countdown to turkey day: set up to serve

countdown_serve titleIt’s that time, modern housewives.  Time to plan the great feast of the year while juggling a full-time workload packed with print deadlines and preparing for house guests.  I know it’s not just me, so let’s do this thing together!  Check out the first post in this series here, followed by menu and schedule tips, and list-making.

Now that you know what you’re cooking, have a prep schedule in place and shopping lists written, let’s talk about serving dishes and platters.  Further, how to serve without stress.

While this part will be one of the last things you actually execute, it helps to plan ahead.

You’ve probably already taken inventory of what you have, what you want to purchase, and what you might borrow from a friend.  And hopefully, you’ve listed what you plan to use for each step of every menu item as well as how you want to decorate your table and party space.  You’re already halfway there.

On Wednesday:

  • Decorate and set the table
  • Lay out your serving dishes with the appropriate utensils.  Label each set with a sticky note.  This way, anyone can help you out on Thursday by grabbing the correct platter.
  • If you’re serving buffet style, arrange your dishes at this point.  This will eliminate the last-minute shuffle of trying to fit everything in a way that makes sense.  All you have to do is say, honey, can you grab the dish for the potatoes please?  Honey can bring it to you, hold it while you carefully scoop all of the spuds into the bowl, and then put it right back where he found it.  And so on.
  • On the other hand, if you are dining family-style, remember to set aside clean towels or pot holders for passing the smokin’ hot platters of food.

The photo above shows a the beginning stages of setting up for service at a bridal shower I hosted a couple of years ago.  Instead of sticky notes, I placed the display cards/labels with each dish. These were all arranged the night before the event.  That is your goal for Thanksgiving.

Other things to consider:

  • Lay out the buffet in a way that flows, using varying heights (utilize those cake stands and tiers).
  • Speaking of varying heights, it’s nice to add visual interest to your table scape, but be careful not to overcrowd the area or block your guests’ line-of-sight of one another.
  • Make sure your coffee pot and tea kettle are clean and available for use as guests wake up, arrive for the feast or want a warm after-dinner beverage.
  • Purchase disposable to-go containers if you plan to send people home with leftovers, and set them out nicely near the food so you don’t forget about them. ;)
  • While you’re setting up the table and serving areas, it’s a good time to think about your playlist.  Find one on Spotify or create your own; either way, just make sure the tunes are on before your first guest arrives.  No one likes showing up to a quiet party!

TALK BACK: Any other Thanksgiving prep questions?  Leave a comment or use #xoturkey on social media.  You might inspire one of my upcoming posts.


xo, mh


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