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Planning a Friendsgiving? DC-Area Event Planners Share Their Tips.

Consider batch cocktails, potlucks, and collaborative playlists this Thanksgiving.

Photograph via iStock.

Friendsgiving celebrations are an opportunity to bring pals together for Thanksgiving fixings and fellowship ahead of the bustling holiday season. If you’re planning on hosting a feast with your chosen family this season, take some tips from the pros. DC-area event planners offer their recommendations for a successful Friendsgiving meal. 

The Guest List 

Keep in mind the space you’re working with to avoid overcrowding as well as your invitee’s plans for the day. “Many friends tend to jump from place to place, so focus on those who will be there when dinner is served,” says Andrew Roby, founder of Andrew Roby Events. “Those who come after will not feel slighted if they don’t eat with the core group as they have just eaten at another location.” After you’ve finalized your list, try using Canva or Paperless Post to make a cute invitation that can be sent out online. 


The Decor 

Once you know who will be at your table, it’s time to start crafting the aesthetic. Tracie Simon, founder of event planning firm LeFeast, recommends visiting home stores to grab placemats, colorful napkins, or charger plates “to add some color and dimension to your table.” Looking to pass off the task? Simon suggests Social Studies, an online rental service that offers table-setting packages for groups of any size that include plates, silverware, napkins, and tabletop decor. 

In addition to the place settings, Simon sets up place cards as a personal touch. If you don’t have a dining room table in your digs, she suggests tying each person’s name card to a napkin with colorful ribbon and placing the napkins near a buffet-style spread.

Candles and flowers also add to the ambiance, even if you’re eating on a couch around a coffee table. Simon recommends taper candles and tea lights for an inexpensive glow. “Trader Joe’s sometimes has the best flowers and pricing is great,” says Simon. “You can run there and get a handful of flowers in the same color tones, and make your own little arrangements.” You don’t even need a collection of vases—Simon says you can just use glassware you already have on hand. 

The Playlist 

When preparing a playlist for a party, Jennifer Tye, owner of catering company DC Taste, asks herself a few questions to help the music flow with the gathering: “What music do I want to hear when people arrive? What music do I want playing when we’re having dinner? And what music is going to transition to when we’re ready to party?”  

In the spirit of Friendsgiving, consider turning the celebration into a DJ democracy. Send a Spotify playlist to guests in advance, and encourage friends to add their favorite tunes. Hit shuffle so everyone will be able to hear a few of their songs alongside some new music.

The Food

The big question for Friendsgiving: Should the event be a potluck? “It depends on your group of friends.” Simon says. “If your friends are coming together and saying, I know so-and-so is hosting it at their home, but we all want to cook, then wonderful, go for it.” 

If you go the potluck route, Simon suggests selecting one person to keep track of the different dishes to ensure you don’t end up with five cans of cranberry sauce and no stuffing. A host could make the entree—whether that is a turkey is your prerogative—and then ask for guests to bring side dishes and desserts that fit set categories like potato platters, vegetarian sides, or desserts. 

There’s also no shame in ordering food for your dinner party. “Thanksgiving dinner is a lot, and it can be overwhelming for one person to cook,” says Simon. “So definitely find your local restaurant that does an amazing mashed potato and order from them.” Bringing in even a couple of dishes from a restaurant that serves Thanksgiving can help alleviate some of the cooking stress. 

The food doesn’t have to stop at Friendsgiving. Simon often sends friends home with a morning bread to nosh on the next day. “Especially if you end up doing a potluck, it’s also a nice way to say thank you,” says Simon. 

The Drinks 

No, you don’t have to play hostess, chef, and bartender. If you have the space, create a drink station for guests to mix and pour their own beverages, or consider making a batch cocktail in advance. Tye plans to make a batch of trendy espresso martinis for her upcoming party, and Simon appreciates a mulled wine, which can sit on your stovetop throughout the afternoon. “When people walk in, you’re checking off two items on your list: having this amazing scent going throughout your house, and it’s also something delicious to drink and that’s very easy to do,” says Simon. 

The Gratitude

After all, Friendsgiving is all about giving thanks. Simon proposes using the time to give back, whether that’s requesting guests bring a can of food to donate or writing letters to the elderly before serving dinner.

That gratitude can also be for your pals. Simon recommends writing a handwritten note to each attendee, telling them why you’re thankful for their friendship. Roby of Andrew Roby Events agrees that the day offers a moment to pause and reflect as a group on all we have to be thankful for.

Now is the time to really be intentional about why you are having a Friendsgiving, so set aside time during dinner to reflect with those around you,” says Roby. We have lost loved ones, jobs, and other opportunities, and many people could use some joy and appreciation.”


Katie Kenny
Editorial Fellow