Here's a tip from our own experience in throwing many dinner parties and holiday meals. If you are able to, set the table the night before! Here's why we like to do it. First of all, there is often a lot of work that goes into a beautiful table. We like to have flowers, candles, and perhaps a tablecloth or placemats. Figuring out how all that is going to look and setting it up takes more time than you think it will, and having it done ahead of cooking gives you one less thing to worry about. It ensures that there will be a beautiful table all set up when people walk in. There's nothing worse than running around putting flowers in a vase while welcoming guests!
Also, there's something psychologically very helpful for us in knowing that the end is literally in sight! As we cook and bake, the table is right there, all ready. There's nothing to do last-minute when the guests arrive, and when they walk in they'll see a table all set and ready.
And finally, we also like to bring out our serving dishes, make sure we know which dish is going where, and that we have enough room on the table for everything! We also set some place aside for appetizers, and have a tray of something ready in the fridge for right when guests arrive. This gives us peace of mind while whirling around the kitchen doing eight things at once: at least the table is set, and there will be nibbles when guests get here.
Of course, some apartments and homes don't have a separate dining room, and you may be eating buffet-style. We still think there are many things you can to prep. Even just little things, like pulling the plates out of the cupboard and stacking them on a sideboard can help, psychologically. Pull out your wineglasses and make sure they're dusted; count your silverware and make sure you have enough.
What do you do the night before (or morning of) to help you get ready for a dinner party?
More on de-stressing Thanksgiving dinner:
• Five Things You Can Do Right Now to Get Ready for Thanksgiving
• Cooking for a Crowd: How To Cook a Stress-Free Feast
• A Low-Stress Thanksgiving: Recipes, Tips, and Advice
(Image: Faith Durand)