When you can’t make it home for Thanksgiving, throwing (or attending) a Friendsgiving dinner party is the next best thing. Friendsgiving is the perfect occasion to give thanks with your closest friends, gorge yourself on terrific food and drinks, and, of course, watch some football.
This annual get-together of great friends and food has increased in popularity over the years, and one reason for that is the cost of air travel. For example, if you live in San Francisco and want to spend the four-day Thanksgiving weekend with your family in New York City, a non-stop, round trip ticket will cost anywhere from $738 (JetBlue) to $1222 (American). If you work in a demanding professional career, your career goals might force to you stick around town. But a tight budget or work obligations shouldn’t mean you have to miss out on what many people believe to be the best holiday of the year. You’ve got friends—lots of them—and some of them might be in the same position as you are.
So get together and do that thing you do so well: party.
To host Friendsgiving this year, pick a date—it doesn’t have to be on a Wednesday or Thursday— and then follow our simple strategy to help make it affordable, fun, and charitable. Just open a Google Doc, Evernote, or go old-school and grab a pad and pen to map out your budget, guest list, menu, drink ideas, and more.
Budget, don’t sweat it
Costs can rise along with your stress level if you don’t create spending parameters. Set a budget that includes the cost of food, drinks, invitations, games, etc. Nothing fancy required—just set a per-category cost target that won’t whop your wallet. And remember, guests expect to contribute, so don’t think twice about asking them to bring their favorite dishes and drinks. You can also give them the option to contribute to the cost of dinner if they don’t want to bring a dish. Venmo is a great app for sending money easily.
Get real with your guest list
Your friends mean the world to you, and you’ll probably want to invite every one of them to Friendsgiving. But consider whether that’s realistic. Tailor the number of guests to the size of your place—cozy is great, jam-packed isn’t.
If you’ve got the room, inviting work colleagues is an option, but definitely not a requirement. If you work in a small office, inviting only one or two work friends may cause hard feelings for those left out. But if you have a work buddy you’d like to become closer to, then Friendsgiving is the perfect holiday to reach out.
Finally, consider the atmosphere when making your guest list. Do you want kids at your dinner? Pets in your home? If yes to both, set up a place for kids where they can have their own fun but still be included in the festivities, and prepare an area outside or in a spare room for Fido and Rover, so they won’t be underfoot all day. Friendsgiving is great for humans and animals of all sizes, but you may want to move home valuables from the bump-into range of your smallest guests or four-legged friends.
You’re busy; we know. So if you must, take the super-easy and free route to invitations and create a Friendsgiving event page on Facebook. From there, you can invite guests, coordinate plans, and share ideas. If a slightly formal approach is more you, use Evite or Paperless Post to send invitations. Do that at least two weeks in advance, and then follow up on RSVP stragglers a week later. But if you’re creative, don’t hold back— design invitations yourself using Picmonkey or Canva. Pinterest offers some unique ideas to get your started. When you’re done, avoid expensive printing costs by printing on your home computer.
If you’re not a great cook, or if you’re saving for a down payment on a home or paying off student debt, go with a budget-friendly potluck dinner. For the foodies in your crowd, Friendsgiving is a chance for them show off their culinary talents. You can choose the menu, or you can leave it up to your guests and simply manage the logistics. But make sure some vegetarian dishes make their way to your table.
To get your mouth watering, the Food Network provides turkey recipes for traditionalists. If you want to venture outside of your grandma’s string bean surprise, when it comes to side dishes, Chowhound.com offers recipes for more sophisticated palates, such as ahi tuna poke, pork and shrimp pot stickers, cornbread oyster stuffing, and more.
Your Friendsgiving bar should be one that your friends never want to leave. Search the web for delectable fall cocktail recipes that will help your party cruise along, such as cranberry martinis and fall apple pumpkin shandy, or include BYOB on your invitations; your guests will bring their favorites. Remember the staples, such as club soda, tonic, limes, lemons, and, of course, margarita salt. For vino lovers, these wines for under $20 will please. And if you really want to get serious, surprise everyone during dessert with apple pie vodka shots. Just don’t forget the teetotalers and designated drivers. For them, you may want to whip up a refreshing apple orchard punch.
Games and activities help make Friendsgiving even more fun. Go with games you already have or ask friends to bring their favorites. Cards Against Humanity is great for blowing off stress, but it’s not for the thin-skinned. If your guests are couples, try Taboo, a game in which forbidden words trip players up. Larger groups, wanna-be artists, and even the kids will love Pictionary. And if you have a yard, a rousing game of touch football during half-time shows can be fun and help work up large appetites for your feast.
As you eat, drink, and play your way through the day or night, remember the “giving” part of Friendsgiving. Set up a giving station on a tablet or laptop in your living room so guests can contribute electronically to their favorite charity, or yours. Charity Navigator lets you choose from a number of categories, including human services, health, and the environment. Also consider Kiva, a site where you and your guests can provide micro-loans to entrepreneurs from 80 countries who are helping to reduce poverty.
image credit: bigstock.com/pressmaster