I love breaking bread around the table any time of the year, but there is something extra special about Thanksgiving and the holidays. It's a beautiful sight to see folks enjoying themselves and making merry. The most important thing for me, above the food, and decorations or gifts is that people feel comfortable. Hospitality is so much more than a pretty table. It is about how we position and share our hearts and home and how we make the hearts of others feel. It's not about the presentation or perfection, but being present. What helps us to be present is the margin that preparation gives us.
So much of your guest's feeling comfortable depends on the energy they receive from you. If you are at ease your guests will be too. If you have ever had the unfortunate experience of walking into a house where the host is annoyed because they are overwhelmed, you probably wish you could walk back out the door. It's not a welcoming feeling and as the guest, it's an awkward position to be in. Stress is contagious, and no one wants to walk into a cranky house, especially on a day we are supposed to be grateful!
Let's eliminate as much stress as possible. One way to do that is to get down to the nitty-gritty details of the dinner table itself. In my last post I offered 5 practical tips that serve as the foundation for this next step. This is where your guest list comes in handy!
The details you'll want to think about include:
Tables, chairs, and serving tables
The number of plates (main course, dessert, and any appetizers) you need for the number of guests you are hosting.
The number of glasses, coffee cups, or wine glasses
Napkins whether cloth or paper
Serving Dishes & Utensils
Don't skip this vital step! Start by taking note of the number of guests who have confirmed they are coming and start taking inventory of the above items. You will get a jump start on what you need to make sure everyone has what they need to feel comfortable.
Believe me, your future self will be so much happier if you figure out now that you need 5 more chairs than what you currently have rather than 1 day before everyone starts spilling in the door, leaving you scrambling and them sharing a seat.
I suggest before buying bigger ticket items like chairs or extra tables, ask to borrow them from friends, neighbors, or your church. You may even be able to rent them. Unless you plan on having large gatherings and you want to purchase them for future use and it is within your budget. If you purchase items, make sure to consider if you have a place to store them.
Dishes, Plates, and Silverware Oh My!
One stressor is all the dishes, plates, and silverware needed to set the table during a holiday. If you have an 8-piece set, but 12 confirmed guests, don't freak out, it's time to think outside the box. Here are some alternatives:
If you are expecting a large number of guests (15+), consider paper plates. There are some super cute, good quality, and inexpensive paper plates. I was at Target last night and ran across the plates below that were 10 for $3. If you picked up 40 plates that's 12 bucks, not bad, right? If you are hosting a ton of people you will end up with a ton of cleanup, so pitching the dishes after everyone is finished eating, is really treating your future self good:)
If you plan on hosting large Thanksgiving or other holiday gatherings in the foreseeable future then you may want to invest in some plates that you are happy using every year. You can always pick up a bunch of white dishes at Ikea and dress them up for the season with brightly colored holiday chargers or napkins.
Another option is Melamine plates which are cute, and fairly inexpensive. They are also unbreakable, which is a perfect option if you're guests include little ones. You may want to take out the fancy dishes for the adults and use Melamine or paper plates for the kids.
If you use fancy dishes for dinner, maybe opt for paper plates for dessert or appetizers.
It's always good to have extra silverware on hand, and serving spoons. My favorite stores for extra Silverware are Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and Homegoods. I have also seen silverware at the Dollar Store too, which could come in handy if you're in a pinch.
There are some adorable Thanksgiving napkins both cloth and paper. Again, if you're gathering is small, all the fancy stuff is lovely, but if you're expecting a full house make it easy on yourself and get some cute paper napkins.
You may also want to get some napkins for your bathroom as well, so people are not using the same hand towel.
Again, maybe good-quality paper cups are the way to go. However, I love a pretty table, so, if you don't have enough glasses check out affordable stores like Marshalls and TJ Maxx where you can get a bargain. One year I had a Friendsgiving and lucked out at the Dollar Store with about 20 lovely glasses that were a lifesaver! I ended up giving them away but was totally okay with that since I paid $1 for them!
Take an inventory of all your serving dishes and utensils. Make sure you have enough utensils for each serving dish. This is where your menu plan comes into play. If you know your menu then you can determine how many serving dishes you'll need.
I will write another post on ideas for decorating your table, but if you are using additional tables that are folding tables, you may want to add a tablecloth since the tops of those tables are not all that attractive. Figure out how many you may need and make sure you get the correct width and length.
A fun idea for a kid's table is the brown rolling paper they can color on. Put a box of crayons at each place setting, and let them color away!
How Do you Plan to Serve Your Dinner?
This is an important question. Do you plan on having all the food on the dinner table? If so, will it fit comfortably among your place settings or will it be too crowded? Or would it make more sense to have all the food on a separate table? If so, you may need to add a serving table to the inventory, or a console table. If you have a spacious kitchen or a kitchen island you can put the food or desserts on the island. Thinking about how you plan on serving will help with the flow of the dinner.
Your homework is to get your inventory list completed within the next 7 days if you have your guest list confirmed. This preparation will help you create a little margin in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.
No post would be complete without some downloads! There are 2 Thanksgiving to do lists, and please share one with a friend! The other download is an inventory list, one is blank and one has some of the suggestions in this post. I did some of the listing work for you because I want to make this as simple as possible!
The next post is on cleaning up before the big day!
Listen to the podcast episodes that dive a little deeper than the post. Episode 2 will be out tomorrow!