Not everyone can be surrounded by family on Thanksgiving, but having a group of your best pals over to celebrate the holiday is the next best thing — heck, it might even be better!
If you’re thinking of starting a Friendsgiving tradition this year, don’t be overwhelmed. It may seem daunting to pull together an event that everyone will remember for years to come, but if you follow a few simple rules, it’s a piece of cake.
Help your guests feel comfortable
If you’re inviting a diverse group of friends who don’t really know each other, it’s totally your job to facilitate introductions and make sure everyone feels comfortable. This might actually be the toughest part of the hosting gig.
One huge tip: Spend the first hour or so you expect guests to arrive near the front door with a tray of fun fall cocktails or glasses of wine. Your friends will instantly feel relaxed, and you’ll also be able to introduce people when they first arrive.
It’s also handy to come up with a good, old-fashioned seating chart for the dining table. Since you know everyone best, you can seat your friends with people they might not necessarily know, but would totally hit it off with.
Assign items for a potluck
Start an email chain with a shared Google doc where guests can sign up for specific menu items. By having others help out with the cooking, you’ll have a ton more time to circulate and help your guests get to know each other (see above). The sign-up sheet also holds everyone accountable for what they are supposed to bring, and it ensures that no crucial items (like mashed potatoes, stuffing or pumpkin pie) are missing.
Let friends know they’re welcome to bring unique items that they usually have on Thanksgiving (like their grandmother’s secret recipe for broccoli casserole) along with what they signed up for. It’ll open up the rest of the guests to new Thanksgiving treats, and the person bringing the dish will feel more at home. Win-win.
Create a fun tablescape
An interesting table will provide for great conversation and laughs, so get creative! DIY the crap out of your Thanksgiving table, and if you have kids, let them get in on the action. Even better — if you have friends bringing kids to the celebration, set up a craft table for the little ones to create pieces for the table on the spot.
You can also make these adorable Oreo turkeys and Pilgrim hats. They double as cute place card holders.
If you’re going for a more elegant affair, check out these ideas to fancy up your table.
Sure, traditional parlor games are super-silly, but they’re also amazing ice breakers. Schedule a time between dinner and dessert to play a spirited game of Pictionary with a huge easel or get everyone excited for charades. Anything to get everyone on their feet and laughing.
Or, if the weather is nice enough, you can always head out for a rousing game of touch football.
Do you host a Friendsgiving? What are some of your favorite traditions?
Before you go, check out our slideshow below.
Originally published November 2011. Updated November 2016.