Heard of Friendsgiving? Ask around and you may find yourself hearing story after story painting it as the hero of the holidays. When I moved across the country for the next leg of my journey, I initially assumed that recreating the epic Friends scene with a group of galpals would merely solve the dilemma of living a few thousand miles away from family. As it turned out, it offered so much more than a measly, make-do gathering. Skipping the expensive holiday travel also meant saying goodbye to high-stress dinner conversations. You know, the ones spent fielding Aunt Margie’s questions on when I’ll find myself a decent man, what I think of the latest political scandal, and how I believe we can realize world peace. Instead, my ladies and I sat around a small, worn table with a hodgepodge of dishes and a wealth of red wine. There was love, laughter, and a beautiful understanding that we could show up exactly as we were. Whether you’re planning a Friendsgiving on Thanksgiving Day or will observe it in addition to family festivities, here are some practical tips for hosting the perfect feast for friends.
Who does what?
The perks of Friendsgiving are plentiful, but careful planning among the hostess and attendees is crucial. Home in on each other’s strengths and assign each person a duty. Whether it’s grocery shopping, cooking, table setting, cleaning, or simply picking the right Spotify playlist—a smooth evening will require working together as a team. For the recipe connoisseurs in the group, delegate one or two delicious dishes to each person or couple. For those who struggle in the kitchen, grabbing a fresh berry pie from the local bakery might be the task at hand. Talk it through and plan out the details, creating an email chain or Google Calendar or Facebook event as you see fit. Whatever it takes, make sure there’s enough food to go around and any restrictions are accounted for! Need gluten-free stuffing for your friend with celiac disease? We believe in you. Making it a potluck will help everyone ditch the stress, and after all, isn’t that the point here?
Let the feast begin.
When the day comes, it’s best to have appetizers ready to munch on during the prep and final cooking push. Here are a few of our healthy-ish favorites to place throughout the kitchen and lounging spaces: Sweet Potato Quinoa Fritters Rosemary-Infused Wild Rice Stuffed Mushrooms Smoky Chipotle Pumpkin Hummus Quick and delicious, if you strategize your apps right, there will be something for everyone, and we all know the importance of that since staving off raging hanger can help maintain upbeat spirits and holiday fun. When the dishes are finally ready to serve to the motley crew, use your hostess influence to elect for eating family style. Finding room for each of the items on your table ensures that nobody has to get up and leave mid-conversation. Friends can dish up their plates as they please without awkwardly excusing themselves to run for an extra spoonful of cranberry relish. Pass the plates and bottles of wine around the table, creating space to simply be present with your dearest friends.
The Sweetest Side of Friendsgiving
With a few apps and the main course taken care of, the next logical step is following up with a tantalizing dessert. Grab that warm berry pie and a carton of vanilla ice cream for a treat that always seems to hit the spot. Or, if you’d rather swap pie à la mode out for healthy, homemade sweets, try one (or both!) of these: Sweet Potato Casserole With Crunchy Pecan Oat Topping Best-Ever Healthy Apple Crisp See, even if you don’t want to break your 2017 wellness goals with just over a month to go, we’ve got your cravings covered!
Set the tone with holiday cheer.
While food may be the most important feature of Friendsgiving, we can’t neglect the joys of seasonal décor. For any holiday party, try to keep a few things in mind: Dressing up the space with festive allure can create a memorable ambience for your guests, but make sure it remains both warm and inviting. Light a few non-scented candles throughout your home, grace the countertop and dining table with picturesque DIY pumpkin centerpieces, and set place cards for everyone on the invite list. This one small act can greatly influence how welcome your guests feel. Seeing their name waiting for them on the table shows them that they were thought of, which can afford every group member (even the +1 you haven’t met before) a sense of belonging. To support the festive cheer, print this special Thanksgiving download to attach to the napkins and dinnerware. Customize each place card with your guests’ names, attach the kraft cardstock to your table settings, and ensure your friends will be surprised with notes showing personalized appreciation for their presence. If you have extra time, tucking rosemary behind the card can add a nice pop of color!
Tips for a Night to Remember
With the food and decorations accounted for, all that’s left for you to do is enjoy the time with your friends. Whether Friendsgiving is a one-time shindig or annual gathering, we want this holiday to be special for all of you. Games and traditions can help you achieve the holiday vibe everyone is seeking. During your feast, get in the mood by taking some time to give thanks. One perfect way to do this is by sharing each other’s gratitude bucket lists. Instead of listing off things you want to do before kicking the proverbial bucket, share the “things” and experiences that you are grateful for having already accomplished and enjoyed in life. This requires a shift in thinking to a mindset of openness, reflection, and gratitude. The truth is, our lives are already so beautiful, even without the bells and whistles of extravagant planning. Sharing such an intimate practice with each other will undoubtedly create a moment to remember. A second tradition can be as simple as having each guest paint a faux mini pumpkin. Whether your best gal chooses gold and sparkles or your fella goes with a deep charcoal, the bunch of unique pumpkins can be reused as décor in the years to come—traveling from house to house to keep the memory alive. Finally, there’s no better way to round out the evening than with some after-dinner drinks and games. Why not get a few more laughs in before everyone heads out to snooze off the turkey? If you’d rather skip the game of touch football, opt for a few intense rounds of Pictionary. This childhood favorite is guaranteed to get everyone involved (and squealing)! If you’d like to circle back to the theme of giving thanks, you can make one of the rounds centered on gratitude. Have each friend draw something they’re grateful for, while the rest of the circle has to shout out their best guesses. If you’re still keen on the idea of getting those bodies moving (but without the rough and tumble), square off a section of your yard for a game of bocce ball. Wine and outdoor bowling? Yes, please! No matter what traditions you and your friends decide to start, this Friendsgiving will be one that you can look back on for decades. Remember that this special day is truly as simple as spending time with your loved ones. Gather your nearest and dearest, ground down in thanks, and revel in the fact that no one will be hounding you with awkward questions and interrogations (or so we hope).