Unless you happen to have either a Downton Abbey style banquet hall or a very small family, hosting Thanksgiving dinner will probably involve scrounging up extra seating (office chair on wheels and the bathroom step stool) and wondering at how small your kitchen suddenly seems when its crammed full of people and every available surface is covered with food! Now, certainly this can be part of the fun, but it could also be eased slightly with a little strategy or a few helpful items…
Hidden seating: Stacking chairs or stools provide instant seating and can easily be stored away or placed in a corner when not required. And there are plenty of options these days that will fit your aesthetic – they don’t all look like those orange plastic one’s you remember from school!
Table for ten: Tables with extensions or leaves give you flexibility. Folded down its your everyday family table but the extra space can be rolled out for high days and holidays! If you have the space, you could also push two tables together; no-one will know or care that they don’t match once the table cloths are on and the surface is groaning with food!
Protect your polish: Your beautiful dining table is perfect for small dinner parties and careful adults, but if festivities will include large numbers and/or children it might be wise to protect your table surface from spills and stains with a waterproof liner underneath your tablecloth. Only you will know its there and it will help with your peace of mind, knowing that there’s one less thing to worry about! Do note these liner’s aren’t heat-proof though so you’ll still need mats.
Tablescape the night before: This is a tip I picked up from one of Ina Garten’s books – and she is the queen of hosting dinner parties! Set your table the night before the event – this gives you plenty of time to make it look nice and ensure you have enough glasses, forks, napkins etc. You can arrange centrepieces, fold napkins, polish glassware and hunt out all those obscure serving dishes at your leisure, while leaving the next day free for preparing the food.
Serve up in style: Adding a buffet cabinet or sideboard to your dining room offers extra storage for the good china and napkins plus you can use the surface for serving drinks or food. If guests are able to help themselves in the dining room it frees up space in the kitchen or on the dining table.
Create a bar: Similarly, a bar cart is a stylish way to keep the drinks on hand, but out of the valuable kitchen space. Also, designating a willing friend or family member to be the “bartender” is great way to welcome guests and provides a helpful distraction for them while you frantically finish preparing dinner!
Cocktails made easy: If you are expecting a lot of people it can really help to have one or two signature cocktails for the night. These can be pre-made or at least prepped in advance and will be much easier to dish out than trying to concoct whatever your guests dream up. This makes decision-making easier for guests too and means you don’t have to buy one of everything at the liquor store. I think this is another Ina Garten tip!
Try something different: If you fancy trying something different, why not do a Thanksgiving cocktail party instead of dinner. Guests won’t need to sit around a table so you don’t have to you having to cram them all into one room – they can spread out and mingle! Plus, you don’t have to cook a full dinner – appetizers are fun and can often be made (or ordered) ahead.