This past weekend I had some of my best friends (AKA my old roommates!) over for a Friendsgiving!
It was the best ever reunion. Since our old glory days, we’ve grown up, and now live with our significant others. We wouldn’t have it any other way, but we still really miss the days of just being lazy and catching up together over great food.
In our younger years, we used to have “family dinners” each week back when we lived together in our old decrepit apartment in Lincoln Park (it was above a Karaoke bar, and it was the best). Everyone would rotate being in charge of the main dish, and the rest of us would make side dishes–typically followed by several bottles of wine and watching the Bachelor or whatever hot show we were into at the time.
Now that we’ve gotten older and things have changed, the few and far between times where we do get together are extra special. Nobody else is as goofy as the four of us when we get together, and it’s fun to now have all of our guys become friends, too! I guess you could say this Friendsgiving was a grown-up version of those “family dinners” we did so many years ago.
Speaking of group dinners, I think the holidays get a bad rap sometimes for being extra stressful, but you don’t have to make them that way! Neal and I have had the most insane schedules this past summer and fall–we’ve been ships passing in the night more often than we’ve been together, so pulling together a huge, elaborate “Friendsgiving” just wasn’t in the cards for us. Not to mention, that’s just really not our style. We’d much rather sit back and relax with our guests than slave away in the kitchen.
That being said, I’m pretty sure you’re the same way. (Or at least, maybe striving to be!) Here are my tips for throwing a hassle-free Friendsgiving of your own!
1. Outsource your main dishes
Alright, alright. I know Grandma and Mom always spoiled us rotten with home cooked Thanksgiving meals that were the result of hours of blood, sweat, tears and lost sleep. Maybe when we have kids and they’re old enough to have memories of their mothers lovingly making Thanksgiving dinner–that’s the route I’ll go. But for my friends? Hell no–I want to drink wine and catch up on the latest gossip, not melt my mascara in front of an oven for several hours. (And this is coming from a girl who LOVES cooking!)
The best thing I ever did: Hire a caterer.
I know what you’re thinking–this sounds VERY expensive. And that can be true–in my research, I found that catering prices really varied widely–from both caterers and restaurants. But when you add up how much you spend on Thanksgiving dinner, those dollars pile up, FAST. Chances are, you’ll pay the same, or even less, for a meal cooked by professionals!
I wasn’t sure where to begin in the catering department, so I hopped on Angie’s List to do some research. If you know me, you know I’m ALL about the reviews. (I’m one of those annoying people who researches every menu item of a restaurant before I even set foot in the door.) Not sure if you know this, but Angie’s List offers a free membership option, so anyone can hop on and use it to research just about anything they want–they have over 10 million reviews on over 700 different kinds of services. (Not just home services either–like remodeling, landscaping, painting, as I had previously thought! They’ve got pretty much anything you’d want, covered! Side note: not entirely related, but I’m totally using them to find someone to help re-do our kitchen backsplash eventually! I had no idea where to start with that.)
After some research, I settled on Corky’s Catering–what sold me is that they have a special Thanksgiving package that made it insanely easy and affordable. They delivered everything with warming equipment and the whole shebang, and it was awesome. No oven roulette or anything. The food was great and easy to set up–we just created a buffet on our kitchen island and allowed guests to serve themselves, which made it the easiest dinner party I’ve ever thrown! Everyone went back for seconds, and took home leftovers, too. (More on leftovers in a second!)
I didn’t want people to fill up too much on appetizers, so I stopped by the store and put together a simple cheese plate, and some of my friends brought some dips and smaller bites, which made for easy snacking during the game and before dinner!
2. Work with what you’ve got
I always end up stressing over decor when I throw get-togethers. (Pinterest can be a wicked thing when you’re entertaining, you know!? The comparison game is real.) If you don’t own 17 sets of china or various seasonal tablecloths, charming dinnerware, and the like–don’t stress. I bet you have more on hand than you think!
For example, see my pretty plaid tablecloth?
PSYCH. Not a tablecloth. It’s actually a bedspread from IKEA. HA! Don’t have a big bedspread? Drape your plaid blankets over your table for a rustic, casual feel.
It’s also crazy how much cute pillows set on your dining chairs, or a small draped sheepskin can do to dress up your table. I worked with color schemes I already had on-hand and pulled decor from different areas of my house to put together my table. I also repurposed the little pumpkins I’d purchased from Trader Joe’s before Halloween and scattered them throughout the table to give it a true “fall” feel.
3. Add something fresh!
The star of the tablescape, as you can see, is this gorgeous runner! I really wanted to incorporate flowers in some way, but flower arrangements can add up fast–a green runner can make even more of a statement and work within a much smaller budget! Plus, I love that it’s an arrangement that doesn’t block out faces or conversation! (I remember as a kid, my mom always inevitably having to remove the flower arrangement from the table whenever we sat down to eat, and I never understood the point of it in the first place!)
I found Ashland-Addison Florist on Angie’s List after researching florists in my area. They had really great reviews and certainly did not disappoint! I called last-minute (obviously, I mean–it’s ME) and they had no trouble accommodating! I sent them a photo of what I wanted from Pinterest, and they replicated it exactly!
The best part? After your party, you can move your runner from your table to your fireplace mantel. (That’s where mine is now, and it looks SO good!)
4. Make Leftovers Special
Leftovers and holiday meals just go hand-in-hand, right? In my case, there are always about 50 pounds of food left over post-party, so if you’re the same, plan ahead and pick up some cute containers to send home with your guests! I found these cute little festive cartons at the grocery store and my friends loved them! So much better than sending people home with plastic bags of food. Gross! Bonus points if you dress up your containers with a little ribbon 😉
5. Outsource your clean-up
Much like the cooking–cleaning can be the other biggest stressor associated with throwing big parties. Angie’s List has so many great deals for cleaning services, there’s no reason to ruin your manicure, or take time away from your best friends in order to do the dishes! (You can click here to search all the house cleaning deals in your area!)
Big thanks to Angie’s List for sponsoring this post, and helping me throw the perfect stress-free Friendsgiving! Also make sure to check out this page where they share other great tips on throwing your own Friendsgiving party.
Also, if you’re planning a project that is a bit more of an undertaking than a holiday party, (i.e. some major work on your home, like we will be soon with our kitchen backsplash!) there are also some affordable paid memberships that may be worth looking into–here’s a quick overview:
- Green – Free-of-charge access to all of the company’s online reviews, digital form of the company’s monthly magazine and customer support via email.
- Silver – Cost is $24.99 a year also includes fair price guarantee, service quality guarantee up to $100,000.
- Gold – Cost is $99.99 a year and also includes access to exclusive eCommerce savings, dispute resolution service and customer service via email and phone.