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 starting on the guest list.
Do you want to do dinner inside or out? Are you prepared to have people stay the night? Do you have a plan for leftovers? These are just a handful of the details you’ll want to have ironed out before November comes around—and the impending stress of holiday food shopping takes full control over your life. From the decorations to the dessert, here’s everything you need to know before you host Friendsgiving.
1. How many people can you (realistically) host?
Get a headcount early, as it will be 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.
2. Indoors or out?
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 plain air, only to be foiled by the weather and only have space for six people inside.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. What tasks are you willing to share?
People come to a Friendsgiving wanting to lend a hand. And while we’re confident you’ll have everything under control, that doesn’t mean you should kick everyone else out of the kitchen. Make a list of all the tasks you’ll want your friends to take on—from making the mashed potatoes to setting the table to pouring drinks—that way, when someone asks how they can help, you’ll have an answer.
6. 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. Dip-sgiving, anyone?
7. 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 (maybe, start now). Waiting until last minute could leave you and your guests with a table full of side dishes—which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
8. 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 most people have preferences. Cornbread? Sausage? Oyster? For large gatherings, plan on serving more than one kind.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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. Stock up on disposable cartons or mini leftover containers to make the process all the more seamless. This eco-friendly version is a standout favorite.
13. 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 inspiration, Athena Calderone has great tips for a gorgeous setup.
14. 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. Many popular Thanksgiving grocery items—like fresh cranberries and turkey—can be purchased in advance and stored in the freezer until the big day.
15. 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.
16. Have you considered 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.
17. 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.
This story was originally published on October 13, 2016. It has been updated with new information.
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