Of course, Thanksgiving is a time for hanging out with family, eating tons of food, and perhaps going back to your hometown for a long weekend. But if maybe you and your friends aren't going home, or perhaps you want to have a pre- or post-Thanksgiving weekend dinner party, why not host a "Friendsgiving"? It's a friends-filled feast complete with all the trimmings, without all that family drama—you know, the stories you’ve heard a million times before, having to figure out (or argue about) which family to visit first with your partner, political differences, and on and on.
But before you all gather ‘round and dig into a glorious spread, the hosts have lots to do. Whether you’re new to hosting or are a Friendsgiving veteran, it can feel a bit overwhelming to prepare everything from the turkey to tablescapes.
To help, Brides spoke with Joanne Cardella, Special Events Manager for Cardella Events, for her expert dinner party hosting advice and her best Friendsgiving ideas for some inspiration!
Keep it Simple
While it might be tempting to pull out all the stops and whip out all your new registry tools, it’s important to keep it fairly simple—especially if this is your first time hosting. Cardella stresses the importance of remembering the reason for the event, and that it’s not obligatory like some other holidays. She says, “The whole idea of Friendsgiving is you get to spend the day with your chosen family—your friends—so make sure to keep it fun and simple.”
Perhaps one of the best ways to do this is to host Friendsgiving after Thanksgiving, perhaps the weekend after. This way, anyone who is both cooking for Turkey Day and contributing to Friendsgiving can simply make a double batch and freeze half.
It's almost always best to go with a pot-luck style Friendsgiving unless you're really keen on embracing your inner Martha Stewart. Cardella also recommends letting your friends bring what they like. “Each one of your friends has a signature dish or a Thanksgiving favorite so just let them be creative and bring what they like," she says. "There’s no harm in having two stuffings!”
Setting the mood for your Friendsgiving is almost as important as the food you serve — but this doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of money on things you’ll only put one month out of the year! Instead, aim to make it personal and incorporate decor items that you'll use again throughout your home. Think: spicy candles, linen table runners, and some seasonal greenery like eucalyptus, along with autumnal accents like squash, pomegranate, and mini pumpkins. And don't forget, bouquets (no matter how minimal) always seem to pull a tablescape and dining room together!
Photographs are also a great way to add a special touch, Cardella says. “You and your friends have already created so many memories together, so why not display them with fun photos around the house?"
She suggests perhaps even blowing up a classic or two for an extra special focal point. “While your friends are taking a trip down memory lane through photos," she says, "why not add a fun corner where they can create new ones with a simple photo backdrop?”
These days, super affordable photo booth props are available in party stores or on Amazon, so grab a few and you’ll be on your way to ‘gram-worthy snaps in a flash. After all, is it really Friendsgiving if you didn’t post it?
Seating doesn’t have to be stuffy, nor does it need to involve Post Its, algorithms or any other methods you may have tried while wedding planning. Since you’re all friends, why not put a fun spin on it?
“Instead of place cards with assigned seating, put a number on all of the seats and make them blindly pull a number," Cardella suggests. "Changing up a simple seating plan is a fun way to keep the dinner conversation lively!”
Enlist people to help
Cardella suggests hiring a server and/or a bartender to help with your event. “Let them set out or pass hors d’oeuvres, get dinner ready, clean and clear and let’s not forget displaying all the fun desserts that everyone brought,” she says. This way, you can kick back and relax, enjoying all of your hard work.
If this isn’t your style or is out of your budget, perhaps ask a friend to lend a helping hand instead of bringing a dish. That way, they’re still contributing while helping you to enjoy the day as well.
Most importantly, keep in mind the meaning behind the day. It’s an event with your “chosen” family. Try not to get too caught up in the details and specifics, and if something doesn’t work out as you planned—let it go. Enjoy spending time around the table with your besties.