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Stress less with this Friendsgiving to-do checklist

Apple pie being served.

You’ll want to spend time with your besties at a Friendsgiving dinner, not hunkering down in the kitchen. Follow this countdown checklist so you’re free to join what’s sure to be a fun and heartfelt celebration.

Three weeks ahead

Invite friends. Decide on a date: If you’re holding yours on Thanksgiving, the date’s obvious, but if it’s a prequel to the familial version, the weekend before Thanksgiving may be a good bet. A potluck makes it more manageable at a busy time of year; just remember to let guests know to bring a dish. If your friends have kids, be sure also to indicate on your Evite invitation whether children are invited.

Plan the menu. Guests like to put their best culinary foot forward for potlucks, so if you’re going that route, make it easier for them to find the perfect contribution by including a "What to Bring" list right on your Evite invitation. Finally, ask that food be table-ready or nearly, as guests may bring items that need kitchen space or gadgets to prepare—both likely to be in short supply!

Order your bird. If you’re making turkey and have a particular type in mind—kosher, heritage, local or organic—reserve yours in advance. And don’t forget you’ll need a big-enough roasting pan if it’s your first time cooking turkey!

Two weeks ahead

Plan decor. If you’re using a tablecloth and cloth napkins, make sure they’re clean and/or ironed. Figure out your table decor, such as mini pumpkins or flowers. Buy any nonperishable decorations now.

Ensure you have the serveware you need. Decide what dishes will go in what bowls, platters, etc. If you want cake stands to display pies, a cheese plate, and/or a large platter for the turkey, buy or make arrangements to borrow them now.

Consider seating. Will you need extra tables and chairs? Or will you be using trays? Rent, buy or borrow what you will need as necessary.

Set out glassware, plates and cutlery. Unless you have enough tableware for a crowd, consider borrowing, buying or even using disposables, depending on how formal your gathering is. You’ll get eco points for using one of the many new options made from recycled bamboo or fallen palm leaves. Think about special drinks you may be serving as well, like hard cider and hot toddies, and whether you have enough glasses or mugs.

If you’re assigning seating, make place cards and plan your seating chart. Traditionally, couples are split up and the seating is boy/girl/boy/girl. Beyond those guidelines, consider which friends would enjoy each other’s company and plan accordingly. Finally, witty place cards make the mood more festive.

Prepare party activities. If you’re watching a holiday TV show or movie, have a copy on hand or know how to get it on demand in a hurry.

Look for recipes. Never made a turkey—or whatever else you’re serving—before? Browse recipes and finalize your selections.

One week ahead

Compose the score. Compile, or ask a musically astute friend to compile, a fun food-and-friends themed playlist for pre- and after-dinner fun. During the meal, aim for quieter background tunes—jazz is the gold standard.

Purchase most food and drinks. A list is essential here: You’ll likely need specialty items for the day, like spices for a turkey rub or other extras for drinks and appetizer garnishes. Pick up basics like eggs and flour too. This is the time to buy drinks as well, including wine, beer and cider. Don’t forget nonalcoholic beverages for those who abstain, and think about what you’ll be serving with dessert too—coffee, tea, liqueur?

Gather serving utensils. This much food calls for an assortment of serving spoons, forks and tongs. You might remind friends to bring these along with their potluck contribution, but do wash and return them to their rightful owner before the end of the evening.

Call non-RSVP guests. Your best friend from high school may have overlooked her Evite invitation.

Test your electronics. Make sure your camera and video items are working and have plenty of storage.

Make dishes you can freeze. If you’re doing more than (or something other than) turkey, make casseroles and/or desserts ahead and freeze them.

Clean out the fridge. Start using up whatever you’ve got in your refrigerator to make room for food storage for the big meal.

The day before

Purchase perishable food. Now’s the time to pick up any fresh vegetables, fruits, meats and/or seafood you’ll be making.

Check bathrooms. Make sure you’re well stocked with soap, towels and toilet paper too.

Order, pick up or cut flowers. You’ll want these to be as fresh as possible.

Day of

Start your turkey. If you’re using the slow-cook method, put your bird in the oven first thing in the morning, especially if you’ve scheduled the feast for earlier in the day. Don’t forget the stuffing, especially if you’re cooking it in the turkey.

Pre-prep food. Make as many offerings as you can in advance, ready to be re-heated or taken out of the fridge a few minutes before mealtime.

Stick food and drinks in the fridge. Defrost frozen eats and chill drinks.

Set your table. Set aside a couple of extra settings and seats for friends who unexpectedly bring plus-ones.

Consider keeping the pets in another area. Do you have a pet who can be less than the life of a party—or a friend who’s allergic to or scared of dogs? With so many people and so much food on hand, you may want to put your pooch in a separate room or outside for the duration of the event.

Set up drink stations. To encourage guests to mingle pre-dinner, set drink stations at strategic locations—one for wine, cider and beer, with appropriate glasses at hand; and one for nonalcoholic beverages, with an ice bucket and tongs.

Afterward, give thanks for a great gathering with some of your favorite people!

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