Yall, it’s Thanksgiving week! Can you smell the Sister Schubert rolls yet?!!? This is my third year hosting Thanksgiving and my first year hosting in our new house. You know I love a good party- but I’m telling you I never in a million years thought I would be “the one” who always host Thanksgiving. I have found as long as you don’t let the overwhelm or those “perfect” expectations into your home- it can be the most fun! As I was preparing this week and getting together my Thanksgiving playbook, I thought I would share that process with you. When I hosted Thanksgiving as a brand new bride, the overwhelm was real yall. I googled for weeks prior, all the trips and tricks I could find and finally realized I needed to go back to the basics. While there is sooo much to be learned from that first Thanksgiving (like defrosting the turkey at least two-three days before helps!) what I relied on most was my party planning/organizing skill. Be it a very specific skill, I like to think it is one I have honed fairly well. So if your hosting your first Thanksgiving or twenty fifth- I hope this behind the scene look will encourage and help you JOYFULLY execute your holiday happenings.
My Thanksgiving Playbook
First things first- My Thanksgiving Playbook. I have used this Emily Ley recipe binder for a few years now and while I bought it with the intention of it housing all my recipes, the truth of the matter is there is no sense in rewriting recipes that are already in cookbooks. I have an extensive love affair with cookbooks (my most recent favorite- Love, Welcome, Serve!) Over the past three years it has just happened that this binder ends up holding all my Thanksgiving recipes with all the notes and planning of the past year. Therefore- I give you my Thanksgiving Playbook! HA This is my guide and I have found with most major holidays and happenings, my mind works better if I have a dedicated space to corral all the things. (Hence my love affair with notebooks- I have used the Southern Wedding planner for my wedding, The Home Base Binder for our house and moves, this year for Christmas I’m using the Keepsake Christmas Planner– read about it here! See a theme yet??)
Who, When and Where
The very first thing I do is decide on the date and time, which is driven by my guest list. You would think that it’s a given on those things-but depending on your guests and family it doesn’t always make sense to have Thanksgiving at noon sharp every November 24. And here’s the secret- that’s OK! I host both sides of mine and Dillon’s family and we have found that it works best for us to do it the after actual Thanksgiving. The two previous years we have hosted on Friday afternoon/evening and this year we are having it on Saturday afternoon with plans to keep our tradition of going to the Sweetwater Christmas festival afterwards. You can read all about our Thanksgiving/Holiday traditions from last year. I truly believe that the holidays should be relaxed and there should be plenty of room for naps and laughter so don’t stress yourself or your guests out by running from place or place or eating one meal after another- just for the sake of having the holiday on the actual holiday!
Food Planning and Coordinating
Armed with my guest list, I start making the phone calls to coordinate who is bringing what. The very first Thanksgiving I hosted, I considered it a rite of passage to cook the ENTIRE thing myself…..BIG MISTAKE! Don’t do that to yourself. People want to help so welcome it!! Your sis wants to bring Ruby’s pumpkin pie?!? BY ALL MEANS, please do! I’ll have the cool whip waiting! Encourage your people to bring exact what they want and like. It makes it easy, it includes everyone and takes a bit of the pressure off. As the host, traditionally you would be in charge of the main course and this is a responsibility I whole heartily welcome. I make my ham recipe for every special occasion and it really is my favorite part. This year I’m not worrying with the turkey *too much* as Dillon has decided he is going to try and deep fry our turkey this year. We are all super excited and I’m excited about Dillon taking on cooking! Fingers crossed it goes well and I might convince him to start cooking dinners for me!
After I see what everyone else wants to bring, I being to fill in the gaps. I have a few recipes I would like to try and here is where I add them to my list. This year I will be trying a new mac and cheese recipe and a peanut butter pie recipe from Love Welcome Serve. I have a *super fancy* planning tool- a piece of paper with some headings to help keep it all straight. This helps me get it all out of my head and on paper somewhere. I also reference my playbook for all the old family recipes I will be using.
Grocery Shopping and Timelines
Once I know what I need to make, I grab my playbook and start my grocery list. Looking through each recipe, one by one I got through my pantry and figure out exactly what I need. Before this year I would have just made a list with the different sections marked for the grocery areas, but to make my life even easier, I’m doing grocery pickup. All I have to do is type in exactly what I need and there’s no searching or wondering if I got the right thing or all of my list. Done and done. Don’t forget to add salt and pepper!
I also usually make a Walmart/Hobby Lobby or other trip. This is décor items I might not have or napkins- specialty things I need to pick up.
