I was chatting with girlfriends earlier this week about how we are ready to enjoy Halloween and then move on (doesn’t it feel like the lead-up to Halloween has lasted forever this year?) to the cozy, heartwarming, sentimental holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thanksgiving is a month away so, believe it or not, it’s time to start prepping for Thanksgiving, especially if you are hosting. This post is a bit of a helpful how-to to set you up for a successful month of prepping for Thanksgiving. Follow along, and you’ll avoid any last minute holiday chaos. Plus, if you live in Charleston or will be celebrating the holiday here, then keep reading for a guide to Thanksgiving in the Holy City.
Prepping for Thanksgiving
The key to hosting a successful Thanksgiving is prepping ahead of time and delegating. Preparation is everything. As an adult with a family of my own now, I can reflect back on so many Thanksgivings when, year after year, my mother so effortlessly mulled spices throughout the house and executed a huge meal, a beautiful table design, and a week of fun for us children while we weren’t in school. She did it all with a delicious fall cocktail in her hand and while dressing beautifully for the family occasion with a wrist full of jangling gold bangles.
Watching my mother and thinking about all the work she put in every year – work children are so utterly unaware of – makes me admire her and so many other mother figures in my life. I think the key to my mom’s success is that she never ever sweats the small stuff. She focuses on preparation and then rolls with the punches. She never lets something like hosting Thanksgiving (a huge undertaking!) become too serious that it takes the fun out of it. So, here are some tricks of the trade…
Set the Tone For The Day
Unlike many dinner parties, Thanksgiving doesn’t call for invitations. So, be in touch with your guests a few weeks out about the tone you are setting for the day. Will it be a fanciful evening affair or a cozy afternoon gathering? What is your timing for day – do you serve a noon Thanksgiving, a mid-afternoon Thanksgiving, or a dinnertime Thanksgiving? That often dictates the dressiness of the event and the tone for the holiday as well. Prepping guests on timing ahead of time also prevents the host from having guests arrive early, created an over-crowded kitchen.
What will your menu be? The menu of Thanksgiving is the most important part of the day and everyone has their own strong beliefs about it. Do you serve green beans almandine or a green bean casserole? Do you bake marhsellows with your sweet potatoes? And do you candy your carrots or roast them? Do you serve cornbread dressing or apple stuffing? Is dessert pumpkin pie or pecan pie (P.S. If you aren’t baking your own pies or ordering locally, then I suggest this pie shop for your pie ordering. The founder is fantastic! Order Thanksgiving cakes here)? My mother can’t imagine a Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce while my brother can’t imagine a Thanksgiving without a corn soufflé.
If my sister isn’t involved in making traditional mashed potatoes, it might as well not be Thanksgiving at all. My family never served mac & cheese at Thanksgiving but Edwin’s did and now he contributes it every year when we are in Charleston for Thanksgiving. Everyone is so sentimental about Thanksgiving so it’s important to honor that and share your menu with your guests early, giving them an opportunity to pipe up if they want to contribute a dish that holds sentimental value to them.
Review Your Serveware, Dinnerware, Glassware, Flatware, Tables, and Chairs
A hugely easy way to minimize week-of-Thanksgiving stress is to take inventory of your serveware, dinnerware, glassware, flatware, tables, and chairs at the beginning of November. Cross reference this with your guest list headcount to make sure you are prepared. Consider if your dining room table is large enough or if you need to rent extra tables and chairs.
Similarly, it is a fantastic idea to pull out all of your serveware and label what it will be used for. Our downtown Charleston house doesn’t have the largest kitchen or very much storage so we don’t have an excess of serving pieces. The last thing a host wants is to not have a large enough platter for the turkey or enough dishes for all of the sides. I recommend pulling out all of your serveware and labeling each dish and platter with what you will serve on it/use it for. This little task of prepping for Thanksgiving will take you 15 minutes one morning and will save you from middle of the night wonderings about if you are forgetting anything. This also allows you to see what serveware you have left over that can be utilized for any dishes that guests bring over in tupperware.
Set the Table Early
When it comes to hosting, one of the best pieces of advice my mom has ever given to me is to set the table ahead of time. Prepping for Thanksgiving takes on so many layers and cooking the beautiful meal takes hours so why not give the food an inviting stage – a gorgeous, thoughtful table setting that is. In my experience, setting the table 1-2 days beforehand sets a festive tone in your house and gives you all the time in the world to make it a fun, creative process. Below, I set what I think of as the perfect Thanksgiving table for you. All you need is flowers (more on flowers below).
