College Life

This Is the Only Friendsgiving Guide You’ll Ever Need

published Nov 10, 2023
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Smiling gay woman sitting with arm around non-binary friend during party in back yard
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My freshman year, I was invited to a Friendsgiving party where I knew no one except the host (and I’d only met her in class a few days prior). I was so nervous to attend, but it ended up being one of the best nights of my college experience. In fact, I met some of my closest friends that night — friends I’ve since celebrated many special occasions with. 

Now that I’ve moved from the dorms into an on-campus apartment with a full kitchen, I’m excited to host a Friendsgiving of my own and recreate those same warm, welcoming feelings I experienced my freshman year. I’ve seen firsthand how Friendsgiving can help guests make new friends, bring separate friend groups together, and celebrate relationships that have stood the test of time, and I’m excited to be the person to make that happen this time around.

However, there’s a big difference between attending a Friendsgiving gathering and hosting one. From figuring out who to invite, to deciding what to serve — all while needing to keep up during midterms and finals — there’s a lot to do. If you’re also trying this hosting thing for the first time, take some comfort in knowing you’re not alone. 

Here’s everything I’m doing to plan my perfect Friendsgiving — feel free to follow along! 

Set the Date, Create Your Guest List, and Send Invitations

When to do this: 3-4 weeks out

While four weeks ahead of time may seem too early to be thinking about Friendsgiving, earlier is actually better because people get so busy around the holidays — especially if your guests are planning holiday travel once classes end for the semester. Give your guests time to save the date! 

If you want to keep your event small and intimate, you can just invite your closest friends. However, I personally want my Friendsgiving to be an opportunity for everyone to meet new people, so I’m planning a larger guest list, with about 20 guests from various aspects of my life, including friends from my major, the gym, and my internship, plus my roommates and their friends. If you really want to expand your friendship circles (and you have the space in your dorm or home to do so), you can also encourage your guests to bring an extra friend or two — it’s a great way to meet new people! 

Credit: Anchiy / Getty Images

Plan Your Activities and Ambiance

When to do this: 2-3 weeks out

It’s important to know what the aesthetic of your Friendsgiving is going to be before you start buying supplies. Do you want the classic, cozy vibes or do you want something more modern? A Pinterest board can help keep all your inspo and ideas in one place, but don’t feel pressured to have a Pinterest-perfect night; be realistic about your budget and how much time you’ll be able to dedicate to planning. For example, I decided to go for a cozy, relaxed vibe with my event. I want it to feel like a slightly more elevated version of my usual chill nights with friends.

I’m also planning a DIY activity with my guests that will double as decor for the party: decorating pumpkins! I’m buying mini pumpkins (at least one for every guest, plus myself) and paint supplies so we can all do a fun, creative activity together. This is a great alternative to carving pumpkins because it’s safer (no knives!) and it’s easier to clean up (no pumpkin guts!). As you let the paint dry on the pumpkins, they’ll make your space look super festive, and then your friends can take them home as party favors at the end of the night. 

Another way I’m setting the tone for my evening is with a good playlist. I was considering two different directions for the music: a fun, upbeat playlist that will get people singing and dancing, or softer, slower songs that inspire warm and fuzzy feelings. In the spirit of encouraging bonding, I opted for the latter option with this Gilmore Girls fall-inspired Spotify playlist I put together. 

Order Decorations and Supplies

When to do this: 1-2 weeks out

Make sure you buy your decorations and supplies with plenty of time to account for delays, things getting lost in the mail, or the last-minute burst of inspo that requires you to buy something new. If you’re ordering items online, be sure to check on shipping times before you pay for something that won’t arrive in time.

Because I decided to go pretty low-key with my decor, I’m using a lot of stuff I already own. I have a large, cream-colored tablecloth which I’ll use alongside the fancier plates, glasses, and utensils I’ve thrifted for special occasions. To give my space fall vibes, I picked up a few fall-scented candles to light and display on my tablescape.

