How to Host a Friendsgiving Dinner Party

My best Friendsgiving ideas and advice for a dinner party with tablescape, decorations, and recipes. Celebrate Thanksgiving with friends with a potluck style party you can host at home, outdoors, or in a small space.

Friendsgiving Thanksgiving ideas

How to Host Friendsgiving

These ideas for Friendsgiving are tried and true and have been tested by my friends and me for years. Follow this guide for a fun-filled celebration!

We used to have a circle of friends who were all transplants with no family nearby. So we all got together on Thanksgiving day to celebrate with each other and our children.

Those are some of my fondest memories of any holidays over the years. But as seasons change, so do the seasons of life. Our Friendsgiving dinner parties phased out as friends moved away, and lives and families changed and evolved.

Friendsgiving Thanksgiving tablescape

What is a Friendsgiving party?

Friendsgiving is the newest trend in entertaining for Thanksgiving and it’s been gaining in popularity over the last decade.

The purpose is to celebrate the holiday with friends ahead of time, or it can be hosted on Thanksgiving day if you have a group of friends who can’t be with family.

When Should I Host It?

Plan to hold your Friendsgiving dinner a week or two before the actual holiday. Or, you can have it on Thanksgiving day if you have a group who doesn’t have travel plans or family nearby. 

entertaining pro Chris Nease

What Do You Eat at Friendsgiving?

The meal for Friendsgiving can be very similar to, or the same as that of Thanksgiving. If you’re hosting a dinner party a week or two before the holiday, you may want to scale down the menu or serve up some alternatives.

For instance, make my easy crockpot turkey breast instead of a whole turkey. Or make rice dressing instead of traditional stuffing. You’ll find a full list of recipes below.

In addition, hosting potluck style means each guest can bring some of their favorite recipes to share with the group.

Thanksgiving table setting

Expert Tips

These suggestions work when you host Thanksgiving too.

  • Start planning in early November. That way everyone has time to plan what dish they’ll bring. This is definitely a potluck party!
  • Invitations are casual. The entire nature of Friendsgiving is that you celebrate with good friends. There’s no need to send formal invitations. Just start a text chain, a facebook event page, or send an Evite digital invitation.
  • The host usually cooks the turkey. This comes down to simple logistics. It’s easier to cook the main protein at home and let everyone else bring a side dish or dessert to share. You get to try new recipes that other’s hold dear, and there’s an amazing variety of food available.
  • Have games or activities available. If you’re hosting a group for friends that don’t know each other well, it’s nice to have something to break the ice. Conversation starters or board games are a good option. The host can provide them or ask guests to bring their favorite.
  • Provide take-home boxes for leftovers. If you have a ton of food left over or if guests want to take some of their favorite new dishes they tried, have boxes or tins available to fill.
  • Coordinate your menu. Make sure there’s open communication regarding the menu so you don’t have three mac n’ cheese dishes, and no pies! Use a sign up list like SignUp Genius, Evite, or a simple group text.
  • Ideas for cooking-challenged guests. Not everyone loves cooking, or is great at it. Assign things like dinner rolls, a simple appetizer, or wine to them. These are also good items to bring to Friendsgiving last minute.
  • Special diets. The nice thing about a potluck dinner party is that anyone who needs to follow a special diet can bring their own type of dish. That makes hosting so much less stressful.

Table Décor

Creating a fall table is one of my favorite parts of hosting. If the weather is mild where you live, the patio might be the perfect outdoor setting for a simple Thanksgiving tablescape.

Thanksgiving centerpiece idea

Start with an inexpensive burlap runner, basic white dishes, and coordinating napkins and drink ware.

Line candlesticks down the center of the table and place mini pumpkins on top. This brings in a pop of color and whimsy to the setting.

PARTY TIP: Extend your Friendsgiving group to include co-workers, neighbors, or friends of friends who can’t be with their own family. The more the merrier!

fall table setting

Centerpiece

Follow these secrets to flower arranging to create a gorgeous but inexpensive fall centerpiece. If you have room, move the show-stopping arrangement to one end of the table where it’s still a focal point but doesn’t impede the view between guests.

