The Sane 20-Something’s Guide to Hosting Your First Thanksgiving

So, your parents are vacationing in South Asia for all of November. Or your aunt has quit hosting Thanksgiving forever, after your little brother sampled liberally from her liquor cabinet and threw up all over her nice couch last year. Maybe you need a break from the annual family feast or simply don’t have the strength to do the holiday-travel thing twice in a month. Whatever the reason, you may just find yourself hosting your first Thanksgiving in less than a week and a half.

Are you panicking? Don’t. Common sense can often fail us when we’re trying to live up to our dad’s famous turkey recipe, impress the future in-laws, or otherwise perform unprecedented feats of hospitality in a minuscule amount of time. But as long you keep a few simple things in mind, we promise you’ll come through it just fine. After the jump, a comprehensive guide to popping your Thanksgiving cherry — or should that be cranberry? — without sacrificing your sanity.

Advance planning

Limit your guest list:
This is always a tricky decision, whether you’re dealing with family, friends, or some combination of the two. First of all, unless you have lots of time, tons of help, and a big-ass kitchen and dining room, you need to limit your guest list. You cannot be all things to all people, and your first Thanksgiving should not be a 100-person affair.

You’ll want to be up on which of your relatives and pals never got along, as well as those who are newly feuding, and that may require asking someone you trust and plan on inviting. Then, plan your guest list accordingly. There are worse things than having a few people feel left out — such as running out of food or space, or having to referee a 25-year-old fight between two sides of your family.


Get this invitation, designed by Stephanie DosReis, at Pingg

Send invitations:
These can — and should, for the sake of your sanity — be very informal. An email, a Facebook invite… or, as a stylish and simple alternative to Evite, try Pingg, whose invitations boast New Yorker cartoons and artist-created designs. Even if you’ve already informally contacted everyone you want to invite, a standardized invitation is a good way to make sure everyone has the same information about the event. Make sure people RSVP in time for you to plan your menu. Be very specific about directions, when you want people to get to your place, and what time dinner will be. This should save you the annoyance of super-early and way-late arrivals and frantic phone calls from guests who don’t know how to get to you.

Make sure you have help:
Even the greatest culinary superhero will need some help pulling off Thanksgiving. When your dinner is still in the planning stages, you’ll want to secure the aid of one or more accomplices — significant others, siblings, and parents all work well. We guarantee you that at least once in the afternoon, you will need someone to tend the turkey while you focus on sides, greet the guests while you contend with the kitchen, or make a grocery store run.

Take the day before Thanksgiving off:
This won’t be a possibility for everyone, but if you can swing it, you’ll be in a much better frame of mind to tackle Thanksgiving. Take the day to clean and decorate, shop for groceries, assemble your recipes, and maybe even get a bit of the cooking done. (If you can’t get the day off, try to get these things done the weekend before.) That way, you’ll have a head start on tomorrow’s madness — and you’ll also be less likely to waste Thanksgiving energy stressing over leftover work stuff.