How to Host a Large Thanksgiving Dinner

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Ideas

There’s nothing better than having the whole family together for the holidays. Parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins—it’s rare that the whole crew has a chance to enjoy a meal together. But as fun as large family get-togethers are, they can be equally stressful on the host. Yes, even for those hostesses who seem to have it all together. Try some of these tips to reduce stress while prepping for a large Thanksgiving dinner. 

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Make a list (or four) and check it twice
Take your to-do list a step further by assigning timelines and family members to each task. Between house cleaning, menu planning, and grocery shopping, there will be a lot of items to account for. So take some of the unknown out of the equation by planning out on which days and at what times you will need to accomplish each task to make it all come together. There’s peace in knowing you’ll be able to get it all done before you even begin. And it can help you realize where you need to enlist an extra set of hands. 

Prepare for mishaps
Something is bound to go wrong just before or during your party—it’s Murphy’s law. Maybe the ancient plumbing will finally back up the weekend guests arrive. Maybe Aunt Wanda’s curling iron trips the breaker and the oven goes off without notice. You know your house and all its quirks, so be sure to get things fixed in advance or have extra supplies on hand in case something goes wrong. You can’t predict or prepare for everything, but having a contingency plan will take some of the stress away. 

Delegate, delegate, delegate
No one should have to cook for a crowd on their own, so don’t be afraid to ask guests to bring dishes or to arrive early and help prepare the meal. After all, your family might actually enjoy the extra time with you, and you’ll be in a better mood when you have some of the burden taken off your shoulders. 

Plan a crowd-friendly menu
Individual tarts from scratch impress your dinner guests at intimate gatherings, but multiplying the recipe five times over would be a nightmare. So skip the intricate recipes and instead focus on dishes that are made for crowds. Bonus points if it’s something you can make ahead of time or throw into a slow-cooker. Check out our Thanksgiving quantity guide to quickly reference quantities on some classic Thanksgiving staples.

Prepare for heavy foot traffic
For some of us, there doesn’t seem to be a table big enough to hold our entire family. Trying to put tables together to make an extra-long table could block walkways and create a cramped environment. Instead, open up the space by rearranging furniture and setting up multiple smaller tables, like a restaurant. It creates a smoother flow of traffic so you’re not worried about bumping into guests coming in and out of the kitchen. 

Serve dinner buffet-style
Make it easier for guests to load up their plates and go back for seconds by creating a buffet in the kitchen or on a separate table. This way, guests don’t have to shout over each other to pass this or that, and you’ll likely end up with less spills as a result. Win-win. 

Hosting a large Thanksgiving dinner is no easy task, but don’t forget to relax and enjoy the time with family and friends. For more Thanksgiving tips, check out our curated inspiration page