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Y’all, how fun is it that Friendsgiving has taken off like a freight train in Georgia? Since the newlywed season of life can often mean being away from family during the holidays, sometimes for the first time ever, Friendsgiving is the perfect opportunity to gather the ones you love right where you are and share community, gratitude, and great food. The first time I ever heard of Friendsgiving was from our Blue Ribbon Vendor, Jacin of Jacin Fitzgerald Events–she and her husband started the sweet tradition in their home years ago, and celebrated this year’s dinner this past weekend. We’re so thrilled she agreed to share some photos and a few helpful tips for hosting your own Friendsgiving celebration!

Thank you so much to Briana of For the Love of Juneau Photography for these lovely photos!

From Jacin:

When I was a kid, my favorite family holiday dinner was Thanksgiving–I used to love helping my grandmother set the table; she would let us (the kids) make the place cards every year, set out the flatware and china, fold the napkins, make sure everyone had their own salt and pepper sets (she collected them), and make sure everything was in place before the turkey was ready to be carved. I think that was actually what sparked my interest in tablescapes and getting creative with place setting designs.

My husband Pat and I haven’t lived close to home since 2008. Before we moved, our friends used to trade off every Sunday (before we sat down to watch Sopranos) and do a potluck dinner together–it was one of our favorite things! When we moved to California, it became a bit harder to fly back for Thanksgiving every year, so six years ago, we started “Friendsgiving” with any friends who were in the area. Everyone would bring their favorite side dish–whatever recipe reminded them most of home. Pat and I would do the turkey and we’d set the table to the nines–what’s better than an excuse to use the wedding china and crystal?

We’ve learned a thing or two after doing this through the years, and here are some tips we’ve come up with to make the event one to treasure long after the last wine glass has been washed and put away.

Use what you have. This year, I had these beautiful chambray napkins from The Prolific Hive left over from a shoot that I knew I wanted to tie in somehow, and their blue color set the tone for the rest of the decor. I also have more seashells in our home than I care to admit, so the (cleaned) oyster shells doubled as our salt cellars and clam shells doubled as our votive candle holders. Ikea faux fur “rugs” doubled as chair covers for the extra chairs we had to bring in (we don’t have 12 matching chairs) and simple plants from the nursery doubled as our centerpieces (we could re-plant them afterwards). Friendsgiving (or Thanksgiving, for that matter) doesn’t have to be fancy–it’s the people around the table who make the party, not the pretty decorations. If you don’t have a ton of decorations lying around to use, head out into the backyard and clip some pretty branches (with or without leaves) and pick up some votive candles from the dollar store. Candles make every table more welcoming!

Let people help. It isn’t the Jacin and Pat show when our friends and family come over–you know how you feel when you go to someone’s house and ask “what can I do?” You really want to help, and when you’re hosting, your guests do, too. Think of some tasks beforehand that will need to get done just before everyone sits down to dinner–lighting the candles at the table, filling the wine glasses with the bottle(s) you’ve reserved to enjoy with dinner, filling the water glasses, pulling off the salad plates to serve salads/starters, putting on the dinner playlist. When everyone gets involved, it makes the event so much more fun and special to you and your guests.

Always have non-alcoholic options ready. You never know who might be pregnant but not yet ready to announce. By having sparkling cider in the ice bucket with the champagne, or O’Douls non-alcoholic beer in the cooler with the rest of the drinks (plus koozies nearby), you can prevent the awkward “Jenny’s not drinking” comments from floating around. This might seem like an odd tip, but you just never know–a good tip for any party (or wedding) is to anticipate your guests’ needs so they never have to ask for something. That’s the ultimate hostess trick.

Don’t get too fancy with the menu. A friend who attended one of our first Friendsgivings in California once told us she was thankful for this dinner because it was creating memories for her in a new place. I thought that was the most amazing thing and had never thought about it that way–when we continued to host Friendsgiving year after year, we realized we were starting a tradition with friends both old and new, something people looked forward to. Food is an amazing way to create a memory. I use the same recipes every year, passed down from friends and family: Pat’s aunt’s sweet potato souffle, my grandmother’s scalloped oysters, my mother’s pumpkin pie, etc. While it’s tempting to get crazy with the menu (and hey–go for it if you’re up to it!), we save the inventive new recipes for dinner parties during the year or Sunday night cooking. Friendsgiving and Thanksgiving are all about tradition for us.

