Easy Ways to Be a Great Holiday Hostess

Last week, Brad the Boo and I hosted our first-ever Thanksgiving!

I love to host, but this time, I was feelin’ BEAT. Between a loaded fall schedule of speaking across the country and having just returned from hosting Bossed Up Bootcamp in LA,  I wanted the holiday to be as restful as possible.

But all the messages I see about being “the hostess with the mostest” can set seriously unrealistic expectations for how perfect a party I wanted to throw. So instead of falling into that “martyr mindset” trope of being the harried career woman killing myself to pull off our Thanksgiving meal, I set out to make the most of doing the least.

On Instagram, I asked for advice on how to making hosting Thanksgiving an enjoyable event, not an overwhelming one. Here’s what I ended up acting on – and have to say, I’m pleased with the results! I had a delightful Thanksgiving Day that left me basking in gratitude when all was said and done.

Send chic but simple e-invites

I love the formality of sending a proper invitation, but there’s no way I’m using snail mail for those purposes. Plus, the organizer in me always wants a clear headcount without having to chase people down via text.

That’s why I’m partial to Paperless Post, my absolute favorite online e-invites site that has tons of beautiful free e-card options! Here’s what my simple invite looked like this year:

Thanksgiving Invite

Ask for help at home

Last week I was dreading the most central component of preparing a Thanksgiving meal: figuring out how the heck to roast a turkey. I am not a huge meat-eater as it is, and I recently failed at an attempted chicken roast, which came out terribly undercooked. So the idea of preparing and cooking a bird big enough to feed 10 stressed me out.

That’s when I realized something: Brad and I were both equally uninformed when it came to pulling this off. So, I reasoned, why do I have to learn how to do this? Why can’t he?

So when I flew home from Bossed Up Bootcamp in LA to find Brad had already done the shopping for Thanksgiving and there was a turkey in the fridge, it was the perfect opportunity to talk about him taking the lead on bird duty. He was up for the task, so I handed him the recipe my mom sent me the week before. Brad followed the recipe, including brining the turkey overnight.

On the day of, we split up house-cleaning duties (I took on the kitchen and cleaning the floors in our main area of the house, while Brad took on picking up the bedroom and deep-cleaning the bathroom), and then while Brad worked on the turkey, I made pies. Splitting things up meant we both even had time to squeeze in a quick backyard workout before our guests arrived at 2pm.

At the end of the day, asking for help early and often set us both up with a manageable TO DO list on turkey day, and meant we had time to actually enjoy the holiday, too.

Potluck it

Speaking of asking for help, our Thanksgiving meal also came together seamlessly because I asked for help from our friends, too.  Whether you’re hosting family or, like in our case, a “friendsgiving,” opting for a potluck approach to pulling off the big meal together is always a-ok in my book.

We all touched base in the week leading up to Thanksgiving and everyone volunteered what dishes they were willing to bring, along with bringing their own beverages of choice.

While Brad and I supplied the turkey, a few pies, a simple gravy, and cranberry sauce, our guests brought all the rest! We ended up with a delightful spread that everyone was proud of:

Use what you have

When it comes to holiday decor, I’m all about keeping things simple while chic.

I’m all about giving myself a Food Network-esque challenge: to use whatever’s in the “mystery basket” that is my house! I had a few white pumpkins and tall tapered candles still on hand from our Halloween cocktail party, and no one cared that they were black – they added a little flicker of sparkling light all the same!  I also used a leftover slice of raw-edge oak tree that Brad had cut for our DIY wedding decor and paired it with a simple glass vase I had on hand from the dollar store for our centerpiece.

The only thing I purchased up for our tablescape was a$2.50 bouquet of not-perfectly-fresh flowers I snagged on sale at my local grocery store. With a little clipping and pruning, this bouquet went a long way to add a fresh pop of color to my simple setting, and I loved that it had enough greenery included to add a cute little sprig on everyone’s plate.

We kept the rest of the table super simple, using our everyday white plates and flatware, clear glasses, and white paper napkins I had leftover from a party we hosted this summer. Busting out the fancy china or silver is nice if you have the option, but going without goes completely unnoticed – and makes clean-up a breeze, too!

I’m pretty pleased with how it all came out, especially considering the total dollar amount spent was less than 3 bucks!

Remember that done is better than perfect

Now, my holiday hosting skills were far from perfect, but I felt so grateful for not rushing around the house, or feverishly trying to finish things up after my guests had arrived. By splitting things up and keeping it simple, both Brad and I were able to be fully present with our friends this holiday. That’s what I’m striving for all season long.

Did my pies come out looking as pristine as their prototypes in the NYT Cooking section? Hell, no. Although I loved trying out a few new recipes, my “ombre” apple pie‘s visual effect was rendered null by the cinnamon sugar coating on top, which turned the whole thing brown – doh!  But who cares?! They tasted delicious and were done in time for me to relax and stay present with our guests. And hey, a dollop of fresh whipped cream makes any pie picture-perfect in my opinion.


At the end of the day, I’m all about embracing the Danish principle of hygge when hosting this holiday season. According to the official Visit Denmark page, “hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people.” It’s about enjoying life’s simple pleasures, not sweating over making your home look Pinterest-perfect.

Hosting Thanksgiving for the first time was a daunting task, but when we tackled it together, it left Brad and I oozing with gratitude and full of warm-and-fuzzy feelings:

How can you simplify things this holiday season?

How can you delegate and ask for help so that all that holiday hustle isn’t falling on your shoulders alone? And how can you prioritize spending quality time with loved ones over perfecting playing the role of hostess this season? I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions below!

 


Disclaimer: Some of the references above include affiliate links, which means at no cost to you, I may earn money when you click through to make purchase.

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Emilie Aries is an internationally-recognized speaker, podcaster, writer, and the Founder & CEO of Bossed Up.

Learn more and book Emilie to speak at your next event at wwwEmilieAries.com