Calling all ritual rebels and those far from home this Thanksgiving! If you’re looking for a heaping helping of new traditions, it’s time for a Friendsgiving. Like Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving is centered on appreciation, celebration and a delicious feast. But instead of your family, you’ll be with your friends — and the potential of getting stuck at the kids’ table will greatly diminish!
Thinking of hosting a Friendsgiving? Here’s the good news: most people do not expect the host to do it all. In fact, Friendsgiving has become nearly synonymous with potluck. So let’s do it! Here’s how to get started:
Before you invite your friends, map out the menu. Are you doing it all yourself, or will it be a team effort? Will there be turkey? And consider how where you will eat — a dinner room, living room, or outside — will affect what you serve. You might also think about proposing a theme to guide guests:
Heirloom recipes. If you have a soft spot for nostalgia and are looking for a theme to bind the recipes, make a traditional turkey (or maybe just a breast), and ask everyone to bring a side made from a family recipe. Then during the meal, have each person share the reason they picked their dish.
Opt for all sides. Family recipes and new takes on classic dishes are all welcome!
Get organized. If you’ve opted for a potluck-style celebration, set up an online sign-up. If you only need four desserts or four sides, create only four spaces. If there are allergies and special diets to address, request some dishes that meet those needs (e.g. a vegetable side made without dairy ingredients). And for those guests who don’t (or can’t) cook, include sign-ups for beverages, a cheese plate, or making the playlist. If you invite people by email, include the sign-up link so they have all the information they need in one place.
Take inventory. Make sure you have enough plates, silverware, glasses, napkins, and chairs a couple weeks ahead. Tip: Ask guests to bring their own serving dishes and serving utensils. (Have a few extras on-hand in case someone forgets.)
Delegate. Have a crafty friend? Ask them to help with the centerpiece or place cards, if needed.
Work ahead. Do as much as you can in advance. Check out this Thanksgiving checklist to see what you can do now.
Accommodate special diets. Ask guests ahead of time to bring a notecard to place by their dish with the ingredient list (provide extra cards on-site if people forget to bring one). Or plan on doing a quick roundtable and have each guest “introduce” his or her dish right before the meal.
Pick a signature cocktail. Unless you have a mixologist among your friends (lucky you!), keep the drink station simple with wine, beer and one signature cocktail such as the always-festive Fresh Cranberry Punch. A punch can be fuss-free because there’s no assembly required by guests, and the ice ring will keep it cool. Be sure to have beverage options for nondrinkers too — mocktails are on trend!
Have a backup or two. Besides having extra ice and toilet paper, consider having an easy-to-assemble appetizer at the ready if you’re hosting a potluck just in case someone responsible for a starter is running late. On the same note, a heat-and-serve soup or store-bought side could save the day if someone (and their dish) is a no-show.
The set-up. Guests gather around food and drink, so set appetizers and drink stations in strategic various places to get people moving and socializing.
Tips for the Host
Here some extras for ensuring an extra special Friendsgiving:
Give thanks. Cover your table with brown butcher paper, leave out colored markers and ask people to write down or draw what they are thankful for this Thanksgiving.
The after party. Have karaoke or games handy — board games, card games or charades — for evening entertainment.
Leftover love. Stock a bunch of inexpensive containers, so you can send everyone home with one of the best parts of Thanksgiving — lunch the next day.
Tips for the Guests
Arrive on time or slightly early (with permission from the host) if you have a dish that needs last-minute assembly or heating up.
Don’t be late if you volunteered to bring an appetizer.
If you can’t stay for the cleanup, offer to arrive early to help with last-minute details such as lighting candles, pouring drinks when people arrive or taking coats.
Remember, you don't have to do it all this Thanksgiving! In fact, you don’t have to do any of it. Order meals, entrées and celebration must-haves online, and then pick them up at the store. Order by November 22 — start shopping now.