In life, there's always a first time, for everything: A first time to get married, have a baby, move out of your parent's home, etc. And one of the most overwhelming first of them all is hosting your first Thanksgiving.

I thought I knew everything there was to know about Thanksgiving, from how to shop for the best turkey to planning the menu. None of the actual cooking, mind you. I’m the guest who usually brings the beverages and the to-go containers as my tangible contribution. It’s safer for all parties involved that I not be near the oven, trust me. But having eaten and planned a lot for Thanksgiving for most of my 31 years, I’ve never been charged with the intimidating task of hosting Thanksgiving in my own home.

On one hand, I can understand the sense of empowerment that comes from conquering your first Thanksgiving and pleasing your in-laws and relatives with how flawlessly you roasted the turkey. But then again, I imagine some (i.e. plenty of) people fall victim to the pressure of being Martha Stewart for the day. I wouldn’t even know where to start with cleaning my home to prepare for guests, much less preparing a meal to meet the expectations of all those sitting around the table with empty plates and bellies. Take it from the girl whose experience with cooking typically follows three steps: Remove frozen dinner from freezer, unwrap, and heat in microwave. Honestly, I don’t know how my mom and all you lovely hosts with the most out there do it year after year.

But now that I’m living further away from my hometown, I've been wondering what to expect and what mistakes to avoid, should I someday soon (def not this year) decide to don my hosting hat for Thanksgiving dinner. I sought out advice from our trusted staffers on what they wish they’d known or done differently. If you’re a first-time host this year, take a deep woosah, roll up your sleeves, and get ready to have the most stress-free, delicious Thanksgiving ever, thanks to these seven simple gems of wisdom.

-Abigail Witt, Assistant Digital Editor, Southern Living


-Sara Tane, Digital Fellow, Cooking Light

-Hayley Sugg, Assistant Digital Editor, Cooking Light

-Ashley Kappel, Digital Content Manager, Cooking Light and MyRecipes

-Emma Crist, Assistant Editor, MyRecipes

-Kathleen Varner, Freelance Assistant Photo Editor, Cooking Light

-Darcy Lenz, Editor, MyRecipes

By Michelle Darrisaw and Michelle Darrisaw