I love the idea of adding these thankful cards to every guests place setting. They are great conversation starters as well.
Prepare Ahead of Time for Littles
Does your Thanksgiving include a full house of children running around? The Macey’s Day parade is an entertaining part of the day for littles but, if your kitchen will demand your attention, then be prepared with a few other activities for kiddos. I am obsessed with these surprise balls. A girlfriend of mine gifted them to Rowan and Henry for last Thanksgiving and they were a huge hit (be aware that these sell out so snag them now!). I can also predict these turkey hats eliciting some imaginary play.
Have children color their placemats for the Thanksgiving meal with these adorable coloring placemats. The sensory kits from Young + Wild & Friedman are huge hits in ur house. They have a whole collection of fall kits that are perfect for Thanksgiving. A few more fall sensory kits here: one, two, three, four or get a jump start with holiday sensory kits. These make a turkey face stickers are also creative and entertaining for kiddos. My kids love stickers!
Thanksgiving In Charleston
If you are a Charleston local or are traveling to Charleston for the Thanksgiving holiday, then I wanted to share a few local vendors I love and recommend for Thanksgiving products. I have personally used each one of these small businesses and think they all add so much to our vibrant community.
Ordering the Turkey:
We like to order our turkey from Burbages. They source all natural turkeys that are both antibiotic and hormone free from a farm in North Carolina. Burbages can do no wrong in my book.
Contact Katie for the best cheddar scallion biscuits you’ve ever had in your life. Katie releases a limited Thanksgiving menu comprised of some of her greatest hits on Instagram (deviled eggs, crostini, ham biscuits, etc.), then you contact her there. Trust me on the cheddar scallion biscuits.
The cutest mother daughter team is behind Anne’s cheese biscuits. They are a staple at every Charleston get-together. Pick up a few tubes and sprinkle them throughout your house Thanksgiving week in little silver bowls and on festive dishes.
Daysie released a brand new simple syrup this fall – you guessed it, a pumpkin spice flavor. It is made from all organic ingredients and is non-GMO so you know you aren’t flooding your body with sugar when adding Daysie to a favorite beverage or recipe. I suggest getting a bottle now to enjoy all month long and to wow your guests with Thanksgiving week. Add a splash to coffee, cocktails, and desserts (I’ve added it when mixing up pumpkin bread mix and it’s a divine addition).
No Thanksgiving week is complete without a delicious cheeseboard. Counter Cheesemongers makes it easy to impress your guests. Every year, they release a Turkey Day Collection of cheeses they recommend for celebrating with friends and family. You can pickup at their shop here but they also ship nationwide. Each cheese sounds better than the last!
I adore Jenny! She catered all the food for Rowan’s third birthday party and absolutely everything was delicious and so thoughtfully prepared. If you need to fill in some gaps in your Thanksgiving menu or if you need help with snacks, food for a cocktail hour, or an extra meal during Thanksgiving week, then I can’t recommend Jenny enough. She also delivers to your house, which is a game changer when hosting!
No local food/catering business is quite the well oiled machine that Hamby is. They have Thanksgiving down to a science! Every year, they release a Thanksgiving package, an appetizer package, and a comprehensive list of a la carte items. If your kitchen isn’t large enough to produce and entire Thanksgiving meal in 1-2 days (aka oven space + oven time is lacking), then I suggest cooking your favorite items and outsourcing a few side to Hamby that enjoy cooking less or that you are less confident at cooking.
Heritage Kitchen does an outstanding job with their catering. I’ve never had anything prepared by them that I didn’t just love. Their doorstep delivery menu changes each month so be sure to check out their November menu for the month’s seasonal offerings. I also love the idea of adding items from their Lowcountry menu to your Thanksgiving to give the meal a Charleston taste.
When ordering flowers for your Thanksgiving table and for around your house Thanksgiving week, I have a few local suggestions that I’ve used and been overjoyed with: Out of The Garden, Flowershop, Feast and Flora, salt and stem, and Swell Botanics
Wardrobe Ideas for Thanksgiving
Below is a Thanksgiving boutique, if you will, full of suggestions for what to wear for Thanksgiving. I’ve included dressier items like fanciful dresses and heels as well as more casual items like cozy kits and chic corduroys. There is something for every type of Thanksgiving celebration with loved ones.