Can you believe that Thanksgiving is less than a week away?! Where did the time go? I personally feel like this fall has completely FLOWN by.
Brandon and I have hosted a Friendsgiving the past three years that has become quite the event. What once started as a small get together, is now an actual adult (lol) dinner party. This year’s Friendsgiving was without a doubt the largest, most beautiful, and most prepared Friendsgiving we have hosted. Key word: prepared. I have learned a few tricks over the years that has helped our Friendsgiving be stress-free and actually enjoyable for both of us. If you are hosting a Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving next week, keep reading to get tips on how to be the hostess with the mostess, who also has fun!
But before I go on, let me set the record straight- these tips were NOT something I implemented fully until this year. I am NOT a perfect housewife, and my life is NOT perfect instagram worthy. Let’s talk about the first year we hosted Friendsgiving. This will absolutely give you the confidence to host, because you can’t screw up THIS bad, I promise. This is now the biggest inside joke between everyone who attended the first Friendsgiving because it was THAT much of a mess. To summarize the main events of the catastrophe (because trust me, the list is expansive and these are just the headliners):
- Brandon accidentally turned on the garbage disposal earlier that day and thought it sounded funny… we later found out that a shot glass (that he had been taking apple cider vinegar shots from nightly because he thought it cleared his sinuses *insert face-palm emoji* ) was in the disposal – thus imploding our disposal and causing anything that ran down the drain to go straight to our cabinets and then to our floor. A maintenance man had to replace our entire disposal, as well as vacuum water out of our tiny apartment kitchen while I was trying to cook.
- I sliced my finger while peeling potatoes so bad that the med school students almost took me to the hospital for stitches
- Brandon then proceeded to peel his finger doing the exact same thing thirty seconds later
- We ended up eating dinner three hours later than planned…
IT WAS A MESS!! Just imagine how dysfunctional this event was, and you should immediately feel more confidence in your hosting ability, because it cannot be worse than my train-wreck. So the reason I’m telling you this crazy, non-pinterest-worthy story? We all have to start somewhere, and we learn from our mistakes. I have learned these tips from failing completely and horribly. I hope that these tips inspire you and make your event less stressful so you don’t have to make a turkey with a leaking sink and bleeding finger LOL.
Tip #1: Use Minted free online invitations + organize potluck dishes
Minted.com has recently implemented FREE online invitations that are completely customizable with colors, theme, pictures, etc. These are only free until December 31, 2018 – so use these for the holiday parties while you can! If you aren’t familiar with Minted, then you are seriously missing out. They are the most beautiful cards EVER! They work with local artists around the country to bring you hand created and unique cards, stationary, etc. I just love supporting small, local artists.
What I absolutely adore is that this is not just an image that is sent to your guests’ inbox – it is quite literally an experience. All of the invitations open to a tablescape (which is customizable) and then to the details of the event. According to Minted this is a “rich cinematic experience” and I 100% agree.
I chose the Harvest Table Thanksgiving Online Invitations (find them here) with the “bark” color palette and “curved frame” shape. I also chose the “black tie” background (tablescape). I asked that guests comment with what dish they wanted to bring to help get an idea of what items were being brought. We do a potluck-style Thanksgiving so this helps to ensure we don’t get several of the same side dish and then have holes in other staples (ex: three things of stuffing but no mashed potatoes). Which brings me to my next tip…
Tip #2: Do not take on too many recipes! Let people help you!
I have learned this the hard way. For the first two years, I felt like I HAD to cook and bake all of the major dishes so my guests could come and relax. I attempted to prepare the turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, appetizers, apple pie, homemade ice cream, and a million other items. It was just too much. I always felt overwhelmed and out of time. But for some reason, I felt like I had to prove myself, that I could handle taking on a full Thanksgiving meal alone and somehow find time to also set-up beautiful decor and wash my hair. I was quite literally running from the kitchen to my room to get ready as my guests were walking in the door as I was cooking up until the last minute. I was flustered, rushed, and unhappy with several items I was forced to cut-corners on for the sake of time.
This year I had an epiphany- my friends want to contribute. My friends don’t expect a lavish meal where they don’t have to lift a finger. They are just grateful that we are hosting the event and will bring whatever is needed or help me in anyway they can. People like to help and contribute, and if you give them the opportunity to do so, everyone is happier. If you are hosting a Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving, you obviously need to make the turkey, and consequently also the gravy. But that’s it! Don’t sign up for anything else unless you want to! This year, I signed up to make: turkey, gravy, brie cheese appetizer, and cocktails. I ended up also adding in cupcakes, ice cream, and cranberry sauce because I had time and these were things that no one had volunteered to bring. I absolutely did not have to sign up for these items, and I just happened to have some extra time to whip them together. If this is your first year hosting, seriously stick to the turkey and gravy and leave the rest of the sides to your friends!