Plan your seating chart intentionally. Take a look at the whole table with your spouse the day before and think about your guests and where they’ll sit. Who will have the most in common and create a great conversation? Who just got in a tiff the week before? Who might be a great all-around person who can literally talk to anyone (they might good for the middle of the table to keep things going), etc. Pat and I take care to place people where they’re going to have a great time. There’s nothing worse than dead air at a party, and that extra ten minutes put into the seating arrangement is time well spent to keep your dinner party lively and fun.

Create a timeline. If you’re cooking the turkey, you need to create a timeline for yourself to know when to put the turkey in the oven, as well as know when those extra sides need to go in. We have a double oven now, but when we first started this tradition, we had a tiny apartment in San Francisco and the turkey barely fit in the oven (see? another fun memory :)). I usually time my cooking so the sides head into the oven when the turkey comes out (I take it out once it hits 165 and let it rest–it’ll continue to cook once you’ve taken it out of the oven, just cover it in tin foil). Whatever timeline works best for you, go with it, but by putting one together ahead of time, it allows you to hang out with your guests when they arrive rather than working in the kitchen the entire time.

Remember what this is all about. Our Friendsgiving this year took place the day after the attacks in Paris and it felt a little strange to be celebrating when there was so much turmoil and sadness going on elsewhere in the world. We made it a point to take a moment of silence before dinner, with all of our friends gathered around the table, and that moment really brought everyone together. Give thanks to those who join you and make them feel welcomed–that is really what it’s all about.

Thank you so much, Jacin! We’d love to know, have you ever hosted a Friendsgiving dinner? What tips would you add to this list?

lisa Written with love by Lisa
12 Comments
  1. avatar jacin reply

    thank you gals for sharing our friendsgiving :)

  2. avatar Southern Weddings Friendsgiving » for the Love of Juneau Photography reply

    […] I don’t know about you, but when I have a get together at my house, I mildly freak out. Not only do I lack any real cooking skills, but the idea of getting my house guest-ready is a little overwhelming. What style do I want to use? Will that style really work with the food I’m serving? Am I going to have to spend a fortune getting everything to look right? Jacin Fitzgerald of Jacin Fitzgerald Events helps simplify the whole process in her Friendsgiving post on Southern Weddings. […]

  3. avatar Katie Hicks reply

    I must know where that chandelier is from!!! I have been searching for a black one just like that.. It is perfect!

    • avatar jacin reply

      Hi! The chandelier is from Overstock. Here’s the link :)

      https://www.overstock.com/Home-Garden/The-Gray-Barn-Calloway-Hill-Iron-8-light-Black-Chandelier/19856337/product.html

  4. avatar Aurora reply

    Gorgeous pictures! I would also love to know where the chandelier is from :)

    • avatar jacin reply

      Hi! The chandelier is from Overstock. Here’s the link :)

      https://www.overstock.com/Home-Garden/The-Gray-Barn-Calloway-Hill-Iron-8-light-Black-Chandelier/19856337/product.html

  5. avatar Kathy Hess reply

    Beautiful Photos…would love to know where your table and chairs are from?

    • avatar jacin reply

      Hi! The table is from Pottery Barn but it’s from 2014 and I don’t think they have anymore. The chairs were from Restoration Hardware – here’s the link!
      https://www.restorationhardware.com/catalog/product/product.jsp?productId=prod2090029&categoryId=cat1860005

  6. avatar Rebecca reply

    Where did you get your black chairs? I love them! <3

    • avatar jacin reply

      Hi! The chairs were from Restoration Hardware. Here’s the link!

      https://www.restorationhardware.com/catalog/product/product.jsp?productId=prod2090029&categoryId=cat1860005

  7. avatar Jeanette reply

    Hi!!

    I know this post is a couple years old, but I absolutely love this chandelier, can anyone tell me where it’s from?

    Thanks!!

    • avatar jacin reply

      Hi! The chandelier is from Overstock. Here’s the link :)

      https://www.overstock.com/Home-Garden/The-Gray-Barn-Calloway-Hill-Iron-8-light-Black-Chandelier/19856337/product.html

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Friends, we are signing off for the next few days to love on our friends and family and eat lots of delicious fixins! Don’t forget about our post-Thanksgiving shop sale, starting on Friday and running through Monday – 20% off all prints and free shipping on EVERYTHING! Yes, planners included! We hope you have a cozy and relaxing holiday, and we’ll see you back here on Friday to share our wintery couple’s to do list!

