As Thanksgiving approaches, many of us are packing our bags to spend a weekend at the homes of our family and friends. While it's surely a time for total relaxation and copious feasting, the holiday tends to be quite stressful for the hosts. We tapped Jung Lee, the creative mind behind the N.Y.C.-based home goods store of the same name—and one of the city’s top event planners—for tips on how to be the best possible Thanksgiving guest (and ensure you score an invite to next year’s gathering). Below, her pro tips.
1. Take the classic host gift one step further. Whether it’s a beautiful piece of dishware, a bouquet of flowers, or a homemade pumpkin pie, a gift for your host is a great way to say thank you and start the evening on a positive note. “A good gifter knows who the recipient is, what they love, and what would be a meaningful gift for them,” says Lee. “Host gifts should be personal and thoughtful. One of the ways to do this is to bundle items together. Instead of just bringing a cake plate, go to your favorite bakery and buy the best fresh pastries or baked goods and put them together. Instead of a simple bottle of wine, add some interesting coasters or a really delicious assortment of nuts. People love receiving things that they wouldn’t buy for themselves.” Try filling this modern canister with amaretto cookies (or the host’s favorite candy) to make ‘em smile ($80; jungleeny.com).
2. Dress to impress. Unless the host has deemed the gathering a sweatpants-only affair (a girl can dream), avoid showing up in your everyday attire. Lee says, “I’m always in favor of wearing something that you feel good in, on top of being appropriate for the occasion. In this case, you might want to remember to wear something with a little elasticity around the waistline so you can eat without restraint.”
3. Prepare a short toast. This can be as simple as acknowledging the host’s hard work and expressing your gratitude for having been included. “If a guest is doing a toast at someone’s house, they should always acknowledge the host,” says Lee. “Be gracious and thoughtful. Not everyone can be funny in a toast, but a toast is always well-received when someone speaks from the heart.”
4. Lend a helping hand. Be sure to ask how you can be of assistance. The host may shoo you away, but, according to Lee, it is essential that you offer. “Some hosts really like to do it all on their own—maybe they have a specific way they prepare a dish, or have something special in mind in terms of presentation,” Lee explains. “Personally, I always appreciate when someone offers to help, and I’m usually happy to take them up on it—especially when it comes to big gatherings with friends and family. Part of the fun is everyone pitching in and enjoying the experience together.”
5. Silence your phone. This really goes for any dinner you’ve been invited to, but, put your phone on silent and try your best not to check it throughout the meal. If you think you might be tempted, leave it in your jacket pocket when you hang your coat. “In this fast-paced, schedule-driven world that we live in, it’s important to stop and really connect with the people at the table with you,” Lee says. “Plus, your host has put a lot of time and thought into the occasion—do them the service of giving them your full attention.”
6. Compliment the chef. Don’t forget to let the host know how much you appreciate their food. This one may seem obvious, but it’s easy to get swept away in the deliciousness of buttery mashed potatoes and pecan pie. “The best compliment is specific,” Lee says. “Anyone can say ‘the meal was great’ or ‘what a nice evening’. But when someone tells me details about a dish they like—about a certain spice, or an unexpected flavor, or that they noticed something about the way the table was set that felt really special to them… that means a lot to me.”