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Creating The Perfect Thanksgiving Meal: Planning & Decorations, Cooking Tips, Table Settings & More

Oct 31, 2019 01:59PM ● By Jessica Bowman
Who wouldn’t love Thanksgiving? It’s the one time a year we can eat our hearts out as our family and friends encourage us to take one more bite. But creating the perfect thanksgiving meal that everyone will enjoy can be stressful. Here I’ll share some tips and resources on creating the perfect thanksgiving dinner to hopefully destress Turkey day.

Party Planning and Decorations

Having Thanksgiving in your own home is a lovely feeling, but depending on how many people you plan on inviting this can get out of hand quickly. If you want to invite more people than your home can hold, consider using your yard, front or back, or simply ask one of the participants if they would allow you to use their home for the party. With a second person, you can even tag team making foods and setting up, that way the task does not fall on one single person.

Give yourself some time to set up for the party as well. Decorating can be half of the point of a party, and there’s no better place to look than right in your neighborhood. In Hanover, there is  Farmhouse Pottery where you can find high-quality bowls and dishes as well as decorative pumpkins that would be a modern-day treat to spruce up any banquet table for a Thanksgiving party. Main Street Kitchens also has great fall table decorations, special cooking equipment, pots, pans, and even beautiful napkins to set your table with.

Once you have your decorations ready, and a place for your parties, you can start planning how you’re going to decorate. Instead of buying a lot of random Thanksgiving décor, it’s better to have a theme and a plan about what will be going where. By doing this you can present your home to your family and friends proudly, impressing them with your ability to think ahead.

Give it a few days for preparations. You’ll need to have a clean house to decorate, start picking up a few days before its time to set up the decorations so you will have more time to focus on what really matters. The food.

Cooking Tips

Food is one of the main reasons we gather on this holiday, aside from sharing our gratitude.  Consider staying local to buy all your produce and food needs rather than headed to the big supermarkets.

Try Cedar Circle Farm & Education Center they are open year-round and have dozens upon dozens of options to choose from as far as produce goes. You can pick up any produce you may need from this farm and be assured that the food was grown locally, and with lots of care assuring its quality.

A quick tip: If you wish to prepare some of your dishes sooner, you can buy your produce and freeze it using instructions and resources from

Table Setting

Once you have your prep work done, next comes setting the table. Table cloths are always a good idea, big dinners can get messy, especially when there’s a lot of people sitting at one table. In addition, a placemat for each plate makes the job easier and allows the party goer to have their own space for eating. Check out ANICHINI for beautiful table cloths, napkins and place settings. 

The first thing to remember is to only set the table with the utensils you will be using, if there is no soup, don’t set soup spoons. No wine? Don’t set any wine glasses. In the middle of the placemat goes the dinner plate. On top of that goes the salad plate and on top of that is the soup bowl. The dinner fork always goes on the left side of the plate, usually on top of the napkin, however, if you aren’t using a soup bowl feel free to place the napkin on top of the plates. The dinner knife sits on the right side, with the sharp edge pointing towards the plate. Then your spoon is with the knife on the right. Above the plate, about where 1 o’clock would be on the face of a clock, is the water glass. A wine glass would go diagonally above that, again still in the 1 o’clock range.

Fun Outside of the Dining Room

Lastly, we have some tips on planning your Thanksgiving Day with friends and family that will make a lasting memory in everyone’s minds and bring you all closer together. Most Thanksgivings I’ve been to have only focused on the dinner, and if you are not hosting the party there is little to do during the day time while you all wait for the time you can gobble some turkey and scarf some side dishes down.

One idea is to get outside for a while with the whole family while the feast is cooking. Plan some family games by bringing picnic blankets, a frisbee or a ball to throw/kick, football, crocket the list could go on and on.

One great place to do this is the Dartmouth Green.  Nathan's Garden on Maple Street is a small botanical garden perfect for limited parties. There is also Storrs Pond Recreation Area which is larger and overall used more frequently, but open year-round to residents. You can even have your family participate in the Annual Zack's Place Turkey Trot earlier in the morning. You can also play games inside that can get the whole family involved in.  Always a classic is scrable, Jenga, card games or even newer games like "heads- up" which can be played using any andriod or iPhone.

By planning not only a dinner but also a family gathering on an open, local space, you’ll be sure to create the perfect Thanksgiving Day that people will remember for years to come. Because there’s nothing better on a day about being grateful than supporting your community by being a part of your community.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! 

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