We have been there: in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner chaos when our guests arrive asking if they can help only to be too disheveled to delegate. With these 5 easy steps your Thanksgiving dinner will run as smooth as silk.

  1. Prepare table the night before.
  2. Get ready an hour before any guests arrive. You can always make salad while guests are there, but you can’t shower in front of them.
  3. Send out a pre-planning sign up email to find out what each family member is bringing.
  4. Assign family members tasks (fill the water glasses, take out garbage, serve dessert, etc).
  5. Have men wash the heavy dishes like pots and pans before dinner is served, then they get permission to watch game after dinner.

When planning a holiday gathering most hosts find it easy to delegate which favorite recipe the other guests should to bring to the dinner. My grandmother was always known to bring her famous deviled eggs and my Aunt Nancy would make her wonderful sweet tea for everyone. It worked out beautifully as the favorite dishes were a big help so that my mother didn’t have to cook EVERYTHING. However, the help sort of stopped there. Beyond who made what, nothing else was delegated and most of the work fell on her shoulders.

So when the Thanksgiving Day meal moved to my house and I started to notice how much work the host had to do to make everything happen, I felt we needed a better plan. Because while my guests were well-meaning, they would arrive, dish in hand and ask, “What can I do?” At that point in time, I was too busy running around and too crazy to answer, I ended up saying, “I’ve got this” and doing everything myself. So I devised a little pre-planning email not only asking what the guests want to bring, but also asking them to “sign up” for a little chore around the dinner.

So when I send the email of what Dionne can bring, I also ask if she’d like to tend to the homemade rolls in the oven when she arrives; when Kimbra brings her favorite bottle of wine, I assign her the task of setting the table and filling the wine glasses; and while my husband may not do any of the cooking, he has the honor/job every year to carve the turkey—this is not pretty. We bring the turkey to the table all carved and ready to go on a platter—need I say more? I digress, the kids love this method too as they know one will be in charge of filling the water glasses, and the other two make certain the Thanksgiving decorations are on the tables. Most of the men enjoy helping before the meal so they can finish their desserts and watch the big football game, so the big heavy pots and pans get a good cleaning by the guys before we ever sit down to eat leaving only a few dishes for the aftermath.

With everyone pitching in (because they know what is expected of them) the old saying holds true, “many hands make light work.” As I raise my glass this Thanksgiving, I’ll think of you. Hoping these ideas have made your special meal just a little bit easier to host.

With thanks and gratitude,
Cheryl Najafi