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How to Plan the Perfect Friendsgiving

A group of people eating a meal at an outdoor table.

Friendsgiving is no longer just a portmanteau. It’s now a phenomenon recognized by everyone, from Martha Stewart to Merriam-Webster. Family gatherings are lovely, but they often come with challenges, like nosy relatives and long drives. Friendsgiving relieves the pressure and focuses on fun.

The idea is simple, yet brilliant. Take all the things you love about Thanksgiving (food, drinks, company), and then remove the more difficult aspects of the holiday (travel, shopping, strained family relations, and so on).

It’s no surprise this casual Thanksgiving alternative has caught on so quickly. These days, Friendsgiving doesn’t have to be a haphazard potluck, either; you can make it a full-fledged holiday in its own right with a bit of planning.

Here’s how to create a Friendsgiving you’ll be excited about every year.

Split the Planning and Hosting Duties

Typically, the person who hosts a gathering also plans it. To make things a bit more seamless, though, consider partnering up with one of your besties; one of you can plan, and the other can host.

The host can be responsible for things like finding seating for everyone, providing the essentials (like plates and napkins), and cooking at least one main dish. Meanwhile, the “planner” can set up the online invite, communicate with anyone who needs directions, or shop when needed.

The division of responsibilities is, of course, up to you and your co-host, but this method definitely makes the event much easier. It’s also a great way to convince a reluctant host to offer the use of her home because she won’t have to do everything alone.

Organize the Potluck Spread

A group of people eating a meal at a kitchen table.

Last year, you told everyone to bring a dish and ended up with six bags of chips and no dessert. Let’s fix that!

You don’t have to have an elaborate, color-coded spreadsheet or an endless group chat to organize your Friendsgiving potluck. Instead, just ask people to commit to a category: appetizer, side dish, dessert, or drink. You can make the categories as specific as you’d like, such as vegetables, stuffing, gravy, or wine.

Facebook polls are a great way to keep the responses organized, but you can also just text or email people. If you notice a category is running low, you can ask your guests to fill in those gaps.

Keep in mind the host should provide a main dish or two, as those are harder for guests to transport. If hosting, you should also have a few easy appetizers—like a cheese board or chips and hummus—for early arrivals.

Also, don’t forget to ask about dietary preferences and restrictions, so no one feels left out.

Designate a Buffet Area

Letting your guests serve themselves suits the casual spirit of Friendsgiving perfectly.

However, unless you have a big enough table to hold every dish, you’ll need to designate a separate “buffet” area for all the food. It’s a good idea to plan out this space ahead of time. A section of the kitchen counter or a card table usually works well.

Clean as You Go

Thoughtful friends will most likely help you with the cleaning process as they go, rather than letting the trash and dishes pile up. However, they’ll be more likely to do it if you make it easy for them.

Have plenty of trash cans set out, so they’re easy to find, and stock up on trash bags, too. If you designate a spot for dirty dishes, they won’t end up all over the house.

You can also hang some handwritten signs on the walls to point people to the trash, recycling, and compost bins, or the dirty-dish drop spot.

Pick Up Some To-Go Boxes

Friendsgiving leftovers are a blessing—but not when they all stay at one person’s house. Who has the fridge space for that?

If you have some to-go containers on hand when the party ends, you can avoid that. Guests can take home what they want, and no one will get stuck with more leftovers than they could possibly eat.

Light Some Candles

Friendsgiving should be a low-stress event, so don’t feel pressured to decorate if it’s not your thing.

Just clean the space and light some candles. They make the day feel special, even if your guests are sitting on the floor around a coffee table.

Offer Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Friendsgiving usually comes with plenty of booze, which is a great tradition. Just make sure there are also some non-alcoholic options for people who don’t drink or want to pace themselves.

Tea, coffee, juice, or sparkling water all work well.

You can make your Friendsgiving whatever you want it to be, so use the tips that work for you. If you’d rather be surprised by the dishes your friends bring or want to decorate your entire house, do it!

Most of all, focus on enjoying the company, rather than creating the perfect party. The holiday season comes with so much pressure, use Friendsgiving as an excuse to take a break. Any mishaps will just make the day that much more memorable.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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