This is going to be the year. You’re not going to overcook the turkey. You’re not going to forget the mashed potatoes. Everyone is going to arrive on time. Uncle Brett is not going to say something politically provocative. Ok, the last one is inevitable, but when it comes to the minefield of family holidays, it is actually possible to plan and prepare. Let’s look at the essential steps to planning a successful Turkey Day.
1. Schedule everything
The absolute key to ensuring an enjoyable Thanksgiving is preparation and diligent timing. Start by figuring out when guests should arrive. Maybe people are coming in from out of town and you need to work around flights and airport pickups. Whatever the case, it’s best to get an idea of when people will arrive (whether you set a time or work around their schedules).
Next, you’ll want to work backwards from this information to see when you should start preparing the food. Preparation methods and scale will vary, but cooking turkeys is invariably a multi-hour behemoth.
The good news is that many event planning apps will make this process incredibly easy. Take advantage of the scheduling and itinerary tools to organize and layout your plan. You could also send surveys to guests to get an idea of arrival time, what dishes people are bringing, and who can help out in the kitchen.
2. Plan the menu around your schedule
This might sound counter-intuitive, but the number of guests and arrival times will drive your menu choices. Turkey is a staple, but if you have limited time to cook, you may want to focus on this key dish and forego the 19 side plates you had previously planned. There’s no need to be up at 3am just to get in an extra side of green beans or cauliflower.
This is where the previous step comes in to play. Since you have an idea of when people are arriving and what they’re bringing, it should be easy to come up with an achievable and satisfactory menu for the evening. Additionally, you could use your event app to schedule the timing of meal prep. This can be helpful as it keeps guests in the loop, encourages assistance, and keeps you on track.
3. Send the itinerary to your guests
Following off of the previous step, you need to communicate all of the details to your guests. When to arrive, who’s organizing the family football game, when to expect dinner, etc. This is an essential, but often overlooked step. Many families take a laissez-faire approach and, while definitely more low-key, leads to tons of questions like “when’s dinner ready” and your weird cousin Mike showing up at 7:15am.
4. Accept that everything will change
Seriously, with Thanksgiving it’s incredibly difficult to keep a perfect schedule. Don’t sweat it if you’re a little behind or something doesn’t turn out quite like Grandma used to make it. Everything will be OK. Just the fact that you’ve communicated with your guests and created a schedule will help keep you on track and keep your guests happy and engaged.
5. Create a seating chart (optional)
While not strictly necessary, if you’re concerned about political disputes or other interpersonal problems at the dinner table, a seating chart can be a classy and covert way to preempt potential issues. What’s more, many event planning apps make it easy to assign guests to particular spots and even visualize the space so you can see just how close in proximity your familial troublemakers are.
Scratch everything beforehand. This is the most important step.
So, hopefully you’ve followed these steps and considered using an event planning app to improve your Thanksgiving experience. It may seem strange to get specific with planning and scheduling for a family event, but don’t underestimate how impactful these easy steps can be.