If you're nervous about hosting Thanksgiving dinner, follow my friends-and-family holiday guide. It's failproof.
Dress code: Thanksgiving is a casual, fun-filled day, so "smart casual" is the way to go: slacks, sweaters, comfortable clothes to allow for extra helpings of turkey and carbs.
Mix up the guests: Family tension can run high during the holidays, so mix it up by inviting friends as well. This way everyone will be on his or her best behavior. If you have several guests who don't know the family or one another, make sure you introduce everyone. Break the ice for them and make sure there is never a conversational lull.
Divide and conquer: It's too much to expect a host to cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner on his or her own. The host should be in charge of the main course and libations, and have a list ready to divide he side dishes and desserts among the guests who offer to bring something.
Leftovers: Plan for ample food so you can pack small portions of leftovers for your guests. Now that's a care package!
Seating: Especially if you invite newbies, have a seating plan in place. It's best to seat introverts next to out-going guests and older people next to younger ones. Grandparents usually enjoy sitting with the younger set. Always split up couples if there is more than one table, unless they're newlyweds or just dating.
Help is on the way: Give out turkey tickets to all guests: a slip of paper listing a task for the dinner to ensure that everyone has a role, kids and adults alike. At our home, it can be anything from making sure the nut bowls are kept filled to maintaining the fire in the fireplace.
Music: In all the commotion, music may not always be heard, but it's still a great idea to make the party festive. Try the sounds-of-the season station or easy-listening music.
Guest towels: Make sure that your bathroom is stocked with guest towels and plenty of tissue. This is a good turkey-ticket task.
Extra serving accessories: Double up on salt and pepper shakers, gravy boats, and bread baskets for the table.
To drink or not to drink: Not all of your guests will be drinking alcohol, so be sure to have soft drinks and sparkling water for both adults and kids.
Toasting: When everyone first sits down, offer a welcome toast to signal that means it's okay to being eating. Dessert is the time to give thanks, and it's always fun to go around the table and ask your guests say what they're thankful for.
Children at play: It's a good idea to have fun art projects, games, or movies set up for kids in a room separate from the adults. This will help keep down the boredom and noise levels.
A tip for guests: For the hostess gift, skip the food items and instead think a gift for the kids, such as a DVD, or a magazine or book for the adults to read over the long holiday.
Enjoy the feast, and don't forget to give thanks.
Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert, an on-air contributor, and the author of A Traveler's Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder and CEO of The AML Group (Lisagrotts.com), certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Stanford Hospital to Cornell University and Levi Strauss. She has been quoted by Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on Twitter.com/LisaGrotts and Facebook.com/LisaGrotts.