The Art of Hosting Friendsgiving

This year was our 10th anniversary celebrating Friendsgiving, a holiday tradition that we began hosting a decade ago as a way to gather and celebrate the people who have come into our lives over the years. Friendsgiving holds a great deal of meaning and value to my husband and I, as it really symbolizes now (especially as we get older) a moment in time where we gather together to just celebrate one another and the relationships that we have built over time. It is truly an honor for us to be able to host Friendsgiving in our home and to create a space where people we have in our lives are able to feel comfortable, have some fun and feel part of the bigger picture, which for us, is being part of a community and/or extended family, especially for our friends who may not be able to make it home to their families for the holiday. With hosting Friendsgiving for all of these years, there are definitely some pointers on what guarantees an engaging event to celebrate this pre-Thanksgiving holiday tradition.

The Friends // Knowing Who to Invite

Friendsgiving is an event to celebrate people in your lives that you care about and appreciate the relationship that you share with them. These can be newer relationships or deeply rooted ones, but at the end of the day, these are relationships that you intentionally wish to foster, whatever the level of relationship it may be. Something that I have learned over the years that makes a Friendsgiving event successful is inviting people that you genuinely wish to be there and not inviting people out of any other reason outside of simply wanting them there because you enjoy their company. It may seem obvious to invite people you enjoy being around, but through experience, the vibe of a party really is a reflection of the people you invite. Friendsgiving for us is one about quality not quantity; however, I do have to acknowledge that there is also fun in numbers!

So whether you have 1 friend or 100, the important thing to recognize is that you are creating a space to come together to appreciate another person and surrounding yourself with people who you truly appreciate and care for is the first step in hosting an unforgettable Friendsgiving event.

We used Evite this year to send out invitations and sent them out about a week prior to the event. I recommend that for events like these, 2 weeks is plenty of notice. There are other online invitations, such as Paperless Post or even a private event link on Facebook that you could use, so it really comes down to what method you prefer and which you are most comfortable with in using to get your message out. To help coordinate what people can bring, we used Evite as well to create a list of food items needed and people were able to sign up and see what other people were bringing. This was by far the easiest way we have coordinated the food and drinks this year, as our first few Friendsgiving ended up with enough pies to last for the year. Although we were totally fine with that, to help with the overall menu options for the evening, the list on Evite was really easy and organized.

The Food // Potluck Style

As tradition in our household, Friendsgiving has always been a potluck style dinner where we provide the turkey, stuffing and gravy and our guest bring an appetizer, side dish or dessert to share with the other guests. On a side note, for all your hosts out there, in terms of the turkey, you can account for 1-1.5 lbs of turkey per person and multiply it by the number of guests you plan to have. To give you a good idea, with a guest count of 30-35 people this year, we were able to find a 25 lb turkey that fed everyone and we even had some leftovers.

What is especially meaningful is when some of our guests bring home-made dishes from recipes passed down in their families (like some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies from one friend of ours), when we have had friends bring the same dish each year that we all look forward to (like our friend's candied yams) or even when we get some non-traditional or new dishes, for example, a seafood dynamite shrimp dish that we all devoured (Thanks Andrea, Joey & Blaine).

At the end of the day, it is just fun to see what people create and bring to share and what is especially nice is that it is all communal. Everyone is part of the creation of the event through the food that they bring and so it really creates a space for community, oneness and connection amongst all the guests. It is also a great conversation starter for people who may not know each other as well, so that is a plus!

Before serving dinner, we gathered everyone together to share a quick moment of gratitude for one another and the food that everyone contributed to the event. I love moments like this when, as hosts, we can take a moment to verbally let our guests know how much we appreciate them.

The Decorations // Florals & Sequin Back Drop

Working with flowers, it is a guarantee that our home would be filled with Friendsgiving-inspired arrangements. This year I went for a blend of traditional tones with hints of playfulness in design. I used a blend of natural clay pots with some shiny silver vases to scatter throughout the party and around the dining area. Making floral arrangements for this party was so fun and a way to create a touch of personality of us that would show up in the details around the home. For an autumn feel, I used brown cat tails, persimmon-orange roses and a slightly darker shade of orange through the ranunculus. For playfulness, I used lighter elements, such as tones of white through the white dhalias, queen anne's lace and wax flower in other arrangements I had around the home. I made sure to scatter the arrangements throughout the house to create a nice flow of consistency in each room and to create a space of beauty through the flowers. If you live in the Los Angeles area, you can find your flowers in downtown LA at the Los Angeles Flower Market or at your local farmer's market, grocery store or if you are looking for someone who has more experience with flowers to help create your arrangements, reaching out to your local florist is a great place to start!