PARTY TIP: If you want to use a tall floral arrangement on the table, move it to the end instead of the middle. This way it still makes a statement but doesn’t impede the view between guests and conversation across the table

Friendsgiving table setting

Metallic details are the “jewelry” of the table and you can use it in brass candlesticks, gold flatware, gold-painted lucky wishbones, and copper Moscow mule cups.

Thanksgiving tabletop

Use pine cones for a natural element that doubles as place card holders.

The table setting is casual and inviting but still has a holiday feel with a large flower arrangement and mini pumpkins.

PARTY TIP: Be prepared to share your recipes with the others so they can add it to their holiday menu repertoire. Print out a few copies beforehand so you can hand them out.

pull the lucky wish bone

Games and Activities

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Be prepared with some fun interactive games to play.

  • We love playing Apples to Apples, and it’s suitable for all ages.
  • If you’re only playing with adults, Cards Against Humanity is hilarious! Or try the family version.
  • A friendly game of poker can be fun too.
  • Depending on the day you choose, there may be football on tv to watch. 
  • At the end of the meal each guest can take their shot at pulling the lucky wishbone with a partner to see who’s wishes will come true!
fall patio decorating

Easy Party Decorations

When you host a Friendsgiving dinner party, be prepared with these themed decoration ideas. They work well for an outdoor party or for a small apartment.

  • Add fall arrangements like simple vases of dry wheat, cattails, or Pampas grass on side tables and buffets.
  • Place small pumpkins on tables and use warm fall colors for pillows and table setting.
  • Gather natural items together in a basket. Add rustic antlers, pinecones, feathers, etc.
  • Make sure to have cozy seating areas ready to gather in. The best part is that most of the work has already been done so when you get together you can relax and have fun.
  • Don’t stress too much about seating. You can move chairs and benches back and forth from the sitting area to the dinner table, when needed.
  • Set up a bar or lounge area and serve my hot Russian tea for sipping. Add a shot of rum or bourbon to make it extra special for the adults.
  • If you’re lucky enough to set up outdoors provide blankets and throws, and wood ready in the fire pit in case the temperature drops. Add pots of mums to the space.
hot cider on tray
foraged antlers in caddy

When we celebrated Friendsgiving it was an all day event. Guests would arrive to the host’s home by around 11 am or noon. We’d eat appetizers and sip wine, and talk and play games while the turkey finished cooking. Dinner usually happened around 6 or 7pm.

fall-cheers

Friendsgiving Menu

Here are some of my favorite recipes you can make and take to a Friendsgiving potluck.

Fall Drinks

Appetizers

  • Nibble on light apple appetizers for a seasonal hors d’oeuvres that’s easy to make.
  • These yummy baked brie bites are fantastic, simple to make, and wont fill you up.
  • Set out a party cheese board so guests can grab a bite throughout the day while the food cooks.

PARTY TIP: Have some disposable containers on hand so guests can take home leftovers for lunch the next day.

Friendsgiving Food Ideas

Bring any of these tried and true recipes to your Friendsgiving party.

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15 Comments

  1. I’m always blown away by your tables capes and party themes! And I am so obsessed with copper dishes right now!

    1. Thanks so much, Nicole!
      I know, isn’t the copper so pretty. I love how it coordinates with the gold/brass that’s been so popular too.

  2. Beautiful, just beautiful! And such a great idea for special holiday memories with our friends!

  3. I absolutely adore this! I love the mugs, place settings, and the cozy sitting area! And Chris you look adorable! Cute outfit!!

  4. This is gorgeous!! I live in a climate where outdoor Thanksgiving entertaining may or may not work, but I love the idea of an outdoor Friendsgiving!

    1. Thanks so much, Tori. It’s fun for me to look back and see how my style has evolved over the years.

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