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Fire roasted sweet potatoes can be made ahead to make Thanksgiving Day easier on the host.

Maura Friedman

These fire roasted sweet potatoes can be made early to help make Thanksgiving Day easier on the host.


Tips for hosting your first Thanksgiving

In the bi-weekly content series The New Southern Hospitality, I'll be exploring the old and new traditions of Southern hospitality, what qualities and behaviors make us unique and, of course, tips and ideas on how to be the ultimate hospitable Southern host or hostess.

I’m hosting Thanksgiving at my house for the first time this year. With my immediate family and my husband's, the guest count should round out at 12 people, not including my 9-month-old son, which is the primary reason we’re hosting Thanksgiving, in addition to being centrally located between families. 

We bought our house in the summer of 2016, and since then we’ve been buying furniture, decorating and making the home feel like ours. I confess that I’ve certainly upped my tabletop, kitchen and home decor game since volunteering to host Thanksgiving, and my husband Josh is fervently working on refinishing a butcher block table we’ve had in storage for years, so we have enough seating come Thanksgiving Day. 

Full disclosure: we are having a potluck-style Thanksgiving, with every member of the family assigned to a few dishes (yes, I sent out a very detailed email with everyone’s assignments). Still, I’m feeling the hostess heat, so I turned to our readers and friends to give me some tips, tricks and advice on hosting Thanksgiving for the first time … and they are good.

Whether you’re hosting for the first or the fifteenth time, I think these tips for hosting Thanksgiving will come in handy, so grab the wine, chill the pie and have a happy Thanksgiving, y’all! 

Keep it simple! You don’t need a ton of sides; a cheese board and wine is an easy app that can sit out for a while and everyone likes it. - Clare Marshall

Prep as much the day before so it’s mostly heating up. Also, try buying the oven-safe, throw-away casserole dishes to cut down on clean up time. - Fraser Smetts

Delegate! I made the mistake of asking others to bring what they wanted to and I got generous offers for bread and cranberry sauce. - Caroline Cayce

If you’re doing a couple of signature drinks, print out instructions and have ingredients ready. Then, have people make that when they come over. They’ll still contribute and it won’t stress you out! - Iche Wallace

Set the table ahead of the big day. And make sure you have appropriate platters and bowls, as well as utensils you’ll need. - Suzanne Salvatore

Embrace your slow cooker. -Ashley Diamond Sieger

Start the day with the dishwasher emptied and the sink cleaned. Dishes pile up FAST when cooking for a crowd, and a cluttered messy kitchen stresses me out. - Kristin Bernhard

Make some sides that don’t have to be hot, so you don’t have to worry about oven space too much. - Lauren Zarzour

Type up your recipes. You know them by heart, but on the day of ... it’s best just to just have them written down. Plus, you can make notes for what works and what doesn’t directly on the printed recipe for next year.  - Kate Altmix

If you polish silver, toothpaste works great in a pinch with warm water if you don't have polish handy. - Beth McKibben

Depending on how many guests you’re having and your seating arrangements, you might do a buffet. If doing a buffet, think of traffic flow and try to make it U-shaped so traffic can keep moving. I use my stove top as part of the flow for things I want to keep warm. - Katherine Leschper

GRAVY. - Evan Mitz

Have extra containers on hand for guests to bring home leftovers. - Marina White

In our house everyone cooks something … that collective effort is so the spirit of Thanksgiving, and everyone enjoys the compliments! - Nancy Butler 

Do as much prep work as you can beforehand so you can relax and actually enjoy the holiday with your family and friends. - Penney Goodman 

Thanks to everyone for the tips — let us know how your Thanksgiving goes by tagging us on social and using the hashtag #mysouthernkitchen 

Visit the Shoppe at Southern Kitchen for holiday gifts and more.

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Ashley Twist Cole is the former editor-in-chief of Southern Kitchen. She was also an on-air personality on our podcast, Sunday Supper. Ashley rarely makes the same recipe twice and loves to experiment in the kitchen. After graduating from UGA, she spent several years working in digital strategy for brands including Chick-fil-A, Nike and Coca-Cola. Prior to joining Southern Kitchen, she was the manager of AccessAtlanta, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s things to do and entertainment brand, where she fell in love with Atlanta’s dining scene. Ashley will travel almost anywhere for a good meal and great cocktail, but her favorite place to be is in her own kitchen with her husband Josh and son Whit, trying new recipes and mixing up cocktails.