If there is only one tip you take from this- listen up: PREP EARLY. Save yourself the drama and prep anything and everything you need early. Once home from the grocery store, I go ahead and cut my veggies up, leave my baking goods in stacks for each recipe on the counter and put everything that I am going to need out- in the front of the fridge for easy access.
It is usually after the grocery store trip that I sit down and make my timeline. Again this is that super fancy, plain piece of paper and I start working backwards- from the day of the event and actually eating to fill in all that needs to be done prior. I’m a visual girl so color coded is the way to go. Blue for food, Red for Décor, Black for everything else. This is a great time to actually think through the event and each of those things you want to get done to figure out where it makes the most sense to schedule them. I also start writing out which platters and plates I will use.
A note on timelines: Yes, I KNOW the desire to figure out how to remodel a bathroom in a week’s time is the big question, do yourself a favor and don’t try it. Just give yourself some grace and go on. Trust me, no one is coming to see your newly remodeled bathroom or formal room or whatever. In total honesty- I still have plain light bulbs hanging from my ceilings with no light fixtures whatsoever. They’ve been this way since we moved it and as soon as I decide what I want, Ill change them. But let me tell you, trying to force that decision for the sake of “just picking a dang light so we don’t look like rednecks” is a decision I know I will regret! Focus on the things that matter most like your family and friends gathered in gratitude!
Planning Your Table and Decor
I was that girl. I know it’s hard to believe but I most definitely had my china pattern picked out by the age of seven! We were graciously given 12 of our china place settings and matching silverware for our wedding and it is on my top list of treasured things. So when it comes to tablescapes and décor, I let the china take center stage. I also have a few other sets of china I mix and match for added place settings. I keep on hand white fabric tablecloths and usually accent with fabric from my stash. I pull from these basic pieces and try to add in an unexpected piece or two to set off the table. Last year, I went Christmas with cedar branches and clippings from the yard and cranberries. This year I am still undecided on exactly what I am going to use as a centerpiece but I have been keeping my eyes open on Pinterest. My motto with Pinterest tablescapes: take the thing you love the most and execute that. Does the table set up you found have dripping garlands and lights, but it’s the dainty name cards that got your attention? Just do those then. Focus on one thing instead of making yourself crazy trying to get that perfect look. Know your strengths and what’s in your wheelhouse and do that! Sure, I could hand make ten turkeys out of paper but I’ll just tell you- not my idea of fun! However, arranging a few vintage jars with cranberries and tying with a bow- that I can do!
I’ll let you in on my other big décor secret….napkins. Pick fun napkins and let them act as accent pieces and your work is done. I always try to keep fun ones with sayings or colors on hand because they can pull together a table like no other.
Thoughts on Cleaning, Space and Joyfully Execution
It never fails, its 30 minutes til party time and I’m scrambling wiping down the bathrooms because I forgot to clean them. Get it out of the way and put it on your timeline to do early in the week. There’s nothing like greeting your guests to dinner smelling like Clorox! Do yourself a favor and just knock it out early. This rule of thumb also goes for getting ready. It took me a while to figure this one out but get yourself ALL THE WAY READY the morning of the event. No, you don’t have to put your nice clothes on to cook in, but it so much easier to just go change into a dress and touch up your nose, verses being tether to a curling iron with guest knocking on your door.
Another pain point in hosting always seems to be space. You don’t have enough chairs? I get it sister. Thankfully my mother-in-law always offers to bring me some. No space for a long table or no desire for place settings? Paper plates work just as great and I totally get everyone wanting to hang around the TV to watch ball. No buffet or pinterest worthy hutch display- drag a dresser in, grab a folding table. Trust me it’s less about the space looking beautiful and more about it begin life-giving. Be intentional looking for ways to serve others in hosting and those pain points won’t be as noticeable as you think!
When I began this month, I specifically put in my Powersheets a goal to “joyfully execute the holidays.” This meant preparing well to be able to love well and celebrate well. It takes some intention and it means letting some things go- but right now as I sit next to my half decorated Christmas tree with my game plan in one hand and buckets of holiday decor on the other—it is looking less like chaos bins to stress me out, but a beautiful mess to relish in the celebration of the season.
My last big tip- and really it should be first. Pray. Y’all, pray for the people that will sit around your table or stand in your kitchen this week. Pray for hearts to be open and receptive. Pray that the spirit of the Lord moves through your home and gathering. Ask Him for help this week. Ask him to prepare your heart as you prepare your table. Because at the end of it all- that’s the point- not the food, the table or the family- but a celebration of God’s faithfulness and love to you this past year.
Happy Thanksgiving y’all! Here’s to getting after grateful!