Each year you vow to make this Thanksgiving easier than the last, and every year you end up spending more time running around the house than enjoying your guests. This year, let’s change that idea, and help you prepare in advance to help you de-stress when you’re guests arrive!  Whether you are entertaining multiple families or you are having a small intimate gathering, Thanksgiving is to be enjoyed by the host/ess too. Here are 10 tips to help you prepare your home, and your meal for a Thanksgiving that will be remembered for years to come.

1.)  Invite your guests now:  While you may have the urge to have an ‘open door’ policy that anyone who wants to drop by on Thanksgiving is welcome, this tends to make for uncertainty in planning. Invite guests now, and set an RSVP date that allows you ample time to invite a few more guests if you’d like. This will help you budget for food, time, chairs… and your nerves.

2.)  Choose your menu well in advance: Depending on if you are having a plated, buffet or potluck dinner, choosing a menu now will leave you feeling relaxed on Thanksgiving Day. Consider going through family traditional recipes in your cookbooks, or visiting your favorite food blog, or website for ideas. If choosing a potluck, plan out a list of what type of food you’d like guests to bring and advise them once they accept the invitation.

3.)  Plan your holiday table: This step can be hard for some and easier for others. Whether you prefer a formal dining experience or you will go with a casual dinner, plan table linen, dinnerware, seats, and serving ware now. If you need to shine silver flatware, do it now and not on Thanksgiving morning!

4.)  Enlist some help: While we all would like to take the honor of making and planning the entire Thanksgiving feast, the reality is that help can make for a smoother run meal. Ask friends, families, and neighbors for help in advance. If your uncle is good at cutting the Thanksgiving turkey, ask him if he can come by 30 minutes before your guests to cut and plate it. Older kids and teenagers can help bring out chairs, and take guests jackets as they arrive. Remember, you shouldn’t have to do everything.

5.)  Consider a catered meal: In our busy lives, often times spending the hours required to cook the Thanksgiving meal isn’t realistic with our hectic schedules. If time and energy is scarce, consider having a local restaurant cater your meal. If you’d prefer a more casual solution, many family restaurants offer Thanksgiving meals that you can order in advance, or you can order sides a la carte in the restaurant to bring home. Believe it or not, once you bring your food home, and serve it in your beautiful dinnerware, no one will ever know the difference.

6.)  Cook in advance and freeze: Use these days leading up to Thanksgiving to your advantage. Many vegetable side dishes, and casseroles can be made in advance and kept in the freezer until ready to thaw for Thanksgiving dinner. Desserts are another dish that can be made now, and brought over to a friends potluck dinner, without you looking like you just slaved over a hot stove all day upon arriving!

7.)  Ensure there is enough space in your home: After receiving RSVP acceptance from your guests, ensure there is plenty of space, tables, chairs, and mingle area for all. If you live in a smaller home, consider renting chairs or tables just for the night, without having to invest in furniture. Consider covering rented chairs with formal slipcovers for a beautiful addition to your holiday table and decor.

8.)  Prep your kitchen: After you have planned the meal, prep your kitchen with plenty of serving utensils, and plan where the food will be served. For those that have a large kitchen, this step maybe straightforward, while those with smaller kitchens should make food stations around the kitchen for ease of serving and guests finding what they need easily and without asking you where items are.

9.)  Plan entertainment: While many families have enough entertainment in the family logistics already, plan for alternate entertainment for guests to enjoy.  If inviting children have a tv, playroom, or coloring book activities out of the mainstream area of adults gathering. For adults, consider having music, and other entertainment on hand for everyone to enjoy while mingling.

10.)  Enjoy your guests: While this step isn’t about preparation, it is more important than the others. The holidays only come around once a year, and Thanksgiving is a time to cherish those around you, and give thanks for having loved ones near.

Use these helpful tips to prepare for your Thanksgiving holiday meal and home. Remember, every detail doesn’t have to be thought of, keep an open mind, and be flexible in your plans. After all, life happens and unforeseen holiday challenges may arise. Either way, prepare yourself for a grand event; your guests will enjoy your company and your enjoyable Thanksgiving meal and thoughtfulness.