Your Guide to Hosting a Virtual Friendsgiving
'Tis the season for feasting with friends who can't make it home for Thanksgiving, but Friendsgiving may look different this year because of social distancing and quarantine. "Friendsgiving—a holiday all about appreciating and giving thanks to loved ones—will be more important than ever this year as we pivot our traditions to adjust to the new normal," says professional event planner Lisa Cokinos of LC Events.
And while nothing compares to seeing your friends' smiling faces in person on Thanksgiving, Cokinos says hosting a virtual Friendsgiving is the next best thing. "There are many benefits to throwing a virtual Friendsgiving party," she says. "You can invite more people, including friends who live across the country, and with no actual guests present in your home, food prep is limited to yourself, decorations are limited to just an area of a room, so clean up will be a piece of cake!"
Interested in throwing your own virtual Friendsgiving bash? We asked Cokinos and event planner Elle Anderson, founder of Elle A Events, for advice about how to orchestrate an online dinner with your friends this Thanksgiving and this is what they had to share.
Pick a virtual platform.
The first step to any successful online shindig is picking a virtual platform that's easy for all of your guests to use. "Over the past eight months, we have all become accustomed to communicating with friends online," Cokinos says. "Hands down, the most user-friendly platform is Zoom and it's the most familiar. An added benefit of Zoom is that the call can be recorded and viewed for at least 30 days after the celebration." If Zoom isn't your speed, Houseparty.com allows you to schedule group video calls, with up to eight guests, for free.
Send out online invitations.
As soon as you've settled on a virtual platform, Anderson says it's time to send out invitations. "Start with an email list of your intended guest list, to get an idea of who's interested in joining in," she says. "Once you have an idea of who is joining, you can easily create an online invitation through the various sites like Paperless Post and Evite, to name a few. This invitation should have the streaming site you're planning on using with the link to join and the date and time the streaming will be taking place."
Decide on dinner.
Since you won't actually be serving a meal to your guests, Cokinos suggests exploring ways for you and your guests to virtually share a meal. "Many caterers have pivoted their offerings to include 'boxed' meals for small gathering," she says. "Contact your local caterer and engage them for a Friendsgiving offering, and have those meals sent to your guests that day with any relevant heating instructions." If your friends aren't local, no worries. Cokinos says you can have Thanksgiving-style meals delivered to each of your guests by DoorDash or UberEats.
Plan a party game.
No Friendsgiving celebration would be complete without party games, and our experts say they're just as fun to play online as they are in person. "Virtual games, such as Quiz Up and Cards Against Humanity, are perfect options to entertain your guests," Cokinos says. "If you are looking for an easier way to engage your guests, simply have each person describe a grateful memory they have of someone present on the call. This is an intimate and endearing option if you want to avoid layering another digital component."
Take lots of (virtual) photos.
For a fun and innovative way to capture memories from your Friendsgiving party, Cokinos recommends incorporating a virtual photo booth into the festivities. "Many companies such as Studio Z Photobooths and The Snapbar have created digital photo booth options that are easy to use with any platform and that can capture stills, GIFs and Boomerang GIFs from an online event," she explains. "This way, guests can look at images after the celebration and save their favorites."