Hosting Friendsgiving can be like a test run to hosting your first Thanksgiving, but even a more casual gathering takes time, energy, and a lot of planning if you don’t want it to be a stress-filled affair. If it’s your turn to host—or if you got badgered into hosting by your noncommittal friends—there are some key questions you need to answer before you start inviting everyone you know.
How many people can you (realistically) host?
Get a headcount early, as it will have a factor in the location, theme, and menu. Are your out of town friends flying home? Will you allow plus ones? Is your flaky neighbor actually going to show up? Knowing the number of people is crucial so you can ensure you have enough food and plan seating arrangements.
Check out this Friendsgiving feast from A Beautiful Mess.
Indoors or outside?
If the weather is appropriate, dining outdoors can be cozy and fun with the help of a few blankets and candles—just be sure to have a backup plan in case of rain. You don’t want to invite 12 for a dinner en plein air, only to be foiled by the weather and only have space for six people inside.
How will seating work?
Do you want to have a sit-down dinner with assigned seating, or will it be more casual, with guests noshing wherever they can find space? Determine if you need to borrow an extra table and chairs, or if you’ll need to move furniture to accommodate a large group.
To DIY these Rosemary Sprig Place Cards, visit Spoon Fork Bacon.
Are you prepared if extra people show up?
You know how it goes: Your colleague invited his roommate who brought his girlfriend who wouldn’t come unless her she could bring her best friend. Make sure you have a plan for extra guests—that includes enough food, extra plates, additional drinks, etc.—or if you are restricted to a certain number, make sure your guests are aware.
Check out 100 Layer Cake’s Tips For Hosting An Effortless Friendsgiving.
Should you have a theme?
No, ‘turkey’ doesn’t count. Shake things up with a theme that your friends will actually get on board with like appetizers only, fondue, or a vegetarian-friendly spread. Dipsgiving, anyone?
Check out Home Oh My’s Friendsgiving Party With The Flair Exchange for inspiration.
Who will tackle the turkey?
Or the ham? The beauty of Friendsgiving is that the host doesn’t have to do everything. Enlist your foodie friends and make a plan. If your group isn’t particularly skilled with a turkey baster, no worries—order a fully cooked bird from your local market. Just be sure to place your order early (now). Waiting until last minute could leave you and your guests with a table full of side dishes. (Which isn’t always a bad thing, TBH.)
Check out Country Living’s take: the Easiest Salt And Pepper Turkey.
How about the sides and dessert?
To make sure three people don’t bring mashed potatoes, start a shared Google doc (or email chain) where guests can list what they want to bring. For some, Thanksgiving is ALL about the stuffing, and people have preferences. Cornbread? Sausage? Oyster? For large gatherings, plan on serving more than one kind.
Get Taste of Lizzy T’s classic stuffing recipe here.
Does your group have dietary restrictions?
Make sure your menu is robust enough to accommodate all types of eaters, whether they might be vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, allergic to nuts, or just watching their weight.
That recipe looks delicious, but have you tested it?
Every seasoned host will tell you that you never, never, ever try a recipe for the first time on your guests. Plan ahead, and give yourself some time to be sure that it’s every bit as delicious (and doable) as it looked online.
Find the recipe for this Pumpkin French Toast Casserole via Little Spice Jar.
Is your cocktail game ready?
So many tasty fall–inspired beverages to choose from! Find out what your crowd likes best (beer, wine, mixed drinks) and have a game plan ready in advance. There are plenty of large-batch cocktails you can make, or you can set up a bar cart for guests to help themselves. And of course, be sure to have options for non-alcohol drinkers as well.
Try this Caramel Apple Sangria from The Sweetest Occasion.
Do you have a plan for leftovers?
A leftover kit is a great way to ensure everyone leaves with their favorites, and you aren’t left with more than your fridge can handle. The best part about this kit might be the portable coffee cup for the ride home.
DIY Thanksgiving Printables And Decoration Ideas are available via Elli.
How will you decorate?
Take full advantage of fall’s rich colors and golden light to create a look that is chic, but not stuffy. If you went all out for Halloween, many of the colors and pumpkin-themed decor items also work perfectly for Thanksgiving tablescapes. If you need some inspo, Athena Calderone has some great tips for a gorgeous set up.
If you want to use printables—for important info like the menu, seating cards, and even recipes—there are some stylish designs available for download online.
Check out these Friendsgiving Printables via The House That Lars Built.
What’s your shopping plan?
Now that you know the basics for food, drink, and decor, start shopping now. Waiting until the last minute could leave you empty handed on shopping day. Many popular Thanksgiving grocery items—like fresh cranberries and turkey—can be purchased in advance and stored in the freezer until the big day.
DIY this Thanksgiving Centerpiece via Pottery Barn.
Are you prepared for overnight guests?
Inclement weather can strand guests at your home—especially those traveling long distance. Planning early will allow you to set aside a few essentials to ensure guests feel comfortable and welcome, despite any unforeseen travel dilemmas.
Check out A Beautiful Mess’ How To for entertaining overnight guests.
Have you consider crazy holiday schedules?
Perhaps the best reason of all for planning your Friendsgiving early is obvious: This is the busiest time of the year, and our schedules only get more hectic as we near December. Giving everyone ample notice of your soiree is not only considerate, but it gets your event on their calendars before they fill up.
To DIY these Mini Pumpkin Florals, check out Fish & Bull.
Creativity takes time, so why wait?
You want your Friendsgiving to be special, which might mean party favors, a special cocktail, DIY decor—whatever strikes your fancy. Avoid the stress of rushing at the last minute, and get thee to Pinterest now.
Check out the recipe for these Cake Batter Snickerdoodles, a perfect parting gift, via Lil’ Luna.
Originally published October 13, 2016. Updated November 2, 2017.