At the helm of LibertyLondonGirl, LLG Consults, and now the author of her first cookbook, Friends Food Family: Essential Recipes, Tips and Secrets for the Modern Hostess from LibertyLondonGirl, London-based Sasha Wilkins is one busy gal! Below, she shares her thoughts on squeezing in a little time for friends this holiday season, plus tips for hosting your own Friendsgiving celebration.
As a busy person, I recognize the sad truth that not all of us will make it back to the parental nest for Thanksgiving this year. Whether it’s work, lack of budget or overbooked planes and trains, sometimes it’s just easier to stay put. But, on the bright side, that gives you the perfect excuse to host a Friendsgiving instead. After all, what’s not to like about gathering some of your favorite people around a table to eat and drink delicious things?
That said, it can be a little daunting when you suddenly realize you’ve unwittingly signed up to host 15 people for Thanksgiving. But remember that most people are just deliriously happy to be fed by someone else, and they are certainly not expecting restaurant-quality food to come out of a domestic kitchen. Here are a few simple suggestions that can make entertaining the hordes less stressful and more fun—because it should be fun, right?!
Keep track of who you (and your friends) invite.
When planning a Friendsgiving feast, it’s amazing how quickly numbers can swell. In order to keep track of it all, I like to use Paperless Post online, which allows you to check RSVPs, send updates and gently remind your best friend’s boyfriend’s best friend that he promised to bring a cheese plate.
Establish a potluck plan.
While we’re on the subject of food, let’s address the potluck. Do not try to cook the entire meal yourself. It’s a Friendsgiving, not a stay-in-the-kitchen-giving. Assign everyone a different dish to bring, and that way, if someone feels that Thanksgiving isn’t complete without a side of their mom’s baked marshmallow pumpkin cream cheese, then they can make it—and eat it—themselves. And don’t worry about having too much food—it’s perfectly legal to over-cater a Friendsgiving.
Incidentally, if only one or two people at your dinner are vegetarian, please don’t worry about providing an extra dish for them. In all my years as a veggie, I never felt shortchanged when faced with all the delicious Thanksgiving sides.
Try to set the table the night before if you can.
Not only will your house look more welcoming when the guests arrive (because you will inevitably be running late), but that way you’ll discover if you need to ask a guest to bring more flatware, plates or glasses the next day.
A good playlist is vital.
Thanksgiving with your family probably doesn’t require a musical background, but with your friends? Yes! Yet, in the fluster of getting everything else organized, I always forget to make a playlist. So, grossly flatter a friend into doing it. I find something along the lines of, “Darling, you have such amazing taste in music! Do you think…?” usually works wonders. And, if it doesn’t, bribe them (I find cake works).
You always need more ice than you think.
And, if you live in a small apartment or condo, fill the bath with ice and water as a temporary “ice bucket” for white wine, beer and Champagne.
Book a house cleaner.
The morning after your Friendsgiving, arrange for a cleaner to come over. Or, wait until your guests are a little tipsy and have them do it.
Keep calm and carry on.
Most importantly, remember that the secret to hosting a good Friendsgiving isn’t just delegation, but calming down. I used to get my knickers in a terrible twist when the prospect of entertaining more than a few people loomed. It took me several years of overdoing everything before I finally understood that people just want to be well-fed and feel comfortable at Thanksgiving. I stopped trying to impress with fiddly appetizers or overwrought table decorations, and concentrated on the essentials: having enough food, alcohol and chairs. In the end, everything else is optional, because it’s the people that matter, not the decorative pumpkin garland you never got around to making.