Hosting Friendsgiving

in , by Mackenzie Elaine Wasilick, November 10, 2019

The key to any successful Friendsgiving is preparation, organization, and communication. Oh, and most likely cooking a turkey on your own with limited parental guidance. Yikes... but more on that later. The further I move from home the more I've come to appreciate my friends. I'm not saying adult friendships are hard, but I am saying that we have way more responsibilities now. I literally have SO. MANY. THOUGHTS. on hosting and entertaining and there's no way this post will capture everything, but here's a healthy preface that this post is a little lengthy.

Something about October makes my body crave turkey. When that hits, I start thinking about Friendsgiving. The women in my family have our ~real~ Thanksgiving covered and I rarely have any ~real~ responsibility, so I relish hosting my own gathering each year where my Type A / Enneagram 1 / OCD event-planning tendencies get the opportunity to shine. In the process of planning this year's Friendsgiving, I figured jotting down my planning process might be helpful to others (or at least my future self - looking at you 2020 Kenz).

Let's face it - everyone's busy. The earlier you get the date on the calendar, the better. However, that's not saying you can't throw together everyone's favorite dishes and rally the troops in just a few days. If you've got the time, start in early October:
  1. Find a few dates on your personal calendar that would work for you. Decide what you're comfortable with (weeknight / weekend / daytime / nighttime). 
  2. Text your key players to get their availability and thoughts. You want to make sure that these people can attend first before widening the circle. Ask preferences on dates/times/locations, people they think should be included on the guest list, and any must-haves for the event.
    • If you're hosting on a Saturday and your group plans on going out after, you may want to have either an earlier in the day (lunchtime) affair to give people some time to regroup (read: nap) before the night. OR go for a traditional dinnertime and head straight into the evening festivities. 
    • People love their Sundays. Don't make it too early where it will either interfere with church (or sleeping in) but don't make it too late where guests will worry about getting home / regrouping to start their work week off strong.
    • I like to tell guests to arrive one hour before you're expecting the turkey is ready to be carved. Take the 30-40 minutes your turkey is resting to let guests use your oven to keep dishes warm. Ex: Guests arrive at 2:00pm, turkey out of the oven at 2:30pm, turkey is being carved around 3:00pm. Plenty of room for late arrivals and you won't feel either rushed or behind. 
  3. Set Up Sign Up Genius for menu planning and assigning - here's a template for the one I've used the past three years! Even the most friendliest of friends don't like getting blown up in a group chat. Do this before invites so you can send the link in your initial communication!
    • When choosing your own dish to bring, remember it is the hosts' job to cook the bird. If you're hosting and choose to make additional items, remember that your oven will be occupied the majority of day. Go for a charcuterie board, salad, or dessert you can make the night before.
  4. Send out invites with ALL details. My personal preference is through a Facebook event. Everyone can see who is invited plus there's an easy way to both communicate and keep and eye on the head count. Outside of date and time, think about the little stuff. Do you have room for your friends to invite others? Are we looking fly in the kitchen or are leggings the move? What about food allergies or dietary restrictions? BYOB?

The week before you have three main objectives:
  1. Follow up with the larger group - and individually as necessary - to confirm who is attending and reminding them about the dish assignments. If there are any changes to the guest list throughout the week, you'll want to communicate these so friends know how many they need to prepare their dish(es) for.
  2. Purchase your materials! There's going to be an array of materials and ingredients you'll want to have on hand. Outside of what you need for your dish(es):
    • If you've got enough china, glassware, and cutlery to serve your lot - awesome! If not or if you're looking for an easier cleanup, you can go disposable, just make sure it is heavy-duty! Disposable water cups, cocktail cups, napkins, and plastic serving utensils are also great to have on hand!
    • Non-alcoholic beverages can be difficult to transport but are necessary to provide. You should always have water and iced tea but you could get creative with a La Croix station or punch (people can then use these as mixers as well to add their own alcohol if desired). Also, pick up a fresh Sharpie so friends can keep track of their drinks by writing their name directly on their cup (an Expo marker works great if you're using glass)!
    • You can always have the above items and those similar on your Sign Up Genius as an option for friends who aren't comfortable in the kitchen (read: can't cook to save their lives). 
  3. Lastly, BUY YOUR TURKEY! Find your turkey recipe and call for help if needed! Seriously, do not wait until the last minute on this, especially if you're making your first.

I believe that any Thanksgiving feast is not complete without a turkey. If you've never cooked one before, it can feel quite intimidating. Here are a few quick tips to help with planning:
    • ***Frozen turkeys will take 24 hours for every 5 pounds to defrost. Remember, it won't hurt your turkey to spend an extra day or two in the refrigerator, but it will derail your day if you wait too late and try to prepare a fully or partially frozen turkey. *I've always used a frozen turkey.
    • ***Fresh turkeys are great, but most stores won't carry them until around the week before Thanksgiving. Don't count on this being available if you're preparing your Friendsgiving weeks ahead of the actual holiday. 
    • ***You'll need 1lb. per person OR 1 & 1/2 lbs. per person if you want leftovers.
    • ***Give yourself about 45 minutes of prep then 20 minutes of cooking per pound.
    • ***Basic Materials: roasting pan (never had any issues with the disposable), baking sheet large enough to hold the roasting pan if disposable (the turkey will most likely be too heavy and cause your pan to collapse on it's own without the sheet underneath), bulb baster, tin foil OR turkey bag, meat thermometer.

Do a dry-run of your event. From start to finish, what do you need? While you're doing mise en place for the dishes your cooking the next day, go ahead and survey the rest of your home too. Decorations aren't necessary but if you're like me, they're mandatory. I like to make decorations interactive when possible; have friends write down their favorite holiday tradition or guess the weight of the turkey (prizes are always fun). I also like to have a seat for every person attending - it doesn't have to be formal or even at a table. Bring in tailgate chairs if you need to; it's Friendsgiving, not a wedding.

Also.... Clean. Your. House. Remove the clutter and simplify your space. Think: Where will people put their jackets when they come in? Is there enough counter space for all the food? Should we create a separate drink station? Also, remember to spread out around your space. Consider putting appetizers and drinks in the living room or even outside as to not create kitchen chaos. An ice bucket (or even clean ice in a cooler) is a great idea to have on standby.

Lastly, prepare anything and everything you can the night before. Pick out your Spotify playlist and make sure any technology is charged. Figure out which games will be on TV and which channels they'll be played on. Brew your tea, hang that banner, and get that pie in the oven!

The rules of hosting are simple and finite. Did I mean to use a Legally Blonde reference? Yes. Is it still applicable? Absolutely yes. You're first and main obligation as a host is to make your guests feel welcome. Not everything will be perfect - but what fun would that be? Do your best to relax and enjoy the moment. Whether you've got the perfect turkey or a bucket of fried chicken, remember the reason of the season and enjoy time with your people. At the end of the day, focus on the friendships and the rest will fall in line. Oh, and for the love of all things good in the world, if you're invited to Friendsgiving: bring what you signed up for and don't show up late.
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