Having been an event planner for over a decade, I am going to give you tips that take the fear out of presenting what is possibly one the most stressful meals you will ever make. The delight is in the details and with this 3 step guide, I will have your mother-in-law snapchatting your event before coffee is served.

#1 Prep, Prep, Prep

There is nothing worse than missing your own party because you are stuck in the kitchen. There is no rule that says Thanksgiving has to be prepared ON Thanksgiving. Prepping things like mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy and even cooking the turkey a day ahead of time can save you from running around like a crazy person on Turkey day. Keep the menu simple, if this is your first time preparing the mother of all meals…less is more. I have included a classic sample menu below:

  • Roasted Turkey and Stuffing
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Fresh Rolls
  • Pumpkin Pie and Apple Pie

Pairing Thanksgiving with a nice crisp Riesling or a fruity Pinor Noir can be refreshing and light for the heavy meal. A unique non-alcoholic pairing is a pear nectar iced tea.

#2 Set the Scene

Creating menus, place cards and a charming centerpiece will take your meal from a delicious gathering to an “event”. This is the time to pull out the wedding china that never gets used and polish grandma’s silverware! Start putting together your Pinterest board and clip those Michaels coupons for your perfect table scape. But remember, nothing says special like seasonal florals, either artificial or real. Keep the scents to a minimum so they don’t overpower your food, but a small arrangement of fresh cut flowers coupled with cute autumn accents will create a polished, refined look for your table. (Professional mom, event planner and designer Jennifer Mencuri has included inspiration photos for you to steal!)

#3 Let the fun begin

Creating a fun cocktail hour can be the key to letting you finish up your meal prep and let your guests relax and ease into that food coma that will ensue. A simple cheese and cracker plate set buffet style will welcome guests into your home. Couple this with an amazing self-serve cocktail like apple cider sangria or a bottled spiked cider and let your guests get cozy. While cocktails and cheese are fun, everyone is there for the main course, so dinner should be served 45 minutes to an hour after guest arrival, hangry doesn’t look good on anyone.



yield: SERVES 4-6

total time: 10 MINUTES

prep time: 10 MINUTES


1 bottle (standard size) of pinot grigio
2 1/2 cups fresh apple cider
1 cup club soda
1/2 cup ginger brandy
3 honey crisp apples, chopped
3 pears, chopped


Combine all ingredients together and stir, stir, stir. Refrigerate for an hour or so (or longer!) before serving

Thanksgiving is a special time when families and friends reflect on the year and what matters most. So don’t beat yourself up if you forgot to buy butter for the rolls or if our potatoes are a bit lumpy, it’s the love that counts…and Facebook likes, that matters too!!