Tips For Hosting The Ultimate Friendsgiving

It turns out that large swaths of college students from across the country were cultural trendsetters in the early 2000s. Unable to return home for Thanksgiving, groups of friends decided to perpetuate what they did on many Friday and Saturday nights: gather together to pool their food and booze. The informal, laid-back nature of the day made the holiday one to bookmark — and a trend was born on their clock.


Oh sure: the TV show "Friends" may have gotten credit for creating the concept of Friendsgiving, per Delish, and Bailey's Irish Cream invoked the word in a 2011 advertising campaign, according to Totally Promotional. But the world outside college towns was slow to catch on. It wasn't until January 2020 that Merriam-Webster swept the word into the lexicon. The dictionary dated itself by saying the term was "surprisingly new," but it nailed the idea by merging the words "friend" and "Thanksgiving."

Today, out of necessity or choice, you may wish to host your own Friendsgiving. And it can be just as lighthearted as it may have been 20 years ago if you follow a basic tenet: it may as well be a potluck. This doesn't mean "free-for-all" but is rather a chance for your friends to assume some ownership of the day and contribute what they like. Some tips can help you host the ultimate Friendsgiving in food and spirit. One thing is certain: this won't be your mother's — or grandmother's — Thanksgiving.


Take the reins

Look at it this way: somebody is probably the de facto leader of your friend group — the natural-born leader who steps up, takes pulses, charts the way, and ensures that everything runs smoothly. Chances are, this somebody is you, especially if you're hosting Friendsgiving at your place.


This reality translates to a few things: one, the cleaning, organizing, and set-up will invariably fall to you. So too will providing supplies, which for your own peace of mind should probably feature paper goods, not fancy dinner plates. (You may blanch at the cost, but the clean-up will be a breeze. And your friends can give of themselves by lending a hand.)

As host, it's only proper that you provide the main course. But don't stress out over preparing a 20-pound turkey. Consider downshifting to a few turkey breasts, Better Homes & Gardens recommends. They're simple to prepare, don't take up as much room in the oven, and are often juicier than a whole bird.

Send a sign-up sheet

Bringing some degree of order to Friendsgiving may not be your favorite part, but once you're done creating a sign-up sheet, you should find that most things fall into place. (And if they don't, pretend you're still in college and relearn how not to sweat the details.)


Create a spreadsheet or Google Doc that everyone can access, highlighting that you'd like everyone to bring a side dish and a bottle of booze or a side dish and a dessert, for example (via The Kitchn). The potentially tricky part? You should provide some direction to your guests but not make demands of them. In other words, you don't want to be a micromanager. Besides, what's the worst that can happen? You could end up with two sweet potato casseroles, four types of stuffing, and not a single tray of tossed green beans. You'll live and your friends will live. This is part of what Friendsgiving is all about: creating memories, not a picture-perfect buffet.

Take – and encourage – shortcuts

If haven't already learned the art of taking shortcuts, then Friendsgiving may impart the value of this life skill, Better Homes & Gardens points out. Your friends may not know their way around a kitchen as well as you do. Or they may be known for "getting lost" along the way. Or their travel plans may not be conducive to them packing a cooler or keeping a dish warm in their car. Chances are, they will be taking their cues from you. So, if you start getting frantic phone calls — "I don't know how to bake very well" or "My scalloped potatoes never turn out like my mother's!" — encourage them to take shortcuts. There's nothing wrong with store-bought cookies or delicatessen potatoes. People who are under the gun often rise to the occasion; your friends may surprise you with some thoughtful store-bought contributions.


Plus, it may help to remember that everybody wants to feel like they're playing a role, The Kitchn notes. The point is to make your friends feel as though their contributions are valued; it's their companionship you value most. The food is a mere backdrop to the day.

Do everyone a favor and set up a buffet

Without even realizing it, you're already establishing new Friendsgiving traditions, and you may very well repeat many of these traditions for years to come. But who said anything about pressure? Friendsgiving dispenses with pressure in favor of a casual atmosphere, which is why you would be wise to forget even attempting to stage a family-style meal. Family-style dining means that all the courses in a meal are placed on a table and then passed from one person to another, around the table (via Binwise). 


Family-style dining is more formal than buffet-style, which is exactly why you may wish to leave your memories of Thanksgiving past, well, in the past. Plus, it may be more practical to set up a buffet table for your Friendsgiving feast if you think your friends will be arriving and departing at various times — and taking phone call breaks in between. Then, when they do show up with their food offering, they can add their culinary contribution to the table. A buffet encourages people to help themselves as they come and go as they please — and reheat their portions in your microwave if they care to.

Booze and music will set a college-like tone

If college students learn to finesse two pastimes, it's often drinking and listening to music. But who says these mood-setting moves should end in your early 20s? Even a small crowd will appreciate you setting up a "buffet bar" — a place where they can find glasses, ice, drink napkins, and bottles of booze. It doesn't have to be an elaborate, fully-stocked bar (though it may get that way, over the course of the day). You can devote some countertop space to a bar or pull a dresser into the room and put your drink paraphernalia on top. A burning candle will literally light their way. Already, you can see that between your buffet table and the bar, your Friendsgiving scene can be just as orderly as your parents' (and this is a good thing).


As far as food and drink will take your holiday, music will take it the distance. So, Inverse suggests creating at least one playlist. Or, you could make two, with one featuring tunes that play only throughout dinner. The other playlist? Save it for the dancefloor. 

Intricacies for if you have extra time

In the interest of time, some holiday details just have to fall by the wayside, even on Friendsgiving. Maybe they will resurface next year. But in the meantime, these are the things that no one should notice are lacking, such as fresh-cut flowers in a bouquet, a few "Welcome, friends" signs, and a collection of taffy apple gift bags. It's up to you to decide how you can make the best use of, say, 30 minutes or so of "extra" time you find before your guests arrive. As a pleaser, though, you may wish to consider creating an edible centerpiece for your guests, Better Homes & Gardens suggests.


If foresight is your strength, this category may have appeared on your original sign-up sheet. This way, everyone can add a little something to the centerpiece as they arrive. A bag of black grapes here, a sleeve of crackers over there, and a package of Monterey Jack opened in the middle can add up to a fetching tabletop display in no time — and culminate in new traditions that create the most memorable Friendsgivings of all.