We’re taking an informal poll: If you could steal anyone’s hostess skills for just Thanksgiving, whose would it be? We’d be willing to bet our entire stock of Peppermint Bark that you said Martha Stewart. Right?! Look, we get it… and we’re here to help! Not only have we teamed up with Martha to launch a complete holiday meal, which you can order and have delivered right to your door, we also chatted with her to get her best tips for hosting a hungry crowd.
Here’s how Martha would do it.
1. Ask guests about special diets well in advance.
“You may have sworn you knew who was vegetarian and who wasn’t, but it’s always safe to be prepared,” Martha says. Before you even start planning your menu, ask every confirmed guest (or a representative from each family) if there are any allergies or dietary restrictions. “This way, you won’t find yourself having spent hours on your aunt’s sausage stuffing —complete with creamy gravy! — only to realize your sister’s family is vegan after all.”
2. Cook as much as possible ahead of time.
Plan your menu so that it’s full of dishes that can be prepped before Turkey Day. This way, “on Thanksgiving, you’re largely roasting or reheating, not chopping, measuring — and missing out on quality time with your newly minted sister-in-law or parents!”
3. Do the decorations in advance, too.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to start making custom rubber stamps or learning how to use a hot glue gun. Martha’s idea for Thanksgiving decorations is simple: You just need flowers and pumpkins. “Floral décor always looks beautiful in the cozy colors of fall,” she says. “Buy a variety of pumpkins, gourds, and cut flowers ahead of time. Create your arrangements up to two days in advance and keep them refrigerated.” Before guests arrive, take the arrangements outs and give them an extra fluff or two. Scatter vases and various pumpkins around the tables. Note: If your fridge is too full, your garage is probably the perfect temperature.
4. Think of your home in “zones.”
Guests always seem to gather in the kitchen and Thanksgiving is no different. But you’re probably going to need all that space and you definitely won’t want an audience. Get people out of the kitchen and moving throughout the house by setting up zones: “To help greet your guests (and get the party started!) a drinks station is essential,” says Martha. “Plus, a bar cart is the perfect spot for serving small bites to nibble on, and displaying pops of autumnal décor.” Serve the Big Meal in the dining room and then offer coffee and dessert in the living room (“To keep the party flowing — and to avoid food comas!” Martha says).
5. Plan out your timing.
Decide what time you want to serve Thanksgiving dinner — when you’ll be hungry and when you realistically think you’ll be ready by. And then work backwards from there to figure out when things need to go in the oven. As for when to tell guests to arrive, tell them to come one hour before you plan on serving. “This allows for anyone who may be running a little late, as well as some time to mingle,” Martha says.
6. Send everyone home with a treat.
If you want to go above and beyond (you are channeling Martha Stewart, after all!), send each guest home with a prepackaged slice of pie. Line paper boxes with parchment and fill each one with a slice. “Garnish with sprigs of wheat, dried or faux berries, and raffia. And don’t forget the fork.”