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African couple cooking in kitchen

Source: JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty

Whether you’re hosting friends or family, Thanksgiving  can be tough for the same reasons it’s great: it’s all about making an epic experience for your guests. While mass media likes to make folks think the holidays are about purchasing inordinate amounts of foods and stunting on the ‘Gram, we know all of the holidays are really about making people feel thought of and special.  Your goal should be to host that Thanksgiving that makes folks go, “Ahhh,” and start clapping their hands when they start retelling stories of that night.

So how do you make a chill “framily” night epic? A little effort. Here’s what to consider.

Don’t Wing the Menu

Thanksgiving is not the time to cook from your ego. Use recipes. Call up your uncle who burns in the kitchen. Ask some folks in the crew to come over early to split up the cooking duties. You want the food to be delicious, so do whatever it takes to make that happen.

This Ain’t Ya Mama’s House

Your family may have some traditions you like and others you want to update. It’s totally your call. Want to have a Spades tournament or an Insecure marathon?  Do it. There’s just one rule: read your audience. As a host, it’s not just about what you like, it’s about creating moments everyone will love. Do that.

Think Guests First

Inviting two people who used to date. Serving a veggie meal to a room of mostly meat eaters. These are just a few examples of not-so-great ideas. As the host it’s your job to consider what will make the guests happy, and plan accordingly.

Keep the Party Going

This is really important, particularly if you have folks coming in from out of town. Ensure your guests feel taken care of by planning out a menu that includes one new meal each day. For example, Friday is easily leftover and potluck day with guests who are back in town. Food shouldn’t be the only thing on your mind. Create a list of things folks can choose to do in the city (museums, bars, movies, etc…) so there are options before cabin fever sets in.

It’s Okay to Play Games

Spades. Taboo. Monopoly. Dominos. What are the games you know your people enjoy? Make sure you have a deck of cards (or two) on hand, plus two to three board games to give people options throughout the evening.

Invest in Neutral Flatware

Nothing says second rate like paper plates at a  small affair. If you’re hosting  six people or less, run to a store and pick up some flatware. It adds a touch of class and makes the day feel special. If you can’t do plates be sure to get wine glasses for toasts.

Issa Vibe

Your playlist is everything. Not only will it keep you moving while you’re cooking and cleaning, it helps set the vibe when guests arrive. Create your own playlist and check out CASSIUS’picks.

Kiddie Corner

Consider ALL of your guests, even the one who can’t advocate for themselves. If babies or toddlers are coming identify a safe nap area. If grade schoolers will be in attendance think of games or movies that will entertain them and ask their parents to bring some stuff. Also make sure you have non-alchoholic beverages—kids can’t drink coquito.

Make it ‘Gram Gold

Want to catch everyone at the table playing Taboo? Make a mental list of  some of the moments you want everyone to remember, then designate two people to take pictures of the night—all of your focus should be on hosting.

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