Journal , Fall / Winter Issue

This Boho Friendsgiving Is the Perfect, Relaxed Way to Celebrate the Holidays

For most of us, the holiday season is a joyful time of celebrations with friends and family, and a lot of food and drink. For others, however, it’s no secret that it can present all sorts of stressors—having to entertain, manage family conflict, and balance all of the other daily parts of life that still go on during these weeks. 

I look forward to this time of year—seeing out-of-town family, hunkering down by the fire, and joy that comes with the season—but not without some hesitation.

“So when are you two getting married?” “Are you going to have kids anytime soon?” “How do you make money doing that job?” “Did you put on some weight this year?” These are most likely some of the uncomfortable (and often inappropriate) questions that we get asked every year during holiday gatherings. 

Spending time with my family is something I cherish this time of year, but the chaos and intensity the holiday season prompted me to reconsider how I kick off the season. Enter: Friendsgiving, a laid-back gathering of my dearest friends before everyone jets off to their hometown for traditional festivities. 

Fall Friendsgiving Soiree 3

Friendsgiving is a gathering where you can bring over the closest members of your tribe for endless wine, funky music, and plenty of inspired fall recipes! And it truly helps me set the tone for the festivities ahead during the holiday season by connecting me with what’s important—good times spent with those I love. 

Making sure everyone has a full wine glass, a delicious meal, and giving thanks for traditions, and creating new ones are my top priorities for Friendsgiving. 

Whatever you do, don’t worry about everything being perfect. It’s truly the magic of the season that’s important and when you are relaxed, your guests will be too. 

What to Serve Hosting a Fall Friendsgiving

The point of Friendsgiving is for everyone—including you—to have an easygoing evening with less pressure. Do as much prep work as you can in advance, consider asking friends to bring a dish, and choose simple recipes to help the focus stay on fun. 

Signature Cocktail

Set the tone for the evening by offering a signature cocktail as guests arrive, perhaps something seasonally inspired. Anything with bourbon and a twist of orange—one of my favorites is a Manhattan. Not only will this keep you from playing bartender all night, but a signature drink immediately creates a sense of unity and festivity. 

Check out these Apple Cider Whiskey Rose Cocktails.

Simple Appetizer

I love offering a light, flavorful bite at the beginning of the evening. This could be anything from a simple Caprese tomato salad on a skewer to a chicken satay dipped in peanut sauce. It’s also nice to have a crudite platter with dip for guests who want a healthy bite before the main meal. Having appetizers on hand for guests will buy you time in case dinner is running late.

Might we suggest Fig & Prosciutto Crostini?

2-3 Favorite Side Dishes

When it comes to side dishes, I am old-school. I love having a starch-based side dish and a vegetable side dish. And I know that my favorite comfort foods will elicit an enthusiastic response from my guests. Think macaroni and cheese, roasted Brussels sprouts, potatoes au gratin, and garlic green beans. It’s all about balance. 

This Gruyere & Gouda Bacon Apple Mac and Cheese is one of our favorites.

Main Entrée

For the main event, I love doing a slow-roasted flavorful meat like turkey or pot roast. Not only does it taste delicious, but it also fills the house with the warm smells of home cooking. If you have a vegetarian crowd, lasagna and risotto are great hearty alternatives. 

A Showstopping Dessert

Focus on one great dessert that can also serve as a gorgeous centerpiece to your table. Fruit tarts, pies topped with fresh whipped cream, and anything with a rich chocolate finish all are go-to winners for taste and for presentation. And if baking isn’t your thing, there’s no shame in buying a beautiful dessert from a bakery.

But if you are baking, this Apple Chai Bread Pudding Bundt Cake with Vanilla Bean Caramel is AMAZING.

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Checklist: Finishing Touches

Create an atmosphere that is warm, inviting, and sets the stage for what is to come: a fall feast! A palette of whites and neutrals provides the perfect backdrop for beautiful food. 

Dishes. Consider using dishes that will immediately bring texture and color to your tablescape.

Napkins. Napkins, cloth or paper, can be in an autumnal tone and tied with raffia. I like to collect leaves and use them as seat assignment cards. Gold permanent markers write beautifully on leaves, and can be strung through the raffia.

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Glasses. Use water goblets and wine glasses in different sizes and shapes, bringing an eclectic and rustic look to a fall-inspired table.

Floral. Use fresh flowers in the autumn colors with pine cones and tea lights interspersed around the table. Flowers can be arranged in various containers made of different materials such as wood, metal, and glass. A little bit of flower foam in each container will help keep your arrangements stable.

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Lighting. Use candles with rustic-style candelabras. Make sure to use different heights and try to space the candelabras between flower arrangements.

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Music. Set the mood and keep energy levels high with a mix of your favorite tunes.

Gift. Don't forget containers for leftovers; everyone loves to take home a doggy bag.

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Photography by Abagail Halstead & Elizabeth Van Lierde / Text by Elizabeth Van Lierde

This story originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of The Inspired Home Journal, titled “Boho Bash.”

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