Happy almost Thanksgiving guys! I hosted my very first Thanksgiving last night because my sister in law is working tomorrow and Friday (she’s a nurse), and it was a success! For some quick background, my mom is a hosting QUEEN. She’s the kind of person who can have 15 random people show up to her house and within 45 minutes, have a full spread of food ready to be devoured. So there were high standards! I shared a bit on Instagram stories (follow me!), and got a TON of questions about how I managed to do the whole thing. I’ve put together a few tips for hosting your first thanksgiving without a hitch!
Honestly, if you’re hosting Thanksgiving tomorrow, and are just getting around to planning, you’re already late! I started planning about a week before, which left me adequate time to sort out the menu, decorations, and go grocery shopping. On the previous Monday, I decided on the menu, and on Thursday, shopped for decor. On Friday, I decided which recipes I was going to use, which allowed me to make a grocery list to go shopping on Saturday.
We cleaned the house on Sunday, and moved all the furniture around and set the table on Monday. On Monday night, I created a schedule for Tuesday so I could know exactly what time everything needed to go in and out of the oven. By the time guests arrived, everything was prepared and laid out, and I even had time to do my makeup!
Split the Menu
At first I wanted to cook everything to prove I could do it, but my mom was NOT having that! Remember when I said she was a hosting queen? She’s also a culinary wizard. She offered to make jollof rice (because, hey, there’s no real meal without rice), a seafood dish, and a few desserts. My younger brother’s girlfriend also brought a pie. My sister in law volunteered to make the stuffing and another protein so I could focus on tackling the turkey. Though I was reluctant to ask for their help, I’m so glad they pitched in!
By the way, here are all the things Jonathan and I prepared and the recipes that inspired them.
Sides: Red Wine Cranberry Sauce (Jonathan made this!) & Gravy
The Turkey!!: I referred to 4 different recipes lol (1, 2, 3, 4), and kinda just winged it. Most important turkey hacks: brining, using an herb butter inside and out, pouring chicken broth AND CHAMPAGNE onto the bird/in the pan, and cooking for 30 minutes on 400 to brown, then topping with foil and reducing to 350 for about 3 hours.
Outsource All But One Drink
Since you’re buying and preparing a ton of the food, you should definitely outsource drinks! While other family members supplied the wine, I created a special Thanksgiving cocktail inspired by our meal and decor. It’s super easy, but makes a big impression! Here’s the recipe: in a champagne flute, pour 1 part Alizé Red Passion and 1 part club soda. Fill to brim with champagne, add a sprig of thyme, and decorate with fresh cranberries! The Alizé Red Passion infuses premium French Vodka with passion fruit and cranberries, making it less sweet than this flavor, and perfect for fall! If you’re looking for other fall inspired cocktails, check here!
Work With What You Have
One of the biggest hurdles for us when we decided to host Thanksgiving was figuring out seating. I committed to having a sit down dinner (really just so I could do a pretty tablescape lol), but we don’t have a formal dining room. My whole family kept saying how amazed they were that I was able to reconfigure the apartment to fit everything! Here’s how I did it.
One day I measured my desk and our small bistro table and realized they were the same width and roughly the same height. I got the idea to combine them, and with the help of a tablecloth, created a surface with seating for 9 people! Since our sectional comes apart, we just moved it to the office and placed the pieces across from each other to create a comfortable lounge. We also switched out coffee table with our TV stand since it’s higher, and used the TV stand as another serving surface. We definitely don’t have 9 matching chairs, but we had two dining chairs, two adjustable barstools, a storage bench, my desk chair, and then borrowed two chairs from my brother!
I did buy some things for the tablescape, but kept everything budget friendly. We already had these gold-trimmed plates and gold silverware from our wedding registry, as well as gold chargers also from the wedding. I bought this tablecloth because it was semi festive but also neutral enough for other occasions. I also picked up two different napkins from H&M for a few bucks each – you’d be amazed how easily cloth napkins change the vibe! Some gold faux foliage, tiny pumpkins, candlesticks, chocolate candy, and a bouquet of fresh flowers rounded out our table!
Include Some Fun
Either before dinner, or between dinner and dessert, you’ll want to have an activity that can keep your guests engaged. Have one or two games on deck so the conversation doesn’t turn into that awkward go in a circle and provide life updates thing. The worst! You’ll want really easy games that don’t take up a lot of space, and don’t require a lot of brain energy (because some people will catch the itis early!) We played 5-Second Rule which was super fun! Don’t forget something for the kids to play with! We also brought out Jenga, which managed to keep my 2.5 year old nephew occupied for about 15 minutes – which is impressive for a toddler!
Have a Few Surprises
So our Thanksgiving dinner happened to also fall on my mom’s birthday, so there were tons of opportunities for surprises! She yelled at me for not buying ice cream to go with the pies, but little did she know we had a whole ice cream cake hiding out in the freezer! Jonathan won though for best surprise – he picked up some suya for us to enjoy (my family LOVES suya)! So much so that folks were pretty full before dinner even started!
I hope you enjoyed my tips for hosting your first Thanksgiving! If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, good luck to you! Don’t think your space is too small, or that you won’t be able to manage hosting a big crowd, just go for it next year. You might surprise yourself!
This post was sponsored on behalf of Alizé via One2One Network. All opinions stated are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that support IjeomaKola.com!