Thanksgiving with extended family comes with its own set of rules, and they're usually as unique and particular as the families themselves. Friendsgiving, however, is an entirely different story. That's because Friendsgiving is, at its heart, a potluck, not a longstanding family tradition. And like any good potluck, there are rules for engagement to ensure it comes off without a hitch.
If you're hosting Friendsgiving this year, we commend you. It's a big undertaking with lots of planning involved. If you're nervous or a little in over your head, remember these 10 rules and you'll be fine.
1. Do not attempt to host Friendsgiving dinner alone.
Remember, Friendsgiving = potluck. This should go without saying, but I was once a young, over-ambitious food lover with too much time on my hands, so I know there's a legitimate temptation to "do it all." Resist, for the sake of your own well-being and that of your friends. They want to enjoy the best of you on this happy holiday, not the stressed-out worst.
2. Plan ahead.
Send out your invite as far in advance as you can, so the procrastinators have time to procrastinate and the planners have time to plan.
3. Create a flexible menu plan.
But know that you are the one with the oven just a few feet from the dining table, so that means you will have to make the turkey (and therefore the gravy too). Once you have the menu outlined, ask guests what they'd like to contribute to it. This way you can make sure all the essential Thanksgiving dishes are covered. When you have a house full of guests expecting their annual serving of green bean casserole, somebody better be making it.
4. Embrace technology.
The easiest and most effective way to plan a potluck is with a sign-up sheet everyone can access, so you can stay organized and not have to deal with a lot of back-and-forth questions. Google Docs is free and easy. Or try online planners like Perfect Potluck.
5. You can direct but not demand.
Managing the menu is good, but micromanaging the guests is bad. It's perfectly acceptable to ask people to bring specific dishes to avoid duplicates and make sure the essentials are covered. But remember it's an ask, not a must. Don't assign a dish or, even worse, a recipe, unless the guest asks for one. Nobody wants to feel forced into cooking something or feel handcuffed into a particular version of it. If there's a special family recipe you really want someone to take on, you can ask someone to make it, but don't be upset if they decline.
6. There's nothing wrong with too much food.
With a dinner like Thanksgiving, people tend to have not just a favorite dish they've been looking forward to all year, but also their favorite version of it. That means, even if the stuffing has already been claimed, someone might lobby to bring his or her favorite version too. It may be unnecessary to the meal, but it's probably essential to your guest's happiness, so just let it happen. Besides, there can never be too many carbs on Friendsgiving.
That being said, if two people have their hearts set on bringing the same dish, encourage them to bring different flavors, so you don't end up with an informal taste test.
7. Be inclusive.
Don't forget that the holiday is all about inclusivity, so check with your guests to see if they (or their plus-ones) have any dietary restrictions. If non-meat-eaters are coming, make sure there's at least one hearty dish that can serve as a entrée-alternative to the turkey. With any luck, the non-meat-eater will volunteer to bring it.
And think about whether or not any of the other dishes can be slightly altered so everyone can enjoy them. Maybe you can use vegetable broth in the mushroom stuffing instead of chicken broth, olive oil in the mashed potatoes instead of butter, and put the bacon bits for the green beans on the side. If other guests are bringing these dishes, check in with them and see if they're willing to make these modifications. But remember rule #4: It's an ask, not a must.
8. Don't forget to include non-cooks.
Everyone wants to feel like they're contributing. People who aren't comfortable in the kitchen, are too busy to cook, or are traveling from afar can bring all sorts of essentials: non-alcoholic drinks, wine, bread or rolls, cheese trays, pies from the bakery, condiments, bags of ice, and even flowers for the table.
9. It's not all about the food.
Speaking of flowers, don't forget that this is a holiday, so make the effort to add a little festivity wherever you can. Resist the temptation of disposable plates and cutlery, play music, decorate the table with fallen leaves and fruits, put out some (non-scented) candles. If you have room, you might even set out playing cards or board games.
10. Stock up on disposable containers for leftovers.
Thanksgiving leftovers are one of the best parting gifts, plus it'll spare you from having to play fridge Jenga for the next week. You can certainly encourage your guests to bring their own containers, but some are likely to forget.
Have you ever hosted Friendsgiving? How did it go? Let us know in the comments!