In our house, the more the merrier for Thanksgiving. But as we welcome familiar and new faces alike, it's important to think about what small steps can be taken to make each person feel really at home.
1. Ask Them About Dietary Restrictions Beforehand: There's nothing more awkward than arriving to a dinner, especially Thanksgiving, and not being able to eat much. You don't want the hostess to feel badly; you push around food on your plate for the majority of the evening. Do your new guests a favor and ask if there are certain things they must stay away from. Then plan accordingly.
2. Have Them Contribute: Oftentimes, people are used to bringing a certain dish or may even be known for something in their family. Whether it's their grandmother's pumpkin bread or this veggie antipasti they always do, ask if there's something they usually love to make for Thanksgiving. If there's not, give them a task. While you may not want to burden them on that day, people really do lke to feel needed and want to contribute.
3. Lighten Up: On the blog A Cup of Joe last week, writer Joanna Goddard mentioned how The Barefoot Contessa wears slippers to her dinner parties to make guests feel more comfortable and to make the party seem less of a stuffy affair. While this may be too casual for your Thanksgiving, think about touches that could make your home and the dinner itself seem most comfortable and even casual. At our house, we all change clothes after the meal and go on a long walk. So by the end of the evening, everyone is in jeans and sweaters lounging around on the couch drinking cider or tea. This is my favorite part of the evening.
4. Make an Effort When it Comes to Conversation: New guests probably don't know everyone (or anyone) at the table, so try and facilitate conversation, making connections with your new guests and others: "Henry, did you know that Rick also travels to Northern California for work?" This will get the ball rolling and in no time, they'll be off and running.
5. Be Yourself: All guests, regardless of whether they're returning or brand new, are going to feel most at home if you're at ease. Remember, these are your friends and family, so this is the one time to really settle in and just be yourself. This, in and of itself, will immediately help new guests feel at home.