How To Throw A Perfectly Cozy “Friendsgiving”

© dinah-penaflickr
© dinah-penaflickr
Photo of Amber C. Snider
Home & Design Editor2 April 2017

The holidays can be stressful – with all the travel arrangements and inevitable family drama, sometimes it’s better to stay local and celebrate the Day of Thanks with your closest friends. There’s no social rule that says you have to go home for the holidays. If you’re planning to keep it low-key and local, here are a few tips for planning your perfect “Friendsgiving.”

Make it a potluck

Have everyone bring one dish with them, and possibly one bottle of wine each. Make sure to get a full list of what everyone is bringing beforehand so there’s no overlap – and be sure you have all your basics covered (green bean casserole, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pies, etc.). Since you’re the host, it’s on you to make the turkey (no matter how tiny your oven is!) and make the mashed potatoes too, as they’re better served fresh.

Don’t forget to put out a cheese plate, too! Bring on the brie, goat cheese, gouda, gorgonzola, and any other variety, and pair it with a couple of jams and a serving of grapes. It’ll keep guests tied over until dinnertime, plus it’ll pair well with sparkling cranberry cocktails.

© Baibaz

Make a signature cocktail for the evening

You don’t want to be stuck as bartender all evening, so rather than stocking up on every type of liquor known to man, opt for an “evening’s signature cocktail.” Try something that suits all and isn’t too sweet, heavy, or boozy. A sparkling cranberry cocktail is a good choice for Thanksgiving or a light Limoncello Spritzer. You can make these cocktails in batches and serve in a traditional punch bowl.


Try this affordable, all-season set of goblets for all your festive holiday cocktails.

Have an eclectic approach to dining

Not everything has to be matchy-matchy for semi-formal or even formal occasions. After all, this isn’t your grandmother’s thanksgiving dinner. Try using playful, mismatched plates, including serving bowls, to add to the hodgepodge feel of a “homey” friendsgiving. Just as each friend brings something new to the table, each dish can have its own style too.

Try these Moroccan plates to impress your buddies with your eclectic, cultured sensibility. Or you can always pick up a hodgepodge of plates at your local thrift store of Salvation Army.

Build a mini-memory tree

If you’re having a “friendsgiving,” chances are you’ve acquired a few special memories with your guests. Why not display this moments using a little memory tree? Try using bare branches like these small natural birch branches, and clip or tie several photos of you and your friends using these LED photo clips.

Images via CC/Flickr. | © Miss Morice | Marina Montoya | Jacky W | Sholeh
Small Natural Birch branches & Rainleaf LED Tabletop Birch Tree Bonsai

Pick a theme. Or don’t.

Don’t pick anything that’s too involved for everyone, or that would require a lot of forethought from everyone. It’s mainly the host’s job to set the ambiance and material for the theme, so think of something practical, yet memorable. “Jacksgiving” is a fun theme for young whiskey lovers, where you infuse everything from the sweet potato casserole to the turkey with Jack Daniels. Or try a 1920s picnic theme, where everyone dresses their best and dinner is served “picnic style on the floor with creative, eclectic rugs.

© Pixabay

Try these eclectic rugs from Anthropologie for a “friendsgiving” on the floor or this Jack Daniels decanter for a “Jacksgiving” theme.

"Jacksgiving" Theme with Jack Daniels-infused sweet potato casserole

Dried flowers or herbs as centerpieces

Try using a dried flower display, rather than a stuffy bouquet of harvest ‘themed’ flowers. They’ll last much longer than fresh flowers, so you’ll get more bank for your buck, and you can keep the up for the rest of the season. An alternative is to place bunches of dried flowers (like fragrant eucalyptus), or even dried herbs in mini dishes, around the room.


Eucalyptus is a great dried flower for the holidays (and smells great too!). Try these Eucalyptus bunches from Amazon.

Serve warm drinks in batches

Keep a pot of your favorite warm, boozy beverage on the stove throughout the evening. Try a new spin on traditional recipes with a hot ginger toddy, a mulled apple cider, or a warm apple pie cocktail. (Recipes in links).


Brew the magical warming elixir in cast iron pot and serve in a classic serving bowl. Set out handmade mugs for an extra cozy, homey vibe.

Decorate with what you have

As the host of any party, it’s easy to feel pressured to completely convert your space into a haven of food and festivity. But the items you already have stored away in your house may work just as well. Leftover pumpkins from Halloween? Give them a coat of paint (white, silver, golds, etc.) and use as centerpieces. Or turn your old-school box cheese grater into mini-luminaries by placing electronic votives inside, for a glowing, rustic alternative to lanterns or candles.

© Gabriel Garcia Marengo/Flickr

Send your guests home with a healthy portion of leftovers

Purchase tupperware before the big feast (and jazz it up with simple red ribbon) to make sure your friends have lunch for the next day. This thoughtful gesture is sure to impress and will also help the post-dinner storage “situation” in your fridge.

© vxlaflickr

Memory tins filled with fresh biscotti

Festive tins filled with fresh biscottis are great take-home gifts for your friends, too. And they’ll be able to keep the tin as a little token of your fabulous Friendsgiving. Check out these vintage-inspired tins from Etsy.

Vintage-inspired tins from Easy and biscottis. Images by | © VintageFoodCans and | Lori L. Stalteri

Gratitude Bowl

At the end of the day, Thanksgiving is about showing gratitude for the things you have and the people around you. Set out a gratitude bowl and have people write down what they’re grateful for on the note cards. Around dessert time, the host can read off each one and your friends can guess which “gratitude note” belongs to which friend.

*Fun Tip: Instruct everyone to write their gratitude note about someone else in the room, or if it’s a small party and everyone knows each other intimately, each person can write one positive thing about each person at the party. It’s a guarantee to make people feel more loved (or embarrassed). Either way, they’ll feel appreciated and it will get the gratitude flowing.

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