Maybe you volunteered, or maybe you were roped into it. Either way, hosting your first Thanksgiving can be stressful and expensive. From the rogue vegetarian to those picky kids, there's no way you can give every guest exactly what they want. But you can create a fun, festive, relaxing environment in which all feel welcome and all leave full — of delicious food and fond memories.
Rule #1: Don't Aim to Please
The higher your guest count, the less likely it is you'll be able to give everyone mashed potatoes the way their grandma made 'em. It's just one on the laws of holiday physics. If you try to make a different version of everything — one lumpy mashed potato, one smooth mashed potato, one garlic and cheesy mashed potato — you'll go crazy. Make your menu, taking into account any known allergies, and go for it.
Rule #2: Involve the Kids
Kids love to help in the kitchen. And chances are, if they help you prepare the food, they'll help you eat the food. Give them simple tasks based on their ages, and even let them help with the menu planning. Younger kids can set the table, while older kids can wash veggies and mash the potatoes.
Rule #3: Set the Scene
Don't go nuts. You aren't Martha Stewart (although it'd be nice to have a pinch of her talent). Keep the kids busy in the week leading up to Thanksgiving by having them create decorations for your home. They can create a welcome banner, a centerpiece for the table, garland, and more to make your home festive. Go all out and choose soft yet fun music to play in the background.
Rule #4: Enlist Help
Ask each guest to bring one item. Your brother can make some mashed potatoes. Your sister, the baker, can provide a pie. Your aunt can make her famous rolls. And your mother can bring her world-renowned green bean casserole. This will not only allow your guests to have a tiny piece of their ideal Thanksgiving meal, but will make your life a bit less stressful, allowing you to focus on the guest of honor — that turkey.
Rule #5: Relax
It's a holiday after all. Once you've planned your menu, set the time, decorated, and put that turkey in the oven, chill out for a bit. It's no fun to spend the entire day worried and stressed out. If the turkey needs some extra time, it's OK. Your guests will chat and munch on snacks while they happily and gratefully await the Thanksgiving dinner that they didn't have to plan. The day will go well no matter what minor catastrophes occur.
Once Thanksgiving has come to a close, you'll be able to look back and congratulate yourself. Not only did you pull off your first Thanksgiving, but you managed to stay calm and in control. So go ahead, have another piece of pie. You deserve it!