But first, a little bit about what we’ll be doing while we’re away…

How we’ll be spending Thanksgiving:
Nicole: I’ll be heading to my sister’s in-laws, where both of our families (all the kids, grandkids and aunts and uncles) are gathering for the first time since the wedding a year ago. Bonus: all of the family dogs will be in one place!
Lisa: Dave and I are driving up north to Syracuse to spend Thanksgiving with his family–my first holiday with my future in-laws!
Morgan: I’m so excited to visit my mom’s side of the family in western North Carolina. Aunts, uncles, and cousins will all be meeting at my Nana’s house to enjoy a very Southern and very delicious Thanksgiving meal!
Marissa: BDK, EKK, and I will celebrate her very first Thanksgiving with his family. Since it will be just a few short days after my sister-in-law’s big wedding, we opted to have lunch at their family’s country club with BDK’s parents, grandparents, and a few aunts and uncles. LOTS of generations of Kloesses!
Lara: Ari, Grace and I are spending Thanksgiving with friends here at home. I will be cooking the turkey and all the fixings, and then we’re going to play board games!
Kristin: ​We will be gassing up the car, packing some snacks and criss-crossing North Carolina to spend Thanksgiving day with both our families before heading back to VA for our last football game of 2014 on Friday!
Emily: John and I will be spending our first ever Thanksgiving meal NOT with family – but with dear friends at their parents’ house, which is almost as good! Friday night we’re getting together with very extended family (fourth cousins!) for dinner.

Photo by Joey + Jessica Seawell from Blue Ribbon Bounty

A few things we are most thankful for currently:
Nicole: A fully stocked fridge, snuggles with Taylor, phones to keep in touch with my now spread-out family, and the amazing SW gals.
Lisa: I am so thankful for my loving family, the technology that keeps us all connected, and the blessing of seeing Dave every single day–no small gift after being long-distance!
Morgan: I’m most thankful for feeling settled after a transitional year of graduating college, moving back home, and starting my full time position at Southern Weddings; my sweet parents (and current roomies); my adoring boyfriend, Kevin; that my lab puppy learned fetch; and that my twin sister is coming home from grad school in Tennessee for Thanksgiving!
Marissa: I am most thankful for the blessing God gave us not too long ago, our adorable EKK! I am also so thankful for my darling husband, my sweet family, and the few cold days we’ve had in Alabama when I got to wear my boots and drink cider by the fire pit!
Lara: I am so thankful for my little family and that, for the first time in years, my husband doesn’t have to work on Thanksgiving Day. I’m really looking forward to this time together.
Kristin: My gratitude list is never short, but I am currently most thankful for the daily reminders of God’s grace and unending love; my adorable husband and the chance to spend this holiday with our families; for our community of friends and our church family–the sweet souls that support, encourage and show us love daily; for good health; and finally, for my grandma’s homemade pimento cheese (Thanksgiving breakfast of champions!!).
Emily: I am most thankful for my sweet husband, our families, and dear friends. Also, for the opportunity to decorate for Christmas in just a few days, for a warm house, and for our new king-size bed!!

Photo by Joey + Jessica Seawell from Blue Ribbon Bounty

Our favorite Thanksgiving foods:
Nicole: It changes every year! I love anything that comes in casserole form, like baked mac and cheese, sweet potatoes or green beans. Anything in a pie crust also tops the list!
Lisa: I can never resist a second helping of green bean casserole or my mom’s chocolate chip pecan pie.
Morgan: My absolute favorite has to be my Nana’s dressing – it’s particularly wonderful and she does not make it at any other holiday, which makes it an especially special treat.
Marissa: Hands down, pumpkin pie! Plop a scoop of Cool Whip on that baby, and I’m a happy girl!
Lara: My favorite is mashed turnips, a tradition in our family. They are better than mashed potatoes!
Kristin: While I love my mama’s mashed potatoes with my whole heart, my favorite Thanksgiving food is my grandma’s dressing. I know there are a million varieties of ‘stuffing/dressing’ but I think Eleanor’s wins top prize!
Emily: Since we served “Thanksgiving” at our wedding, I have to say that my favorite is really the combination of all those flavors together – put if I had to pick, then stuffing.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

emily Written with love by Emily
1 Comment
  1. avatar Kyla Fetzner reply

    Happy Thanksgiving ladies! I have an extra grateful heart this year after that wonderful trip to North Carolina with my mama a few weeks ago :)

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‘Round these parts, we look forward to a whole lot at Thanksgiving… fresh biscuits, mama’s pecan pie, grandma’s sweet potato pie (can you tell we love pie?), stuffin’, football, turkey, and most of all… family! We have so much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving and hope your holiday is filled to the brim with cranberries and a whole lotta LOVE!

