[Read: How and Why to Make Small Talk.]
You know those guests who always end up in a heated political debate? Don't seat them together, Post says, noting the age-old etiquette standard to steer clear of subjects such as sex, money, politics and religion. These topics can make people uncomfortable. Also, separate couples, she says, to encourage and diversify conversation among all your guests. And nix the kids' tables. Integrate children with the adults, but just be sure they are near an adult they feel comfortable with in case they need help.
Also, while it's great to engage your guests in a group tradition like going around the table and saying what you're thankful for, don't force anyone into making a public statement, Post says, adding that the shy guest will be hoping for an invitation to someone else's Thanksgiving dinner next year.
5. Remember, it's a learning opportunity.
"Step away from it, and stop thinking of it as Thanksgiving with a capital T," says Durand, who considers the meal "a homey weeknight dinner, just amped up." You could also think of it as a crash course in learning how to cook by planning and preparing meals. As she says, "You're kind of like running a marathon, and it trains you to run every day as a cook."
[See: Unusual Uses for Pumpkins.]