Credit: Haley Karinja

Plan Your Menu

When to do this: 1 week out

Check in with your guests to get a final headcount and see if anyone has dietary restrictions. Once you have that info, you can plan out your menu and grocery list.  

It can be overwhelming to plan, shop for, and make the entire Friendsgiving menu, especially if you have a larger guest list. That’s why I’m doing my Friendsgiving potluck-style. I’ll be cooking a few items, but I’m also encouraging each of my guests to bring an appetizer, dessert, or festive drink to share. I like the laid-back “bring whatever” type of potluck, as to not put too much pressure onto any of my guests, but if you want to ensure you have enough of everything (as opposed to five desserts and zero veggies), you can have your guests sign up to bring certain types of dishes. 

Because of my college-student budget, I wanted to keep the number of ingredients needed for recipes to a minimum. Also, I’m not the most experienced cook, so I chose recipes that looked easy to follow. Here’s what I’m making.

Credit: Haley Karinja
  • Trader Joe’s Frozen Sweet Potato Gnocchi: It’s my go-to comfort food during the fall and I hope my guests love it as much as I do!
  • Penne Vodka Pasta with Chicken: For the main course, you can’t go wrong with a big pasta dish. (Hey, no one said you have to make a turkey for Friendsgiving!) This recipe from The Kitchn is easy to modify if you want to add protein.
  • One-Bowl Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins: IMO, it wouldn’t be Friendsgiving without a pumpkin dessert. If you have novice-level baking skills, this recipe from The Kitchn is a great place to start; it only requires a few simple ingredients (some of which you may already have in your pantry) and takes just about 15 minutes to prep. 
  • Taylor Swift’s Chai Sugar Cookies: I am a huge Swiftie and most of my friends are too, so I will definitely be attempting to make her famous chai sugar cookies, which she adapted from a Joy the Baker recipe and posted about on Tumblr in 2014

Grocery Shop

When to do this: 2 days out

Depending on the length of your grocery list, make sure you dedicate a few hours to shop in case you have to stop by multiple stores to get everything you need. It’s also best to do this a few days (if not weeks, if you have freezer space to prep things ahead of time) before cooking so you’re not rushing at the last minute to find anything. 

Clean and Decorate

When to do this: 1 day out

The day before the event, you’ll want to deep-clean your space. Clean spaces like the kitchen, bathroom, and your living/dining area, as well as any other common areas where you and your guests will be spending time — not just so your guests will be able to comfortably celebrate, but also so you’re not preoccupied about your place being a mess the whole night. Also, take some time to decorate! You’ll be busy cooking and getting yourself ready on the day of, and it’s better to do everything you can in advance so you’re not so rushed when it’s go-time.

Credit: FilippoBacci / Getty Images

Cook, Eat, and Celebrate!

When to do this: Day of

Start your day by cooking and baking everything you planned for your menu and make yourself a schedule of what needs to be reheated, when, and for how long. (Try to also get this info from your guests who are bringing food too.) It’s best to do all of this before your guests arrive, so once they get there, you can enjoy your time with them and not worry about what’s going on in the kitchen. Then, pick out your favorite fall outfit that makes you feel in the holiday spirit. And finally, once everyone’s there, enjoy your event and be thankful for the great friends you get to celebrate with.

Haley Karinja

Business Digital Technology and Emerging Media & Marketing

Haley Karinja is an undergraduate student at Fordham University. Haley is pursuing a degree in Digital Technology and Emerging Media & Marketing. Haley is working toward a career in digital marketing and has had many internships in social media marketing in sports, entertainment, retail, and more. Haley is also a freelance content creator and specializes in short-form video content. Outside of school and her career pursuits, Haley enjoys fitness and is currently a University Ambassador at Soulcycle. Haley also loves photography, exploring NYC with friends, and going back to her hometown on the Jersey shore for a beach day.

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SchoolFordham University, Lincoln Center '25
MajorBusiness Digital Technology and Emerging Media & Marketing
FavesExploring NYC, coffee, beach days, fitness, photography
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