Thanksgiving manners for dinner guests are always a hot topic in social circles. Here, we discuss the rules for the holiday you can ignore now — and feel no guilt.

By Christine Coppa
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Family holidays are as unique as the people gathered 'round the same table. Some families plan formal events, complete with champagne toasts and fine china. Others take a more laid-back  approach; they may not even get out of their stretchy pants. The Thanksgiving Day etiquette rules bend with the formality of the group you join — but no matter whether you're wearing black tie or black yoga pants, you can leave these etiquette rules back at home. Yes, you read that correctly. These are the old-fashioned Thanksgiving "rules" you just don't need to work with anymore.

Thanksgiving dinner, family around table
Credit: skynesher/Getty Images

1. You don't have to cook a homemade meal.

You read that correctly — there is nothing to be ashamed of if you opt to order your soup to nuts Thanksgiving meal. In fact, between chain grocery stores, banquet halls, restaurants and other eateries, you no longer have to slave over a hot stove if you don't want to.

"Thanksgiving is about food and family," Daniel Gorman, executive chef of Henley tells AllRecipes. "Cooking can be stressful, so ordering Thanksgiving dinner to go not only keeps things calm, but allows you to spend more time with your loved ones."

Gorman advises that the host place their tall order as soon as possible — and take advantage of some helpful ammenities. "We provide curbside pickup and piping hot cups of Henley's apple cider for guests to enjoy while our team loads the food into their cars."

2. You can divert from the traditional meal.

Thanksgiving is about coming together with family and friends and sharing a delicious meal. And just because it's tradition to eat turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pie doesn't mean you can't enjoy other dishes.

"Bringing in dishes from your own culture is a great way to honor your family's heritage and help friends learn more about your traditions," Marissa Tunon, Executive Chef, Mercadito tells AllRecipes. "For example, add some authentic Mexican flavors, by tossing some seasonal fruit like pomegranate arils, cranberries, or persimmons into guacamole that can be served as appetizer with tortilla chips."

Tunon also thinks it's fun to add international flare to a common side dish, like corn. "Make esquites — it's corn off the cob mixed with lime mayo and queso fresco."

3. Ditch the kid's table.

Kids should be included at the main table, Maryanne Parker of ManorofManners.com tells AllRecipes.

"I disagree with kids being isolated at a different table. Kids can behave properly at the table only if they have been allowed to participate and observe the goings-on at the grownup table," she says, adding Thanksgiving is a family tradition and everyone has a significant role.

"The children should be included, so they can say a prayer, share with us what they are grateful for — this also has a very psychological effect on the younger generation, because giving them an opportunity to be a part of the conversation is a responsibility, but also makes them feel important," she says. After dinner, encourage the little ones to play tag in the yard, color or watch a holiday movie. No need to make them sit on their hands after their bellies are full.

4. China is so old school.

"I host a potluck Thanksgiving," says Jessica L., 44, from Indiana. "I have a lovely China set that was passed down to me when I got married and for many years, I used it on Thanksgiving." Jessica says she nixed that idea, when she noticed chips in her beloved set — "After all, I hope to pass that on to my daughter."

Now, she orders a Thanksgiving theme paper tableware kit. "It's festive and bright — and cuts down on cleanup. I make sure to designate a pail for paper recycling, too."

Jessica adds, over the years she's purchased decorations from the retail store and they "hold up great, so I reuse them to get our home ready for a nice day." She says another perk, is that family and friends can load up a paper plate or two, with leftovers and cover it with foil. "I like providing a throw-away container for my guests I don't need back; they can pop it right in the microwave, the next day.

5. Comfort is key.

Maybe at your great aunt's Thanksgiving you had to wear a dress and pantyhose, or jacket and tie, but fashionable autumn attire is all the rage these days.

"Jeans, a flannel, maybe layered, a sweater, shoes off, makes Thanksgiving feel warm and inviting," says Nia K., 36, from Brooklyn. "My go-to Thanksgiving look is a long sweater, mixed metal necklaces, dark nails, a top knot, leggings and fun cozy socks. I wait all year to feast on turkey and pumpkin pie — I need to be comfy, to fit it all in," she jokes.

In Nia's family, all the kid cousins get a pair of the same Christmas jammies to change into after dessert is served. "It's a nice way for them to wind down and of course we take a million pics."