Planning the ultimate Thanksgiving affair: An interview with the queen of grateful gatherings, Michelle Moody.

Planning the ultimate Thanksgiving affair: An interview with the queen of grateful gatherings, Michelle Moody.

We’re full force into autumn and the time has come to start planning all our holiday celebrations. In Canada, the Thanksgiving holiday marks the beginning of the season of gathering, which of course makes it one of our favourites. 

At Lineage, the holidays bring memories of long tables filled with family, delicious food, and moments of gratitude for this incredible life. Creating an intentional feast is certainly no easy endeavour, so we’ve asked our friend and expert event planner, Michelle Moody for tips on how to curate a fun and unforgettable Thanksgiving meal. 

And a bonus — Michelle reveals to us her secret to making the perfect, juicy turkey that we all dream of achieving. 

A bit about Michelle

Michelle is an event coordinator who is dedicated to creating intentional, thoughtful affairs in each function she designs. She loves the holiday season and chooses to celebrate both Canadian and American Thanksgiving, which allows her to infuse a mix of tradition and modernity in both festivities. Guests attending an event hosted by Michelle can usually expect a custom invitation delivered and to marvel at her newest decor piece from the land of Target or her favourite local boutiques in her second home, Portland. 

Family and friends are incredibly important to Michelle, and she centers her holidays around the feelings of nostalgia, sharing good food and gathering loved ones close. We were so excited to chat with Michelle about what makes her Thanksgiving celebrations memorable and hope that it inspires you to do the same!

Lineage Ceramics: When you sit down to begin planning Thanksgiving — what do you start with first?

Michelle Moody: My guest list. For me, Thanksgiving is always about the people that I’m going to be gathering with.

LC: What are the essential elements of a Thanksgiving gathering to you?

MM: Delicious food, time spent being present with friends and family, the perfect guest favour, and a beautiful tablescape. And, of course, a playlist that ties into the theme of the day is also a must.

LC: How do you plan out the menu? Do you stick with traditional favourites or mix things up here and there?

MM: I’m a girl who adores traditions, so my menu is generally filled with classic favourites and my grandma’s recipes. Turkey with dressing (which, I always cook inside the turkey), mashed yams with brown sugar and butter, garlic mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole made with Campbell’s Mushroom Soup and crispy French fried onions on top. Homemade dinner rolls with butter are on my menu every year, too, simply because I love bread. And dinner rolls are perfect for turkey sandwiches later in the day. Occasionally, a new vegetable dish makes an appearance. Over the years I’ve expanded the number of dishes to include gluten and/or dairy-free options as needed but haven’t yet ventured into vegan alternatives.

One additional note about the turkey. Just like my mom, and my grandma, I always cook my turkey in a buttered brown paper bag. Once the turkey is in the bag, I staple it closed to keep the goodness in and prevent the turkey from drying out. Then I place the turkey in a roaster, with no lid, and put it in the oven.

LC: How do you decide on the theme and decor? What design elements do you focus on?

MM: I’m always watching trends and have a Pinterest board filled with inspiration that’s ever-growing. I always enjoy working on my table centrepieces, however, a focus is always the individual place settings. I love building layers into my place settings and having little details that are fun to discover. The theme carries into my tableware selection – whether I’m going with a more traditional theme and using my grandma’s china or a more contemporary theme using modern pieces. Individualized guest favours that fit within the theme is a must for Thanksgiving in my world, and that’s always included with the place setting. For me it’s also about incorporating the theme in every part of the space and including signage in different areas is also key. For example, signage at my beverage station will always be consistent with the place settings and any other banners or décor pieces that I have displayed elsewhere.

LC: How do you center the event around conversation and connection?

MM: Absolutely. Thanksgiving is all about conversation and connection for me. I make this a priority when preparing for the day by having a set seating plan. I’m very intentional about where I seat each guest so that everyone feels comfortable and is placed by someone that will draw them into the conversation.

LC: What makes this holiday so special? What do you love about it most?

MM: I love gathering with the people closest to me, I love traditions, and I love good food. So, Thanksgiving is truly my sweet spot. It brings everything together. As on point as it may sound, I also love that Thanksgiving really does give people reason to slow down, pause, and reflect on what they are grateful for. Every year there is a moment for me when I look around the table at everyone gathered and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the incredible relationships in my life and how they shape me.

LC: How did your family/friends affect the way you prepare for your thanksgiving?

MM: As my friend’s families have grown and more littles have arrived on the scene that has absolutely shifted how I plan Thanksgiving, and I honestly love it. Putting together a kids table with extra activities and treats is so much fun and allows for me to be creative in a different way.

LC: Is there an aesthetic that you always maintain throughout each Thanksgiving you plan? Is there a dress code?

MM: To me, Thanksgiving is all about being cozy and comfortable. I keep the dress code pretty chill, especially since there are more littles running about during the day and it makes it easier to keep up with all of them. 

LC: How was last year’s Thanksgiving changed by COVID? Do you have any insights or advice for readers when it comes to planning Thanksgiving this year?

MM: Last year we couldn’t gather for Thanksgiving together, which initially felt devastating on top of everything else going on, but being able to pivot is what events and hosting are all about. I still cooked our full menu and then packaged everything up in compostable take-out containers with themed labels and friends either came by for a timed pickup or I delivered Thanksgiving to them. I was also able to include guest favours in each Thanksgiving package, which was also important to me.

I think for this year, my advice would be a reminder to be flexible. I understand, I’m a planner and traditions girl, so having to let go of certain elements can be hard. But if you’re able to pivot I truly believe you will have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

We hope our time together with Michelle has inspired you to create your own memorable Thanksgiving feast with those dearest to you. Shop the full Lineage Ceramics collection today for tableware that lets the food do the talking with simple, elegant pieces intended to complement your exquisite kitchen creations. 

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