Since the hit 90s show, Friends, captured our beloved Monica, Joey, Rachel, Chandler, Ross and Phoebe gathering around a table enjoying their holiday fare Friendsgiving celebrations have been increasing in popularity across the county. Friendsgiving is a time to gather your favorite people, overindulge in food, and be thankful for it all. Because food and friendship are my favorite things in the whole world Friendsgiving is always one of my favorite days of the year. Here are my favorite tips, tricks, and resources I’ve come to appreciate over the years of hosting an annual Friendsgiving.
The Friendsgiving essentials…
I’ve been to Friendsgivings with an entire room full of people in which not everyone knew each other and we all mingled and ate in various parts of the room with our plates on our laps. I’ve also been to intimate ones in which we all gather around a table. The first step to planning a Friendsgiving is to think about what type of event you want to host (larger or smaller) and writing out a guest list. I’ve found my sweet spot is groups of 8-12 adults (plus their kids) all seated around one table. Since I love to have a meaningful discussion I’ve found the groups I most enjoy for Friendsgiving are smaller groups in which most (or all) of the people already know each other and are comfortable with each other. (I love bringing different groups of people together for gatherings, just not for Friendsgiving, this is the time I look for a more chill vibe, rather than a large, loud mingling type of thing.)
Once you have chosen the guests, place (usually your home, although I wouldn’t be opposed to a cozy pot-luck Friendsgiving picnic at a park with blankets) and time (Friendsgiving is usually hosted sometime in November) you are ready to send invitations. I like to send invitations about 30 days in advance. From mailing paper invitations to texting a graphic to sending an evite, there are many ways to invite your guests, just choose what works for you and invite them.
You can go traditional and basically duplicate a Thanksgiving dinner, or you can choose a fun quirky theme like “Fusion Friendsgiving” or “Anti-Thanksgiving” or something completely different like “Mexican Fiesta” and choose dishes that are either the opposite of their traditional counterparts or a twist on the classics. As the host, your job is to choose a theme and communicate it. One of the things that makes Friendsgiving so fun is that it’s usually a pot-luck and therefore a great chance to share the cooking workload and try new dishes. Since our family Thanksgiving is always the same classic dishes that everyone loves and expects, Friendsgiving is my chance to be more creative and think outside the box. I like to go Thanksgiving-ish with my Friendsgiving menu, but with a twist. If you are going the potluck route you need to have a way to assign dishes so you don’t end up with 6 pans of mac and cheese but no vegetables. You can either assign a vague dish with the invitation (ex: tell one person to do a vegetable dish, one person a potato dish, etc.) or you can set up a way for guests to volunteer for what they want. I like to give categories (ex: side dish, drinks, dessert, appetizer) and let guests sign up themselves. I usually coordinate this through a group text or email, but you could arrange a signup in signupgenius.com and send the link out with the invite allowing everyone to sign up. I tend to stick with a buffet-style service for Friendsgiving in keeping with the laid-back vibe and wanting an uncluttered table. (See below under recipes for links to my go-to Friendsgiving dishes.)
You can go all out with banners, lettered balloons, a photo backdrop etc, or you can keep it simple. I like to use natural elements to decorate the table because they are free (or cheap) and fit the theme. I tend to stick to wildflowers I pick from City Park, stacks of pine cones, dried leaves, jars filled with acorns, etc. You could also purchase a bunch of mini pumpkins or gourds and put them on your table (Trader Joe’s has great deals on these). An edible centerpiece is another option using something pretty to look at like a cheese board, a bowl of fruit, or a whole turkey. One thing I like to keep in mind is to keep the centerpiece low-ish so that conversation can flow easily across the table without obstruction. I also like to use classics like a white table cloth paired with a burlap runner and some lace and doily accents. Another fun and easy setting is to cover the table with brown kraft paper, then kids can doodle on the table and clean up after the meal is simple.
You will need to choose if you are going to set up one long table for everyone or have people eat in groups. You will also need to choose whether to assign seating or let guests sit where they want. There are so many cute ideas for easy place cards if you choose to assign seats. Also, if you have space and weather permits I’d consider arranging your seating outside. There’s nothing more whimsical than a long, wood outdoor table lined with flowers, candles and some lights loosely strung around. Ever since seeing the show Parenthood I have had dreams of hosting the perfect outdoor dinner, and Friendsgiving would be a great occasion to give it a try.
I have done Friendsgiving using actual dishes and paper/plastic and have in this season decided I WAY prefer to go with paper/plastic over actual dishes. The reason being, I don’t always have enough actual dishes to serve all of my guests. Additionally, for me, Friendsgiving is about being laid-back, casual and without pretense. It’s about being present and enjoying the people and food. That said, I don’t want to be stuck with a ton of dishes at the end of the night. This is the one occasion on which I will splurge for nice disposable dishes to do a compromise between classy yet disposable. There are lots of nice disposable dishes to choose from on amazon.
Having planned activities is not a requirement, but can be fun if you’re into them. You can have things like coloring pages for kids, conversation cards, a drinking game, a photo booth, Friendsgiving bingo, or Minute to Win It style games. I tend to take a laid-back approach and stick with having a conversation in which each person shares what they are thankful for from that year.
These are NOT required. I have had them and not had them and feel fine either way. A non-traditional favor you can do is have take-out boxes or plastic containers for everyone to make a container of leftovers to bring home. Other items I have done in the past are mini jars of homemade pumpkin butter or salted caramel as favors.
It wouldn’t be Friendsgiving without a lot of food. Here are my favorite classic Friendsgiving recipes by category:
I like to invite guests to arrive an hour before the meal for drinks and to get everything arranged, in doing so, it is imperative to have a few snacks on hand for this time. It can be as simple as nuts and olives, or someone can provide an appetizer.
You can keep it simple with sparkling cider, beer and wine here or you can mix it up and offer a seasonal specialty such as;
You can go with the classic turkey here, but since we already eat turkey on Thanksgiving I like to mix up Friendsgiving with another Fall inspired main dish.
Baked Mac and Cheese
Roasted Root Vegetables
Green Bean Casserole
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Sweet Potato Casserole
Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing
While all the planning and details can be fun, the most important thing to remember on your actual Friendsgiving day is flexibility.
Life happens, and things don’t always go according to plan, but often our most memorable moments are the unexpected ones. Just ask me about the Friendsgiving in which a friend fell down her stairs carrying her casserole on the way to our house and half our party spent the first 2 hours of the evening in the ER before we all finally convened at our house to eat the food that was no longer warm. Or the time I had decorated a table with candles and colorful dried leaves, then my 2 year old proceeded to light a leaf on fire and a friend saved the day by swiftly submerging his chubby little hand into the champagne bucket. Or the first Friendsgiving I ever hosted when we lived in a small home with no dining room so I set up long folding tables in my son’s bedroom and we ate by candlelight squeezed between a crib and a rocking chair. Those seemingly less than picture-perfect moments have ended up being the ones I laugh about or treasure the most. In everything, choose to focus on being fully present over having things perfect and you will create something worth remembering.