As newlyweds, you might be gearing up to host your first Thanksgiving dinner. Whether you’re inviting your mom and dad, your friends, or your in-laws, you might be stressing out. Thanksgiving, after all, is the Super Bowl of holidays, and there is a lot of pressure on the host to make everything perfect. But by supporting each other – and preparing for the big day – you and your husband or wife will get through your first Thanksgiving just fine. Here is some help for making your first Thanksgiving one to remember – and for all the right reasons:
1. Stick with tradition.Thanksgiving – especially the first Thanksgiving that you are hosting – is not the time to switch things up or try something new. Give the people what they want, what they expect. That means don’t serve fish and rice instead of turkey and stuffing. You can, however, serve a second main course in addition to the turkey to introduce something new or appeal to a vegetarian guest. But you can’t give up the mainstays of Thanksgiving. People will undoubtedly be disappointed if you do something like nixing turkey, even if they don’t tell you.
2. Plan ahead.Part of the reason hosts get stressed out on Thanksgiving – or any holiday or dinner party for that matter – is because they’re unprepared and they wait until the last minute. Instead, you should choose your menu about one to two weeks before the holiday. Write it all out – from cocktails to appetizers to dessert. Determine what ingredients you’ll need. Consider how much time you need to prepare everything. Will you be able to make homemade cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes from scratch? If not, can you take a shortcut by buying the cranberry sauce in a can?
3. Cook ahead.
Then, make sure to cook what you can in the days before Thanksgiving. You can prep the turkey the night before, so that you just have to place it in the oven in the morning. Mashed potatoes can be made ahead of time and heated. And you can set the table and have all the serving dishes out and ready to go the night before as well. In Thanksgiving Recipes for Dummies Cooking Instructions on About.com
, you can get instructions on how to plan ahead and what to cook. If you give some thought to all that you have to get done and how you can be more efficient, you’ll see ways to make it work and cut down on the pressure you’ll feel on Thanksgiving Day.
4. Call in reinforcements.
You and your spouse don’t have to do everything by yourselves. You can ask some of your guests to bring dishes. Some of them might even offer without being prompted. Also, there might be relatives who will want to actually help you cook. Mom or your mother-in-law might feel more included if you let them give you a hand in the kitchen. If things get really bad, you can always call the Butterball Thanksgiving hotline at 1-800-BUTTERBALL. The Butterball Web site
also offers online chats that run periodically before Thanksgiving and turkey text messages.
5. Create the right ambiance.Put out some candles or create a centerpiece, such as a bowl of gourds, to make the table special, something different from what you’d have at any other time of year. Create a festive place for people to mingle and eat. Fall leaves or branches, acorns, or cornucopias can be used to decorate your dining room. This is the kind of thing you can prepare at the start of November or at least in the week before the holiday.
6. Help the guests get along.If you have family coming over, try to keep things light. Change the subject when people start going on about politics or religion. Put out place cards if Aunt Flo is not on speaking terms with Cousin Jane. Keep the conversation flowing by chiming in every once in a while. Be sure everyone has what they need – more wine, an extra helping of sweet potatoes, some apple pie a la mode. A little thoughtfulness goes a long way. Whatever you do, save your own resentments – that dig your mother-in-law gave you about your "dry turkey" or the way your brother bragged about his promotion and the fact that you were laid off – for the next holiday when you’re not the host.
7. Remember the true meaning of Thanksgiving.The purpose of the holiday is to show gratitude for the bounty we have in our lives. Ask everyone to share for what they are thankful. Be the first to show your gratitude. You are the host of Thanksgiving, after all!