Friendsgiving 101: A step-by-step guide for hosts

Everything you need to know for hassle-free hosting.

They say friends are the family you choose. So if you’re thinking of hosting a Friendsgiving, chances are this is something you’re excited to take on.

Want to keep things fun and easy? The more thought you put in up front, the smoother things will run—and the more you’ll enjoy your own event.

Here’s a 9-step guide to hosting an unforgettable Friendsgiving.

Step 1: Get clear on your vision

Great leaders begin with a clear vision. And as the fearless leader of your crew’s Friendsgiving, you need one, too.

Start with the basics: Where are you hosting? What’s the vibe? Is it casual or formal? Intimate or lively? A traditional, Thanksgiving-style meal or something unexpected like a costume party?

Pretend you’re a guest and imagine attending from start to end. What will they need? What might they like? And what will make this an event they’ll always remember?

Step 2: Build a guest list

Sure, the menu, theme and decor are important. But it’s the people who really make a party.

There’s nothing wrong with inviting just a few close friends. But if you’re picturing something bigger, it can help to include a guest or two who will help carry the load of hosting. These are the friends who can talk to anyone and they’re always the life of the party. If they’re willing to man the bar or help out in other ways, even better.

How many guests is too many? “However many seats you have—that’s the max,” says Nadia Anderson, owner of event management company Virginia Grace. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean seats at one table. If you’ve got folks dining in different rooms, that’s OK too.”

Want everyone seated together but running short on space? Don’t let the size of your dining table restrict you. Newlyweds Sean and Morgan packed 15 people into a small Brooklyn apartment for their first Friendsgiving.

“We bought a folding table and 6 chairs for under $20,” Sean says. “There’s typically a sale before Thanksgiving at some store or another.”

Step 3: Plan your menu

When it comes to Friendsgiving, potluck is the name of the game. So don’t feel weird about asking guests to contribute a dish.

“People are coming with the expectation that they’re bringing something,” says Anderson. “Give your guests categories to pick from. But you should have the main items covered regardless of who comes—like a turkey, dressing and beverage.”

If you’re not specific, you could end up with a pastry-packed spread that’s a little too light on the sides and mains.

“In the past, my friends would all bring desserts and we’d end up with a bunch of pies that weren’t eaten,” says Chris, who’s hosted several Friendsgivings. “I’d recommend setting a cap on the number of desserts. That way, you’re more likely to get a diverse meal.”

Inviting guests with dietary restrictions? Consider foods that’ll keep the whole crew happy. And if you want to forgo the turkey altogether, Anderson says that’s OK too. Just inform your guests when you invite them.

Step 4: Take an inventory

It’s time to look around your house and figure out what you’ll need.

“If this is the first time you’ve hosted, there might be some extra things you need to buy,” Anderson cautions. “For instance, if you’re going to make a turkey, what are you going to cook and serve it in?”

Consider cookware and serving dishes, drink glasses, the drinks themselves, ice, food, games, decorations and other supplies. Write it all down and take note of the things you could ask others to bring.

“I think it’s OK to ask folks to bring things that aren’t food,” Anderson says. “Give friends who are strong in the kitchen an opportunity to shine by bringing a dish. But for those who don’t cook, give them an option like flowers, a centerpiece, alcohol or even something like serving platters.”

Worried about spending too much on supplies? It’s possible to stick to a budget, especially if you’re hosting a potluck. And if you’re doing this right, you could even be earning cash back with a credit card like Savor, which rewards you for things like dining out, entertainment and shopping at grocery stores.

Step 5: Send real invitations (seriously)

Think you can skip the invitations? Don’t. Even if your party’s low-key.

“An invitation creates anticipation for an event,” Anderson explains. “Maybe it’s not something that’s printed or delivered. It could even be a text message—but because it’s a text message, that indicates the gathering is less formal.”

Whether you’re sending a text, an email or a paper invite, make sure to include all the information your guests need. That means a start time (and an end time if you have one). And let them know when to RSVP by, what to bring, what to wear and whether they can bring a plus-one.

Step 6: Check in with your guests

Sure, you sent out invitations and your guests RSVP’d. But it’s still worth checking in with them the week of your event.

Confirm they’re coming and ask if they have any questions about the party or the item they signed up to bring.

“If they’re bringing food, ask if they’ll need to reheat anything when they get to your house,” Chris advises. “That’s a mistake we made in the past. If they need to heat something up, you’ll need to plan for that.”

Step 7: Prep your house in advance

Hosting a dinner party is a great excuse to give your home a deep clean. And you’ll make your life a lot easier if you don’t wait until the last minute.

Tackle big projects a week out, and touch things up the day before. If you’ll need any last-minute supplies like paper towels, toilet paper, flowers or decorations, that’s another job to take on a day or two before the big event. You don’t want to be running errands or mopping floors once your turkey’s in the oven.

Step 8: Remember your role

As a host, your first priority is ensuring everyone else has a good time.

Spot an empty drink or plate? Offer to fill it. See someone left out of the group? Pull them in. And if you know you’ll be stuck in the kitchen, enlist a friend to keep the conversation and drinks flowing. If something’s not going the way you planned, just smile and roll with the punches. Whatever you do, don’t make your guests feel uncomfortable.

Once you’re at the dinner table, a short, warm and to-the-point toast—thanking your friends for coming—will help set the tone. You might even ask them to share what they’re grateful for.

Worried your friends will think the tradition is corny? Just keep it lighthearted. “I think it’s always fun to go around and see what people are thankful for,” says Kevin, a recent college grad who’s attended many a Friendsgiving.

Step 9: End on a high note

All good things must come to an end, and it’s better to close your party on a high note than go on too long.

Remember, your invitation should have included an end time if there is one. But as a gentle reminder that it’s time to part, plan ahead and prep party favors like goodie bags with holiday-themed candies, Anderson suggests. “After you’ve cleared the dishes, you can put the favors by the door,” she says.

If all else fails, just be direct. “It’s OK to share with people, ‘I’ve enjoyed you, it’s been such a fun time, but I have to start cleaning up now,’” she says.

Oh, and one more thing: “I’m sure guests are happy to clean up, but that’s the burden of the host,” Anderson cautions. “If you have to go to work the next day or you have a hard stop time, figure your cleanup into the things you have to do.”

Ready to host Friendsgiving? If you want more advice, read these 10 rules for hosting your first Thanksgiving.

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