11 Ways To Ensure You're The Perfect Guest At Thanksgiving Dinner
Gone are the days when you sat at the kids’ table with your favorite cousins, played tag around your dad’s knees as your parents watched football or “helped” your mom do the dishes.
Grown-up Thanksgiving can look all kinds of ways.
Maybe you’re already comfortably nestled in with your partner, or maybe you've started your own family.
But for most of us, Thanksgiving will mean being a guest at someone else’s banquet, praying somehow, we will be able to steal just a fraction of the awesome singleton happiness we drool over while watching “Friends” reruns.
Whether you’ve cobbled together your own Friendsgiving, are meeting a significant other’s family for the first time or are hanging with coworkers at a restaurant, here are some ideas to help you become the perfect Thanksgiving guest.
Just because you’re not at the kids' table anymore, it doesn’t mean you can’t play well with others and have fun at the same time.
1. Bring wine.
Unless you’re going to celebrate Thanksgiving with your AA group, bring wine.
Assigned to bring dessert? Bring wine.
Told you don’t have to bring anything because your host “has everything covered?” It doesn’t matter; bring wine.
No one hates wine.
Do they? Whatever, bring wine for yourself.
By bringing extra wine, you’ll be bringing extra joy for everybody to share.
2. Brush up your party tricks.
Unless you’re with your besties, chances are, you’ll be sitting around the table with some people you don’t know.
So brush your teeth extra good, practice your smile and spend some extra time flexing your brain.
Get yourself in the holiday spirit, and rev yourself up for mingling.
If you’re shy or tired, you can even cheat by thinking up some conversation-starting questions ahead of time.
Dust off one of your funniest stories from camp.
3. Be prepared to contribute to the conversation.
Open your mind and be curious about the people with whom you’ll share your meal.
You may just make some awesome new friends.
4. Do football stuff.
Don’t know anything about football? Neither do I.
But don’t panic.
Check out this cheat sheet, and do some simple pre-game pre-gaming to make sure you’ll be able to at least halfway understand what people are talking about.
Maybe do some vocal warm-ups, so you can join in while everybody else is cheering.
5. Learn everybody's name.
I suck at learning names.
Even though I have met most of the people I’ll be seeing at Thanksgiving, I guarantee I will be spending a good 10 minutes beforehand going through mental flashcards.
Aunt Jamie? Childhood best friend Carlos' wife Sarah? Her brother Craig? Roommate Steven?
If you can learn a little about your fellow guests beforehand, you’ll be able to circumvent some awkward moments at the table.
6. Bring food.
It’s always great to contribute food. Even Trader Joe's brownie bites are sure to make a splash.
I’ve been to Friendsgivings where food assignments were figured out ahead of time, and I’ve been to Thanksgivings where people were told not to bring anything.
You know something? Everyone seems to appreciate it when a guest brings a food offering, whether or not it gets used.
It really is the thought that counts.
7. Bring a gift for your hosts.
This may seem old-fashioned, but who doesn’t like a small, sweet gesture like this?
It’s usually the best thing to do.
Unless it’s just you and your roommates, your host has probably done a lot of planning and deserves some appreciation.
It can be something tiny like a Starbucks gift card, flowers or the wine we talked about before.
It’s a simple way to thank your host for his or her generosity in saving you from eating Chinese takeout alone in your tiny apartment.
Need help thinking of something? Emily Post has lots of great advice.
8. Be timely.
Your hosts have probably been working hard to get ready, so don’t stress them out by being early or late.
Cooking takes scheduling, people. Respect the turkey.
9. Keep it clean.
Remember when we used to be graded for our ability to “play well with others?”
Thanksgiving is a chance for you to let those old manners shine.
Group situations, especially with strangers, require our best and kindest behavior.
Remember: Everyone is there to be thankful and enjoy a wonderful holiday together.
Brotherly love, people.
So watch your language, avoid controversial topics and drink just the right amount of alcohol.
Don't say anything more.
I know, I know. But trust me, this makes it better for everyone.
Thanksgiving is not the time to start a revolution.
10. Be present.
So far, so good.
You’re sitting at your spot, buttering your roll. You’ve been telling your new friend Mike all about the time your dog treed a bear outside your bedroom window.
Now, it’s time to listen. Let Mike have a turn, for goodness sake.
Part of being a great guest (and a great human) is giving the people around you the space to be themselves.
Let others share their stories or talk about their lives.
Ask questions, but let people answer.
Put away your phone. Talk to the other humans.
11. Give thanks.
Thanksgiving is about being thankful.
The food is awesome, but take some time to find something to appreciate in all the people around you.
Be ready to share something you are thankful for with others.
Something interesting happens when we take a second to be thankful on purpose and say it out loud.
Turn your thankful thoughts into thankful words, and everyone wins.
Whether you are with old or new friends, family or strangers, Thanksgiving dinner can be an amazing time.
It doesn't matter whether you’re shy or outgoing.
These ideas can help you rock Thanksgiving dinner like a pro.
So, enjoy your Thanksgiving, whatever it may look like. I'm sure we can all find a lot to be thankful for.
Want extra perfect guest ideas? Check out Vanity Fair’s handy writeup of Emily Post wisdom for the perfect dinner party.