Welcome to Friendsgiving
By Kimberly Boney
For the Love of Friends
By Kimberly Bonéy
THE SEASON OF FALL COLORS, cozy sweaters and pumpkin spice everything is upon us. As the holidays draw near, many of us are preparing to host loved ones from near and far at our table. Sometimes, circumstances just don’t allow for everyone to go home for the holidays. At times like this, it’s wonderful when there is a friend waiting with open arms – and a seat at the table. We can’t pick our family – but if we could, chances are we would pick the friends who have shown us that sometimes, water is just as thick as blood. Friendsgiving is an opportunity to bring the family we choose into our holiday traditions. Here are some ideas for hosting the perfect Friendsgiving celebration.
Send an invitation
Whether you prefer to send invitations through the mail, issue a modern evite, send a text message or offer a more casual “swing by the house around 3pm” face-to-face interaction, extending that invitation to your loved ones lets them know that you have held a space for them not only at your table, but in your heart.
Before you send a single invitation, though, write a list of who you’d like to have in attendance and make sure you’ve got enough space, seating, dishes, glasses and serving-ware to host everyone on that list. Your guests may also want to have a plus one, so plan accordingly.
Ask your guests to bring a dish and to-go containers
There is something beautifully nostalgic about food. Eating a dish we’ve grown up with can transport us back to a long-ago happy place. Have each guest bring a dish they’ve always enjoyed during the holidays. Know what dishes will be coming ahead of time and prepare a placard that shares the name of the dish, its ingredients and the name of the person who prepared it. It’ll be an incredible opportunity for each guest to share a bit of their culture and family history with everyone gathered at the table. It’s also a way to make sure that anyone with specific dietary restrictions can enjoy the festivities worry-free.
Be sure to let guests know that the dish needs to be fully prepared before they get to your house, so you don’t end up with gridlock in the kitchen. Do, however, be prepared for dishes that will need to be heated just before the meal.
There will, no doubt, be leftovers. And what’s a good Friendsgiving without a built-in next-day meal? They get some delicious food to take with them, and you get to keep your storage containers and the space in your refrigerator.
Create a signature cocktail
Knock it out of the park with a festive Friendsgiving drink. Garnish it to perfection and serve it in a glass that fits in with your party theme. Have a few classics available, like red and white wine, your favorite house beer and a non-alcoholic option. If friends have their own drink preferences, ask them to bring along a bottle of their favorite to share. You won’t break the bank paying for the drinks and might help to keep overdrinking at bay.
Make it personal
In a perfect world, all of your guests would be old friends with years of connection to bind them together. But the world isn’t perfect. You may very well have a mix of friends from different circles at your Friendsgiving – and that’s a chance to help build new friendships. Engage party guests with an “ice-breaker” question. Ask them what their favorite holiday memory is, to describe the best meal they’ve ever eaten, or where they would travel to if they had to leave immediately.
Be considerate with the questions you ask. Questions should be light-hearted and pressure-free. It’ll be a lovely way to have guests get to know each other better. You’ll be amazed by how much even complete strangers have
Type up each question on a cardstock that coordinates with your color theme for the party, place it in an envelope with the guest’s name, and set it on the place setting you have prepared for them. Ice: broken!
Make it beautiful
You don’t have to be an interior designer to set a table in style. It just takes a little bit of planning, time and love. Decide whether you want a formal or casual experience and let that be your guide. Set on a formal dining experience? Look online to find the perfect configuration of a place setting. If you are open to a more free-flowing table, let your creativity direct your steps. Pro tip: The casual experience will likely be the most inviting for your guests.
Use as many coordinating dish sets as possible, even if you have to mix and mingle several sets to accommodate your guests. If you need more dishes than you have available, ask a friend to loan you a set. Stick to a color theme so it creates uniformity, even if the styles are different.
Linen tablecloths and napkins can be rented easily, and most second-hand stores have cool napkin rings on the cheap. Add greenery from your yard, pinecones, candles or charming decor to bring the story to life. Set the mood with some good tunes. Create your own Friendsgiving playlist or pick a station you love and let the good times roll.
Buffet style is best
With a table full of people, it’s always easier if the food sits separately in its own space. Not only will it make room for guests to navigate the table without spills, but it’ll give the grub a place to shine – as it should. A large island, kitchen counter or even a folding table can serve as the perfect vehicle to display the food. Create risers at different levels by inverting sturdy bowls, and using stacked books (or even bricks) to create cool layers. Drape a tablecloth over the layers and place the dishes into the display as they arrive. Splash in greenery and décor to create cohesion with the dining table. Don’t forget the placards to identify the dishes. Bon appétit!
Have a kids’ table
If you are hosting some tiny guests, they will thoroughly enjoy their own, special dining experience with other littles. Use white butcher paper and crayons as the tablecloth to keep them entertained. Skip the fancy china and opt for high-end plastic or paper plates, so their parents won’t be panicked at the thought of breakage of your family heirlooms. If possible, have some kid-friendly food available, in case you have picky eaters who aren’t game to try what’s on the main menu.
If you have an extra room without breakables, fill it with toys. Play a movie they’ll love or make them their own playlist of kid-friendly tunes. It’ll give them a chance to bond while their parents get a much-needed break with other adults.
Don’t forget the entertainment
A few good party games can carry your Friendsgiving into the night with joy and laughter. Have a few of your favorites at the ready, or ask a few friends to bring theirs.
If your crew is more into music than games, consider a karaoke machine, or having a few musical instruments in the mix – like a piano or keyboard, a guitar, maracas or a cymbal. If you’ve got a friend with a particular musical talent, ask them to share it with everyone, ahead of time, so you don’t put anyone on the spot. Make some music – and some lifelong memories together. •