand towels after a while and hang new ones! Everyone appreciates a fresh bathroom! Something that saves me stress is to get my house immaculately clean the week before Thanksgiving and then all I have to do is tidy up the house the day before and add some fresh flowers. Use up the food in your refrigerator the week before and totally clean the fridge as you won't have room for any old food once you start using the fridge on T-day! I love Robyn's idea of keeping notes from year to year! Wish I had done that. Of course you should allow guest to bring a dish! When I'm a guest along with a dish or two, I bring the hostess a large poinsettia to help her start off the Christmas season the next day!

Excelsior! Academy said...

I've never thought to do soup the day of Thanksgiving. What a great idea! Please, share your recipe.

Wenni Donna said...

Oh my goodness! These thanksgiving tips are going to be very useful for many people. Keep sharing such posts here. Anyways, we too hosted a funky luncheon party at one of the local Los Angeles event venues. It was a family BBQ party and it turned out to be so enjoyable.

Vicki Zimmerman said...

I'm catching up on all my Daily Connoisseur videos and loving it.  I highly recommend making a list in the days ahead to remember the salt and pepper shakers, water pitchers, serving spoons, lighting the candles and/or fireplace, getting the snacks out, etc.  It really does help.  The tea sandwiches seem like a wonderful way to ease the hunger before a big meal.  By the way, your cranberry top (or was it a dress) is so pretty and is that part of your ten-item wardrobe?  I love the scoop neck and sleeves on it.  Also, I really like your family tradition of making a turkey stew and do all the ladies assemble this that day and then take it home or have it as another shared meal that evening?  Hope to see what your table looks like this year and what you wore.  We're going to Palm Desert to be with family and we're eating out this year.