Something special I wanted to create for our guests was a backdrop to take photos in front of. Photo booths, floral walls and backdrops are some great options for entertainment for your guests to take photos and have some unique pictures from the event that they can potentially even use for upcoming holiday cards.

This year I went to JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts and walked around to find a material I liked for a backdrop. I ended up finding an amazing brown material with silver sequins that was perfect for the fun and fancy backdrop design that I was looking for. Backdrop materials ranges in price from $10-$35 per yard. The great thing about JoAnn was that I was able to use a 50% coupon I found online and was able to get two 9 ft x 5 ft long cuts of fabric for about $60 after the discount. It was definitely a great deal and an easy way to create a backdrop people can take photos in front of.

Of course, I also added some greenery to the backdrop and hung it from the frame that we built. If you want to create a garland for our backdrop, you can forage or find your greenery at the flower market. You can use twine, floral wire or any type of material that allows you to wrap the greenery together and you can design it anyway that you like. The creative process is really up to you and you can even do this as an activity with your friends who arrive early and help you set up.

The Games // Orange Turkey & Mannequin Challenge

One of the biggest things I can recommend in hosting an unforgettable Friendsgiving is creating a communal game that everyone can engage in. Three years ago we introduced a made-up game called Orange Turkey (which is a spin-off of White Elephant) where we encouraged guests to bring a drink gift ranging from $5-$15 for a drink exchange game that we play after dinner.

The game gets pretty fun, especially because the drink gifts are not limited to just alcoholic beverages. We encourage gag gifts, drink accessories (wine glasses, unique bottle openers), non-alcoholic drinks (tea, ginger beers) and anything else in the drink spectrum! This year we had some awesome gifts, from chocolate milk, a 50 shades of grey wine bottle to holiday sets of Cinnamon Whiskey and Stella Artois.

For the Orange Turkey game, guests are given a number (picked at random in an envelope), which represents their turn in the game. Guests are able to choose to pick a gift from the gift pile or steal one that has already been open. For Orange Turkey, we allowed up to 3 steals and on the third steal the gift can no longer be stolen. It is such a fun game and every guest who brings a gift gets to walk home with something fun...a win-win situation.

Communal games are great to bring people together to share a collective experience. It is one of the most important things to incorporate at a party, whether it is Friendsgiving or any other event, finding something that everyone can participate in really helps connect everyone. This year we also did the Mannequin Challenge, which is a viral internet video that we wanted to try since we had a big group of people over who were all willing to do it. After filming, we all watched it together and had a great laugh at what we all created together. Whatever the activity it, coming up with engaging activities will help your guests not only have fun, but collectively create together that will make your Friendsgiving engaging and memorable. Special thanks to Film Producer friend Jared for filming our Friendsgiving Mannequin Challenge!

Photography

This Friendsgiving we had a dear friend of ours, who happens to be a photographer that I have worked with over the past year, come and be part of the festivities, as well as, snap some photos at the party. I highly recommend that if you are hosting an event like Friendsgiving to hire a photographer to come and take photos of the event. It doesn't need to be a big event, but having someone capture some moments that we would not have been able to was such a blessing to see after the event was over. This was our first year having someone be here to take professional photos and if there is one thing I will do again next year is to have someone to capture these special moments through a professional lens. It really makes such a difference! What we have also done at past parties is have a FujiFilm Instant Polaroid laying around for people to take pictures with. You can find them online or even in stores like Nordstrom Rack. I find that having options like professional photos or the Polaroid photos enhance an event, especially when you are having too much fun and just living in the moment.

The Final Notes

Hosting Friendsgiving will always be a tradition that we will continue to cherish as long as we are able to. Friendsgiving, as with other parties, are really a reflection of the time and energy spent into creating a space where people can come together and enjoy the moment. It is truly a time of the year that we look forward to and creating memories with people that are in our lives means the world to us.

Thank you to everyone that came out for our 10th Annual Friendsgiving Party! We had so much fun with you all and special thanks to Abigail R Collins for the beautiful photos, xo

Photography // Abigail R. Collins

Event // Friendsgiving 2016

Florals & Styling // THE CROWN COLLECTIVE

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