Hosting Friendsgiving requires a mash-up of multiple skills — hostess, conductor, moderator, and innovator. Alex, what the heck are you saying? Hostess because you are providing the space for people to gather. Conductor because your job is to organize, not to do it all. Moderator because people have intense feelings about things like stuffing vs. dressing, the proper way to mash potatoes, and whether marshmallows are necessary.* Innovator because you are coming up with new traditions + memories with your people *BTW, I am 100% stuffing — with a potato masher + too much butter — not necessary. I firmly believe in taking the time to sit around a table with all your friends + expressing your gratitude for what they bring to your Life. I also firmly believe in not having three sweet potato casseroles at one gathering so without further ado, LET’S PLAN FRIENDSGIVING!!
Finding the Date + Making the InviteFinding the date can be the hardest part of hosting Friendsgiving (or any gathering). So often, I hear from people that they are struggling to “find the perfect date.” You know, the one that everyone can attend. Here’s the truth, though –Life is full. We can’t all make it to every gathering. Get rid of this pressure. It’s not your fault if people can’t make it. Now, let’s find a date. You can pick the best time for you, but my preference is to do a quick poll and use the date with the most availability. The Group Text – Depending on the number of people in the group text, this could be a lot of notifications. A group text can also be hard to track. The Evite is amazing if e-mail is how you and your people communicate. You can include all the details in an Evite. Guests can RSVP without notifying everyone else. Yet, Evites feel a bit more formal to me. Y Friendsgiving, and if an Evites sounds ideal to you, then my favorite free options are Punchbowl and Evite. The Facebook Invite – Now, hear me out — my friends and I still use Facebook for the event feature. We love using FB for gatherings because it allows for polls, details, and RSVPs in one place. FB also provides for a location for conversation and to track all the details. We post different threads for dietary restrictions, potluck signups, and more. The centralized location keeps the planning out of everyone’s inboxes. The Doodle Poll – Say Hello to our new favorite — Doodle! Why? The host creates the polls and sends them via text message. No one needs to download an app. Everyone can vote for YES, IF NEEDED, and NO. You can also use this app for the potluck signup. Now that you have a date– send a brief invite message via Facebook, text message, Evite (or tell me your favorite in the comments below) with the date, time, and location. Let your guests know that Friendsgiving is a potluck, and you’ll send out a signup sheet shortly.
Planning Your PartTransporting a turkey is never going to work out well, which means that as the host, you need to cook the turkey. If you make the turkey, you make the gravy. Did I just write that, and now you aren’t sure you want to host? It’s ok. If you aren’t willing to cook the turkey, but you are eager to provide the space for everyone, then, in my opinion, we can make this work. Which I am pretty sure is not what you will read anywhere else on the internet. OH WELL If you don’t want to cook the turkey, ask that foodie friend of yours to come over and make a day of it. Your friend will need to go over hours before dinner because the turkey takes time; what an excellent excuse for a Netflix marathon, board games challenge, or a playdate with your kiddos. Next question — Will you be making any other dishes? If so, add that to the signup sheet.
Create the Signup List — The Key to Hosting FriendsgivingI am going to be giving you the exact signup sheet I use to track “who is bringing what” next week. I’ll also share the message I send to guests and what I consider when it comes to asking people to bring dishes and beverages. Curious how much alcohol you need? I share the exact calculations that I used for years to calculate dinners for 10 to galas of 800 in my post – “How much alcohol do I need?”
Place Settings + ServingwareConsider whether you have enough::
Seated vs. CasualWe do a lot of VERY casual gatherings as friends at our house. The kind of get-togethers where everyone sits around on the floor to eat. You can 100% do that for Friendsgiving, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. Another casual option would be to set the food out on the kitchen counter as a buffet, and people can sit wherever they are able, which might be the floor. But, because we do so many casual get-togethers, I prefer to make Friendsgiving a seated affair. That’s me. You do you. We plan a random assortment of folding tables and chairs with linens and all the food lining our big table. SIMPLE.
Consider the Floorplan when Hosting FriendsgivingThis tip comes from my days as a wedding planner. Friend, consider your flow. Start with where the guests walk in the door. Where do their coats go? Their shoes? What’s the path to their first drink and the appetizers? Will they be sitting or standing while waiting for dinner? Consider where they might be unclear or where they might get caught. Things don’t need to be perfect, but you might be able to fix some of the gridlocks by doing small things.
- Leave a closet open so people can see where their coat goes.
- Move a small table closer to the door with drinks on it.
- Set out glassware so that guests don’t need to look through the cabinets.
Food AllergiesDiscussing food allergies doesn’t mean everyone has to modify every dish for everyone. Instead, talking about allergies + restrictions means that someone might be able to adjust their recipe easily, or the person with the allergies/restrictions has an understanding of what will be available for them to eat. First of all, ask everyone if they have any allergies or restrictions when you make the invite. If a guest answers YES, then chat with that guest separately about what they would like to contribute to the dinner that they can eat. This dish should be hearty enough that it would be enough for them if nothing else were an option for them to eat. Once you have the list, pass the list of allergies + restrictions on to everyone. The idea isn’t for people to change their dishes to make everything allergy or restriction friendly. Instead, this is all about small changes.
- Leave nuts off (or serving on the side) if there is a nut allergy.
- Skip cheese on top of salad if someone doesn’t eat dairy.
- Simply placing crackers touching the dip for your GF friend (and even bringing a GF cracker option too).
- Opting against bacon in the Brussel sprouts for your vegan friend.
DecorationsI don’t have a lot to offer here, because the decor isn’t my strength or interest. I like to decorate with simple place settings, candles, and the food as the centerpiece. That is me, though. If you want to get into the decor, then ENJOY it. If you don’t enjoy decorating, then LET IT GO. Another option would be to ask a friend to be in charge of decor.
The Key to the Day-Of Hosting Friendsgiving is DELEGATIONIf you read only one section of this whole post, it should be this one. Ready? Make a list of all the things you might need help with on the day of and post it on the fridge. Why? Because even if you are calmly chatting with guests and someone asks you, “Is there anything I can help you?” You will likely say NO simply because you don’t know what to ask them to help with. Some tasks I love to put on the fridge list —
- Check on the bar, glassware, and ice, if needed refill.
- Light candles on the table
- See if ____ needs help decorating the table.
- [List everything that goes on the table] + Help make sure it is all there.
- Remind ____ to put their items in the oven to warm up at 5:00 pm
- Pull white wine out of the fridge if we are low.
Leftovers planConsider how you are sending home leftovers. You could ask friends to bring Tupperware. Other great options —
- Ziploc bags
- Takeout boxes
- Small disposable metal cooking trays — I buy these in large quantities from the dollar store a few times a year to gift meals or send home leftovers.
Clean-up PlanHave a friend that doesn’t like to cook? Ever thought about asking them to help pick up throughout the night instead. Now, I am not saying you ask them to do all the dishes. Alternatively, if they notice a dirty glass or stray plate that they bring it to the sink. Maybe they help rinse all the dishes and get that first load of the dishwasher going before they head home.
Are you hosting Friendsgiving this year? What are your favorite traditions? Want to contribute your own thoughts, tips and tricks? Share below in the comments! I’d love to hear. -Alex