Thanksgiving Potluck Checklist

Let’s face it, whether you’re the host or a guest, a potluck needs guidelines: Who determines the menu? Who keeps the leftovers? These tips from etiquette consultant Susan Fitter Sloane and Jennifer Rubell, author of Real Life Entertaining (William Morrow, $27.50, amazon.com), will minimize Turkey Day confusion.

If You’re the Host

  1. Check It’s your party, so feel free to ask some of your guests to bring specific dishes.

    Busy people often like being assigned recipes; it eliminates the guesswork of what to make. Just say, “I found this great dish that goes well with our menu. Want to give it a try?”

  2. Check Let guests know at what temperature you will be roasting the turkey.

    They’ll want that information in case they need to use the oven for reheating.

  3. Check Assign the noncooks other ways to help out with the meal.

    Ask that they take care of the wine or other beverages. Or request that they bring extra plates or folding chairs.

  4. Check Plan the placement of the food on the table before the guests show up.

    Mark each spot with a Post-it note so people can add their contributions quickly and easily.

  5. Check Encourage people to supply their own platters.

    This will allow your guests to arrange the food as they wish, and save you prep time. But you should provide the serving utensils, which are easily lost in the shuffle.

  6. Check Let your guests know ahead of time whether they should expect to take home leftovers.

    They’ll come prepared with containers (though you should have additional ones on hand, just in case).

If You’re the Guest

  1. Check Bring the food you promised.

    No matter how inspired you are, never change your assignment at the last minute without first telling the host.

  2. Check Before arriving, alert the host if you will need to use the oven.

    That last half hour before dinner is due on the table can be chaotic, especially if a lot of dishes need to vie for oven time.

  3. Check Tape a note with reheating instructions to your dish.

    The host may prefer that you hand it off and allow him or her to shepherd it through.

  4. Check Offer your host the leftovers of the dish you brought.

    Though leftovers are usually yours to keep, ask your host first as a courtesy before packing them up. And if you have to leave a plate or a bowl behind, don’t wait for a call to retrieve it. It’s your responsibility to get in touch and remove all your belongings from the host’s house.