The 8 stages of hosting Thanksgiving for the first time (GIFs)

Nov 5, 2015 at 4:00 p.m. ET
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Hosting Thanksgiving for the first time can be stressful, but it can help to know that everyone has the same worries about pulling off the most important meal of the year. Take a deep breath (and perhaps a sip of wine) — you've got this.

You've daydreamed of hosting your friends and family for Thanksgiving, but now that the baton has officially been passed to you and the big day is approaching, you're worried about pulling it off. Luckily you're not alone. Everyone who's ever taken on the task of roasting a turkey has had exactly the same concerns (and even veteran Thanksgiving hosts still have moments of doubt). Here are the stages you'll go through when preparing to host Thanksgiving, and how to cope with some common speed bumps you might encounter on the path to culinary success.

More: 25 Amazing Thanksgiving hacks that will save your meal

Stage 1: Disney princess-level excitement!

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You're beyond excited at the thought of hosting your first Thanksgiving and have no idea where to start. You grab a fresh notepad, check in with your guests about any special diet issues or allergies and start planning a Thanksgiving menu that doesn't include Aunt Carol's lumpy cranberry sauce.

Stage 2: Planning problems

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After you plan your meal, you start to worry about logistics. Where is everyone going to park? Do you have chairs for everyone? How do you make sure you don't run out of food? Start a group text message to set up carpools, and ask around for extra chairs. As for how much food to get, for each appetizer, three to four bites per person should be enough. Buy a bird with 1/2 a pound of turkey per guest, and assume everyone will eat 3/4 cup of both stuffing and mashed potatoes.

Stage 3: Considering decor

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If your Thanksgiving daydreams include a Martha Stewart-inspired tablescape complete with glittering china and hand-painted place cards, then knock yourself out. But if you find yourself running out of time, or if you're the type of person who can't wield a glue gun without someone getting singed, then simple can be beautiful too. Your backyard offers lots of pretty (and free) Thanksgiving decor options, so grab some colorful leaves, and put some pinecones in a glass bowl to make a centerpiece that lets your meal take center stage.

More: 10 Lovely Thanksgiving decorations you can find in your backyard

Stage 4: Game day glitches

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You wake up early Thanksgiving morning to see your cousin just texted to say she's bringing her new boyfriend, and you don't have an extra chair. You realize you completely forgot to buy cranberry sauce. And even though you took it out last night to defrost, the turkey is still frozen. Don't panic! Put down the hair dryer, and submerge that bird breast side down in cold water, swapping out the water every half hour. A 12-pound turkey Popsicle will thaw in around six hours this way. Reply to your cousin to say she's welcome to perch on her beau's lap, and hope that Aunt Carol ignored you when you said you were planning to debut a new cranberry sauce recipe.

Stage 5: Fake it till you make it

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Despite a rough start, things seem to be under control for the moment, and good smells are starting to come out of the kitchen. You call your mom to thank her for making Thanksgiving look easy for all those years and then head off for a quick shower before your guests arrive. Luckily that cute sweater dress you set aside for today won't show how badly you're sweating.

More: 10 Holiday outfit ideas spotted on Instagram

Stage 6: Your guests have arrived!

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Everyone's here, and although you're trying to play it casual and pretend your morning hasn't been filled with panic, you shed a single tear of relief when you see your Aunt Carol come through the door with a Tupperware full of cranberry-colored slime. You flit among your guests, offering drinks and snacks, while keeping an ear out for the kitchen timer.

Stage 7: The feast

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After holding your breath for a few minutes and surreptitiously checking everyone's faces for signs of disgust, you finally begin to relax and enjoy the feast you spent so long planning and creating. All your hard work makes it taste even more delicious than you imagined it would. You're not even done with the meal, and you're already looking forward to eating leftovers.

Stage 8: Cleanup

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You start to post pictures of your accomplishment on Facebook before you realize you're responsible for clearing up the mess. Storing leftovers without anyone getting sick can seem daunting, but placing everything in clean, shallow containers, storing turkey separate from stuffing and not piling containers on top of one another in the fridge will help keep leftovers safe and bacteria free. You happily roll up your sleeves and get to washing dishes, using the time to reflect on what a great job you did. When you're done, it's time for a well-deserved slice of pumpkin pie.