Treat your friends to an evening in front of a screen they’ll actually enjoy. 

By Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner
October 21, 2020
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2020 has certainly taken a toll on all of our social rituals, and the pandemic isn’t easing up before Thanksgiving. With CDC recommendations to gather outside or not at all, it looks like another tradition, Friendsgiving, will likely be a digital occasion for many of us this season. Yes, we’re all exhausted of group FaceTimes and Zoom happy hours, but before you call off the best gathering of the year, breathe new life into your digital social life with these all-digital Friendsgiving hosting ideas. 

Pick a date and time that works for friends across different time zones and send a fun virtual invite to get guests excited. Include which platform you want to host the event on—do you have a Zoom membership or does Zoom make you feel like you’re still in an all-hands meeting? Does everyone have Apple devices to do FaceTime or is Google Meet a better platform? Send out the link a few hours before the event starts to make it easy for all guests to access.

Have the resident DJ of your group create a Friendsgiving 2020 playlist you can listen to while you prep, clean up, and virtually gather (consider playing it in another room to avoid sound issues). It’ll set the mood and spark some memories—select songs you’ve danced together to in years past, listened to on trips, or just shared via TikTok during quarantine. 

Plan a menu of favorite family recipes or trendy Thanksgiving recipes in advance, so everyone can enjoy the same feast. Include links or photos (from family cookbooks or published cookbooks) in a doc that everyone can access and create a group text to share tips as you cook through the dishes. If guests live close, consider splitting up the work and doing a socially distant dish trade before dinner. When you eat, split the meal between appetizers, the main course, and desserts to structure Friendsgiving as you would in person.

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Not a group of cooks? No problem. Consider a carry-out Thanksgiving where each guest sends food to the next guest. Surprise each friend with a takeout meal from their favorite restaurant or toss in some surprise appetizers and desserts if they dictate their menu preferences. 

Calling anything a program sounds fancy, but really it’s just a basic plan. Pick a festive cocktail or mocktail everyone in the group can start the night with, and then move on to your selected bottle (or bottles) of wine. One of the joys of a group dinner is passing a bottle around the table, so do the next best thing and uncork something you’ll all love and can discuss digitally. Not sure where to start? Check out our Thanksgiving wine suggestions or use an app like Vivino to determine what will pair well with your Friendsgiving menu.  

Digital everything naturally makes us feel distant, but a tangible reminder of why we love each other is especially welcome this year. Encourage friends to send notes or care packages to another guest for Friendsgiving (everyone can draw names) with treats they can enjoy throughout the season—think scented candles, a cookie mix, or a framed photo of a special memory. 

Sure, a stylishly set table looks awesome on Instagram, but it’s also pleasant to sit at, even if your community is across a screen. Break out the fine china and your favorite tablecloth, or rent a tablescape with Social Studies, which delivers everything you need to set a beautifully designed table (and picks up the decorative rentals afterwards). Overachieving hosts can also send Social Studies tablescapes to their guests to curate some virtual unity. 

Zoom backgrounds can transport us wherever we want to go, so decide on a theme before everyone logs on. Do you want to look at pictures of Friendsgivings past? Or perhaps play some type of guessing game with everyone’s digital background? “If you have a graphic design-savvy guest, get them involved and have them pull together a fun assortment of Zoom backgrounds to commemorate the experience,” suggests Jessica Latham, CEO and co-founder of Social Studies. “They can be quirky, or tailored to different households, like a surprise and delight moment for everyone when they log on.” 

You may not be going around the table to share what you’re thankful for this year, but spend some time to personally or communally pass the proverbial mic through your chat platform to express gratitude. “Thanksgiving is the perfect moment to pause, reflect, and express what you’re thankful for this year,” Latham says. Share your Rose (highlights) and Thorn (low points) moments from 2020. Be honest, listen, and don’t forget to toast at the end.

End your Friendsgiving with a watch party of your favorite Thanksgiving movies or episodes of TV shows. Try these 7 Thanksgiving Movies to Watch On Turkey Day, or 19 Thanksgiving TV Episodes You Can Watch After Your Feast.