From recipes to entertaining ideas, these expert-backed tips will help your Friendsgiving run smoothly.

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Friendsgiving is like the cool younger sibling of Thanksgiving—all the food, fun and football, but none of the family drama. The holiday evolved out of groups of people who, for one reason or another, couldn't be with family during the holiday (or didn't have family to be with), and it's become extra popular in the last year or so as travel restrictions and social distancing kept loved ones apart.

As someone who loves entertaining and is newly single this year, I decided to embrace the movement and host my very first Friendsgiving. I turned to an expert to find out how, exactly, to do that.

Alexandra Shytsman, author of Friendsgiving: Celebrate Your Family of Friends (buy it: $6 on Amazon) and mastermind behind the blog The New Baguette, has been hosting Friendsgiving since before it had a name. The tradition started because her family emigrated from Ukraine and had never celebrated a Thanksgiving in their life. But Shytsman was fascinated by the holiday and wanted to give it a shot, so she bought a turkey and started inviting friends over. "I continue to do that to this day with the same group of people," she says.

Here are some of her best tips on hosting the best Friendsgiving ever.

Friends enjoying Thanksgiving dinner together
Credit: Adobe Stock / sonyakamoz

Tips for Hosting Your First Friendsgiving

Nail down a date.

"The No. 1 thing I've learned over the years is that you have to plan ahead," she said. People often make plans for the entire Thanksgiving weekend, so it may help to have your celebration before or after (you can even do a Thanksgiving-leftover party theme).

Get a head count.

Even if you're doing an informal rotating-door policy, you need to know how much food to make so you don't have too much or not enough. If you're doing a potluck-style feast, Shytsman recommends using a shared spreadsheet where people can sign up for what they're bringing so you don't end up with three apple pies and no salad.

Have a theme.

Some guests are going to have a traditional Thanksgiving, so having a theme (think: plant-based or foods from a certain country) can make your gathering unique and help direct people as to the atmosphere and what to bring as far as food. Or, if you really want to switch things up, you could have everyone bring the Friendsgiving dessert that's best for their zodiac sign.

Keep your decor simple.

"I'm not huge on balloons or paper plates," Shytsman says. "I like to just take mini pumpkins or sprigs of rosemary and keep them on the table." And when you use food as decor, you can reuse them for cooking later on.

Work ahead.

Pretend you're a pro chef and arrange your mise en place a day ahead of time, recommends Shytsman. Make a list of all the things you can do in advance: make pie crust or filling, chop onions, etc. On the day of the party, only do what's absolutely essential. And make sure your menu includes dishes that don't all have to be served hot.

Set out snacks.

Inevitably, people will arrive before you've finished cooking. Have some drinks (like these big-batch Friendsgiving cocktails) and snacks they can just grab as they mingle so you can finish cooking, Shytsman says. Or, another option is leave some simple tasks like dressing the salad for early guests to help with. And always, she says, give yourself more time to cook than you think you'll need.

Plan some entertainment.

"It's good to have a plan for what you'll all do after dinner besides just sleep a lot," Shytsman says. "Have a few games around to keep people's energy up post-meal. (Try these 9 Friendsgiving games that are more fun than football.)