5 Tips For Hosting Friendsgiving In NYC

Growing up, my Grandma was always in charge of the Thanksgiving festivities.  I always cherished this special day at her house…hearing her wake up before sunrise to prep the turkey, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in the family room with all the cousins, the beautiful table spread, and the crazy clean-up…sans dishwasher;-)

Now that I have my own little family (read: me + hubby + chihuahua), I’m always looking for ideas of starting our own traditions, merging inspiration from both of our childhoods.  While our NYC apartment is definitely not equipped to host as many people as Grandma’s house was, we decided to go with a mini-version of her big day…Friendsgiving (Thanksgiving, but with friends!)

Friendsgiving in and of itself is certainly not a new concept, but here are my tips for making it successful, NYC style:

1. Host On A Friday (or better yet…weeknight!)

This is two part.  First, if your friends group is anything like ours, you know that weekends in this city fill up months in advance…birthday parties, weddings, weekend trips, the list goes on.  So trying to find a weekend that works for everyone is a little tricky.

Secondly, if you host on a Saturday, you spend ALL day prepping, and then ALL day Sunday cleaning up.  What was supposed to be a fun celebration ends up being a drain on YOUR weekend.  So the solution?  Host during a weeknight or Friday.  Folks will be coming from work, so the expectation of a fancy dinner party is already lowered…really just relaxing with friends and a glass of wine is where the mindset is.


2. Plan Your Menu Around What Others Are Bringing

So I didn’t do this, but will absolutely be switching it up for next year.  If you plan on having your guests each bring a dish, put them all on an email chain and have them respond ahead of time with what they are planning to bring.  And then, as the host, YOU create your dishes around those, filling in the gaps.  This way you don’t end up with lots of potatoes and no greens.


3. Icebreaker Game

Living in NYC, we’re faced with the unique situation of having a variety of friends from different walks of life (work, old college buddies, yoga class, the dog park…), none of whom actually hang out in the same social group.  While we weren’t too worried about this, since all our invitees are pretty social people, I still thought it was important to have a way to break the ice and get everyone engaged.

It being Friendsgiving and all, we had everyone fill out an “I’m thankful for…” card when they arrived and stick it in the Gratitude Jar (i.e. mason jar;-)  When we sat down for dinner, we passed the jar around, and everyone picked someone else’s card.  We then played charades, acting out what the “thankful for” items were, and based on the answers all guessed who we thought wrote the card.  Tons of fun!

(Note: on my cards I chose to give categories rather than leave it blank…I figured it would lend to more creative answers than “I’m thankful for my significant other, my dog, etc.”;-)


4. Bite-Sized Desserts

Again, we’re taking into account small space and cleanup here.  While my Grandma would always clear the table and reset for a proper sit down dessert featuring a million and one pies, our living space is entirely too small for this.  Since our kitchen is basically in our dining room which is basically in our living room, there was no way I was going to start the cleanup while my guests were still here, cause I knew it would spark everyone to pitch in…and that was just not the vibe I was going for.

So to eliminate the problem, I made desserts that were small and could be eaten with your hands…fudge, mini cheesecake bites, and cookies.  I put them on plates on the coffee table, where I herded everyone to sit after dinner was over.  We noshed on sweets while playing a few crazy rounds of Cards Against Humanity.  Perfect way to wrap up the evening!


5. Decant That Cheap Wine

And my final tip…(and yes I’m aware that this is going to make me sound like a total cheapo, but NYC wine stores are expensive!)…is to decant your cheap wine.  When hosting a dinner party of 9 people, you go through bottles of wine in no time.  I always think it’s nice to start with the good bottles early in the night when people are still able to appreciate its oaky finish, but after a few bottles, I decant the cheap stuff…ensuring it still has a nice presentation, but not feeling guilty about blowing a bunch of money on alcohol.  While we probably had one or two folks in the mix with discerning palettes, I’m pretty sure the rest couldn’t tell the difference, and if they did, were too tipsy to care much at that point;-)


All in all, it was a lovely evening, and the hubs and I are so happy to have started our own little Friendsgiving tradition, NYC style!

Do you celebrate Friendsgiving?  Share your tips/tricks below!


By: Jessica Tiare Bowen

This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox.


  • Catherine says:

    Great tips! Thanksgiving isn’t really a big deal here in the UK, but the tips could definitely come in useful for any sort of dinner party!

  • oh i love things like this! i love your table decor!

    i wish i had the chance to do it more often… and i also wish England had some kind of thanks giving! we only get Christmas… its actually on my list to experience a real american thanksgiving one day!

    • Used York City says:

      Thanks so much! You could make your own American Thanksgiving, UK style!…a little bit of turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and lots of pie and wine and you’re set to go!;-)

  • Love the concept, and your dinner party looks like it was a big hit. Your tips about the wine are so right on!
    Thanks for linking up this week. #TPThursday

  • Tamara says:

    I love Cards Against Humanity! It is so very wrong, and so very right.
    I only had one urban Friendsgiving when we lived in San Francisco. We did have it on Thanksgiving itself, but I love your tips. Especially the one about building your menu around the gaps. That’s brilliant!

  • Mike says:

    Our grandmas were very much alike! Your table is absolutely BEAUTIFUL, Jessica!! I would have LOVED to come to your Friendsgiving party :)

  • Friendsgiving! Love it! hope you made those delicious chocolate chip cookies! XO

  • Sarah says:

    Love friendsgiving! We used to do this every year during high school, and when I moved abroad I recruited everyone to join in and celebrate a new (to them) holiday. Everybody loved it.

  • Marisol says:

    Hi Jess, love your tips, especially the decanting of cheap wine! Our friends and us are such winos that we go through several bottles easy. Starting out with the expensive wine and ending with cheap decanted wine is really great idea. Thanks for the tip!

    • Used York City says:

      Absolutely! After a few bottles you can’t tell much of a difference…(or at least I can’t!;-)

  • I think you are spot on with the friday or weeknight hosting as weekend are full so far in advance. Plus bite sized desserts is def a great idea.

  • Leigh says:

    You are brilliant. Really and truly. Great suggestions and love the idea of a gratitude jar.

    • Used York City says:

      You’re the sweetest, Leigh:-) The gratitude jar was lots of fun, and can definitely be adapted to the crowd you have!

  • Richa Saxena says:

    Those are some lovely tips on hosting togethers! Its a great tip to actually plan your menu with the others :)

    • Used York City says:

      Totally! It’s fun to see what others bring, and puts a little of everyone’s personality into the dinner!

  • i love it! friendsgiving is ALWAYS fun, because everyone’s in the holiday spirit!! might I add another? don’t host more people than you can seat. although it sounds cool to invite ALL your friends and tell them ALL to bring stuff, I don’t exactly enjoy trying to eat a slice of turkey while standing with my plate. borrow chairs from friends or invite less people :)

    • Used York City says:

      LOVE that tip, Jenn, and I TOTALLY agree! We actually went back and forth on this one…on the one hand felt bad about leaving people out, but on the other knew it would be completely uncomfortable if we didn’t have a seat for everyone. Since we were going for more of a dinner party than cocktail party vibe, we stuck with the small crowd, which worked out just perfectly!

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