MARISSA: Heavens, y’all! I don¹t even know where to start! 2012 has been a year full of amazing blessings and incredible challenges – and I’m so grateful for them all! I am so thankful for the talented women I am not only blessed to work with everyday, but am able to call my friends. L, E, E, N + K, thank you! For our sweet readers, and talented clients. For my loving family – especially my mama, who is always there for me no matter what. For my handsome husband, BDK: you are the definition of a Southern gentleman, and my dream come true. Lastly, for God’s incredible grace. Without that, I am nothing.

This year, I’ll be spending Thanksgiving with the Kloess side of my family. Since I come from a small family, spending the holidays with this crowd is always a joy! Let’s just say we are one big ol’ Southern family – so big the dinner table has to be made of card tables and random chairs! Traditionally, my FIL deep fries a turkey in the backyard, and we celebrate with all the fixin’s, from homemade pecan pie to sweet potato casserole. I can’t wait! Even though I’ll miss my family and our traditions, I’m so thankful to have such wonderful in-laws to spend the holidays with.

NICOLE: This year, I am overwhelmed by how much there is to be thankful for! I’m so grateful for a loving family that gives me strength and some hilarious stories to tell and for terrific friends and a boyfriend who make me feel at home no matter where I am. I’m grateful for an amazing job that has filled my days with creativity and love and for a degree from the best University on the planet. Lastly, I’m grateful for my mom’s cooking, pug faces and Pantone. I’m heading to Charlotte today to bake pies and celebrate the holiday with my mom’s side of the family. Inevitably, there will be much debate over what to include in our Christmas lists and a lot of planning for my sister’s October 2013 wedding!

ALEXIA: I am thankful for my wonderful family, beautiful friends and unforgettable experiences at Southern Weddings this semester. I am also grateful for sweet tea, starry nights, cowboy boots and red velvet cupcakes. I am spending Thanksgiving at my grandparents’ house surrounded by family, laughter and of course a little pumpkin pie :)

EMILY: As usual, my gratitude cup overflows, which is something I’m grateful for in and of itself! I am so very thankful to call John my husband (after seven years of having a boyfriend – ha!) and for the person he is; for my parents, my siblings, and my parents and siblings in law (or, my parents and siblings in love, as one of my friends likes to say); for a God who in ALL things works for the good of those who love Him and for a church family that reminds me of that; for my sweet kitties and our warm house; for the health of those I love; for the blessing of living in this beautiful, amazing country; and for my job that I love so very much, and the amazing ladies with whom I get to work. Also, chocolate chunk pecan cookies. Yep, definitely thankful for those.

This year John and I are hosting Thanksgiving in North Carolina for my parents and one of my sisters. We’ll be a small group with entirely too much food, but I don’t really consider that a problem :)

KRISTIN: Thanksgiving 2012 marks my first married Thanksgiving, and I am looking forward to celebrating with my favorite husband and our amazing families. It is a well-known fact that I love ALL holidays and love to celebrate in BIG ways. On Thursday we will be crisscrossing the state of NC to celebrate, and I am responsible for bringing official ‘dishes’ to both meals as a reward for getting married (my late Grandma Jewell’s green bean-corn casserole — serious deliciousness and a family tradition — for my family and a sweet potato casserole for KPW’s). Thanksgiving day is sure to be overflowing with family, laughter, all my favorite foods*, and a nap, along with countless chances to reflect on all my many blessings.

During this sweet season of Thanksgiving I am reminded of the never ending listing of things that I am thankful for including, but not limited to, continued daily grace, my husband and our freshly-made marriage, our family, health, the SW family, the sunshine, and being able to find joy in each day. Hope y’all have a blessed Thanksgiving. Bring on the mashed potatoes!! PS: *Seriously. The food. We served Thanksgiving dinner at our wedding reception because it is our absolute favorite meal. I can’t wait.

LARA: Thanksgiving is a double great day for us this year as today is Grace’s first birthday! It’s been a crazy and blessed year between motherhood, making a magazine and so much more. I am overwhelmingly grateful for you, sweet readers and friends. Thank you for making this holiday time so special for us with all the excitement and kind words about V5! The story of Southern Weddings makes my heart so FULL. I am grateful for my family, dear friends, the SW ladies, a job that I love and most of all for grace. Amazing grace. God is good, y’all! This year, I’ll be attempting to cook my first Thanksgiving dinner by myself, so wish me luck, y’all! Thanksgiving is definitely my favorite meal all year with the sweet potatoes and turnip puree topping my list of leftover highlights. Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo credits, top to bottom: Nancy Ray, Nicole’s iPhone, personal, Tanja Lippert, Martha Manning, the Cheesebooth from the SW Launch Party last week!

lara Written with love by Lara Casey
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