I still can’t escape the look of mild pity and bewilderment every time someone asks me what my Thanksgiving Day plans are and my response is, “nothing!” After nine years of no major plans revolving around family gatherings and uncomfortable prying from distant relatives, I am used to it. When I was 18, I moved away from my sunny hometown in Puerto Rico to the middle-of-nowhere, Iowa for college. And thanks to ridiculous holiday airfares and the fact that going home for Thanksgiving — while also going home for Christmas — seemed excessive, I made do with no turkey plans or family turkey trots. That is until the art of Friendsgiving came into the picture, and being far away from family during one of the most important holidays of the year no longer seemed so bad.
Some time after an unmemorable Thanksgiving break freshman year where I was one of maybe four people in my entire residence hall who had stayed on campus, I decided being holed up all week did not need to be my only option. And ever since, as a single woman in her 20s, it has become a tradition to rally up the all lonely souls I know around town for a potluck meal.
What Is Friendsgiving
Friendsgiving is an opportunity to get together with your closest friends for a nontraditional Thanksgiving meal. The memories I have made are like reels highlighting the best of every season of life. There was the Thanksgiving party at a clubhouse with pool tables and a lot of dancing, the gathering with more than 20 friends that involved karaoke and Pictionary, the road trip to see Usher in St. Louis, and most recently, the get together at a friend’s house where someone made a whole turkey but no one knew how to carve it.
It is not solely about not having Thanksgiving plans, it just requires wanting to celebrate the other family in your life.
It is no surprise Friendsgiving has gotten so popular over the year, so much so that Google Trends shows searches for the term have exponentially spiked over the last three years, and most food-centric media platforms have released some sort of Friendsgiving guide. The thing is that in the global world we now live in, it is more common than ever to have a fragmented family who lives all over the country. Families themselves have changed, and it is easy for non-relatives — our friends — to take the role of family members in our lives. They are coworkers we share our day-to-day lives with, the friend that knows the nitty-gritty about our dating life, the friend who is our trusted fellow concertgoer, or the one who is always down for some gym time. It is not solely about — and doesn’t require — not having Thanksgiving plans, it just requires wanting to celebrate the other family in your life.
There are not that many secrets to a good Friendsgiving, and the time people host it varies, but for us, it has always been the weekend before Thanksgiving week before those with families nearby head out of town for their own shot at the family turkey trot. Every group of friend’s dynamic is unique, but the most important ingredient in any Friendsgiving recipe is — wait for it — a group of close friends. The rest is all up to you. Make it a potluck where everyone brings one dish that they love or a pizza party where you just order in and drink wine. Make it a bite-size food-only event where you get to show off your Charcuterie board-building skills, or simply a movie or game night.
If you’re looking for tips on how to have a fun and stress-free Friendsgiving, we talked with the two party planners below about tips for having the smoothest event yet.
Get Organized Early
The prep starts way before the event, and Jennifer Bennour, owner of Fête du Jour Events stresses the importance of sending early invites. Whether it’s a text, a Paperless Post, or an actual snail-mail invitation,” send out invitations early, directly after Halloween. Assume you’re not the only one inviting your guests to a Friendsgiving, so it’s best to get the invitations in front of them ASAP so they can make plans,” she says. You can also start cleaning and prepping the party space the week before. “ The less you have to do on the day of the event, the more smoothly it will go,” she says.
Consider Your Budget
“Planning is really the key,” Melia Imberman, owner of The Event Of A Lifetime, says. “Many mistakes can be avoided by proper planning and communication. I can’t underestimate the importance of creating a detailed realistic timeline and reviewing it with all involved prior to the event.” She adds that it’s also important to consider your budget, then to decide what you want to make a priority. Are you splurging on great food? Making the event a potluck and going all out on decor? “If one aspect of the event is more important to you than another make sure that your choices are reflected in the allocation of your budget,” she says.
Ask For Help
Don’t forget to ask for help; the event is supposed to be fun for you too. “Some hosts are very type A, and don’t like to delegate or ask their guests for help, with fear of seeming incapable,” Bennour says. “A stressed or overwhelmed host can bring down the whole party! Plus, hosting an event like Friendsgiving costs money, so it’s completely fine (and expected) to ask your guests to bring a side dish or bottle of wine. Taking on too many tasks (host, chef, Dj, decorator, clean-up crew, etc.) will leave you completely drained and just thinking about the next thing that needs to be done. This event is for you, too, so accept assistance!
There are not that many secrets to a good Friendsgiving, and the time people host it varies, but for us, it has always been the weekend before Thanksgiving week before those with families nearby head out of town for their own shot at the family turkey trot. Make it a potluck where everyone brings one dish that they love or a pizza party where you just order in and drink wine. Make it a bite-size food-only event where you get to show off your Charcuterie board-building skills, or simply a movie or game night.
And then, when I come home, I have eaten my share of food for the rest of the week, but I am as buoyant as a boat. I come home, call my parents and sit through an hour-long conversation about the non-plans they also have. We all relish on the fact that we may not be close in geography, but good conversation and fellowship are all anyone has ever needed to feel like the world is a friendly place, and we can all make it through the rest of the holiday season feeling a little less alone.
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