Tip #3: Find cute leftover bags and containers
Yes the best part of Thanksgiving is the leftovers (especially when you get to host), but be sure to share the goodness with your friends! For the first couple of years of Friendsgiving, Brandon and I would be SOO excited to have the leftovers at our house… but two people can only eat a Thanksgiving meal for so many days before it get’s old. Not to mention my pants started to get a tad tight there… really not kidding. This year I found the CUTEST leftover bags from TJ Maxx and had a leftover station ready for guests to make to-go bags. My friends were happy, and so was my waist band!
Tip #4: Make the most of your space
Be strategic in how you space out items. You may need to play with a few things here depending on your situation. We personally moved our kitchen island (we bought it from Wayfair this past summer and I love it since it’s on wheels, you can find it here) from the center of our kitchen to the wall and used it as an appetizer station. We also cleared our countertops of appliances (tea kettle, fruit stand, etc) and made way for our friends to be able to display their side dishes. We also took all of our fall decor off of the bar buffet and used it as a drink station!
Tip #5: Visualize seating and plan ahead
This year we had 13 people total attend our Friendsgiving! In year’s past, we didn’t have the space that we do now in our new townhouse, so some of our guests unfortunately had to sit in the living room at the coffee table instead of at our dining table. I hated it! So this year, I asked my mom if I could borrow a tailgating table (very similar here) and some of her collapsable wooden chairs (very similar here and at the time this is posted, they are on sale for 39% off). After I threw a table cloth on the table, it looked perfect in the space with these beautiful chairs! I really love how these chairs are technically collapsable, but they still look like they could be used everyday at the kitchen table! I also ran into the issue of having 12 of everything – chairs, chargers, plates, flatware, etc. This meant one lucky person had to have the mismatched items…. can you guess who that person was? Man, do I have a wonderful husband!
Tip #6: Make yourself a cooking and decorating timeline
I cannot stress how important this is to keep you sane! Do some research and figure out how long each item you are cooking will take to prep, cook, and cool (if needed). Do you need to prepare anything in advance? When does the turkey need to go in the fridge to thaw out? How long will your turkey take to roast? Do you need to prep anything in advance for your centerpiece? Thinking about these things and then making a timeline of action items is how I stay organized and on track! I break my timeline down about a week out and have action items for each day.
My go-to Recipes
This brings me to my last point – the recipes! Here are some links to my favorite, no fail recipes! I hope you find these recipes as stress free and delicious as we do!
- Brie En Croute by Paula Deen – I really love using Pepperidge Farm’s puff pastry in the frozen section and I actually shave off the brie rind. We don’t really like that “earthy” taste for brie rind. Pair this with sliced apples (trust me, it’s amazing) and you have yourself a crowd pleasing appetizer.
- Roast Turkey with Herb Butter by Martha Stewart – I only make a few tweaks to this recipe. In addition to rubbing the outside skin with salt and pepper, I mince sage, thyme, and rosemary and rub that on as well. I also throw in some sprigs of sage, thyme, and rosemary into the cavity of the turkey, as well as a large onion (cut in fourths) and a stick of butter. Yup. I add an additional stick of butter to a turkey that is already stuffed with butter. Don’t knock it until you try it – everyone said this year’s turkey was the BEST I’ve ever made.
- Classic Turkey Gravy by Food Network Magazine – if you are making the turkey, you need to make the gravy as well. This recipe is super easy!
- Perfect Cranberry Sauce by Food Network Magazine – I love the fresh hints of citrus in this recipe. It couldn’t be simpler!
- Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting by Sally’s Baking Addition. These were a crowd favorite! My husband is begging that I bake these again! I baked the cupcakes the day before and iced them the day of. I used an icing tool I found at TJ Maxx to help me ice the cupcakes perfectly, it is very similar to this one!
- Homemade Pumpkin Ice Cream by Lovely Little Kitchen- if you have an ice cream maker, be sure to make this recipe! You will want to plan ahead on this one. I made the mixture the night before and stored it in the fridge. Meanwhile, my KitchenAid ice cream attachment (you can find it here) was in the freezer for over 14 hours. The day of the party, I poured by mixture into the ice cream maker and in less than 30 minutes, I had ice cream! I scooped the ice cream into a container and stored it into the freezer until desserts were served!
- Homemade Salted Caramel by Sally’s Baking Addiction to top the ice cream. I make this all the time and it couldn’t be easier. I suggest watching her video if it’s your first time before whipping this up. You can make this advance!
- Red Wine Sangria by Bobby Flay – we make this each year and it is amazing each time! Make it at least a day in advance!
- Pumpkin Spice Sangria – by Liz Gray I make this nonalcoholic by using Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider instead of alcohol.
I hope these tips and tricks bring you peace and confidence as you head into Thanksgiving. What I love about hosting is being able to create a wonderful experience and memory for everyone – and that includes myself! For me, that means planning ahead so I can enjoy the day. Let me know if you try any of these tips or recipes, I really love hearing from you all!
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