I have a pretty big family, so Thanksgiving can require a bit of preparation in order to go smoothly. Here are some tips that I hope you find useful in planning your Thanksgiving.

1. Set up your table at least a day before.

Not only will you get to enjoy your festive table setting and table linens for longer, but you’ll also have less to do on Thanksgiving day. If you’re not sure where all of the utensils and tableware go, check out our easy to use Guide to Proper Table Setting.

2. If you’re hosting a large group—consider setting up a buffet.

When you’re already trying to squeeze 12 people around a table that’s really meant for 8, it can be difficult to have all of the food on the table, too. At my family’s larger Thanksgiving dinners, we set up a food buffet in the kitchen, and just keep the most essential items (like bread rolls, cranberry sauce and gravy) on the table. It makes the table feel much less crowded.

BONUS: Serving food can get messy (we all have the relative that always tips something over.) If you set up a buffet in your kitchen or on another table, you can keep some of the mess off of your table linens.

3. Set out place cards so people know where to sit.

If you’ve got more than 5 or 6 people, place cards are an easy way to cut down on confusion. Setting out place cards will also ensure that you have a seat for every guest.

Some tips for Thanksgiving seating arrangements:

  • Sit couples next to or across from each other.
  • Put yourself at a seat close to the room’s exit so that you can leave the table to attend to guests and other host duties.
  • Set up a kids’ table if you don’t have enough room for everyone at your dinner table, but only if there are enough kids in the same age range.

4. Use a family heirloom on the table.

There are a few family heirlooms that only make appearances around my house at the holidays. I find that using family heirlooms at the holidays helps keep those items special without subjecting them to everyday ware and tear. Thanksgiving dinner is our excuse to use the real silverware and to dig out grandma’s gravy boat.

5. Pre-treat stains and wash your table linens ASAP.

Spills are inevitable, and with things like gravy, cranberry sauce, and turkey juice likely to end up on your Thanksgiving table linens, you’ll want to try to pre-treat any stains and wash your table linens as soon as possible.

I hope these tips are helpful and that they make your Thanksgiving dinner this year a memorable one!