The countdown is on – Thanksgiving is right around the corner! At this time of year, I always look forward to turkey, football, and time with friends and family, but my favorite way to jump into the holiday spirit is by planning a wonderful meal for loved ones. I love hosting, serving up delicious food, and making memories together. But let’s be honest, hosting Thanksgiving is quite an undertaking. There’s a lot that goes into it, and it all centers around the food and an elegant tablescape, one that feels seasonal and familiar but also fresh and unique. While pulling together a perfect Thanksgiving table can be challenging, the good news is that with a little thoughtful planning, you can put together a setting that’s inviting and full of charm.
What makes a Thanksgiving table truly stunning is a variety of textures and heights that create visual interest and engage the senses. A carefully layered table is the way to achieve this. For a classic look, start with a table cloth in a neutral color and then choose a paper table runner in a complementary color. Look for something festive and on-theme. For a touch of whimsy, as well as a great conversation piece, supply your guests with pens or markers and ask them to write what they’re grateful for directly on to a butcher paper table runner. Of course, you could also use a fabric table runner – consider textures like silk or velvet to add an extra sensory layer.
The next step is to add in layers of natural elements. For example, branches, pumpkins, and gourds. Not only are these seasonal, they are interesting to the eye. Experiment with different sizes and shapes and play with incorporating a shiny leaf garland or strings of deep red cranberries for a pop of color.
Make Guests Feel Welcome
Although they’re not strictly necessary, place cards can add a nice formal touch to a Thanksgiving table and also serve as a whimsical souvenir that your guests will want to take home with them after the meal. They also help to avoid that awkward moment when everyone wonders where to sit! You can purchase some thematic paper and print out cards at home, decorate pre-made place cards with markers and stickers, or let your creativity run wild by getting crafty with colored ribbons, leaves, pumpkins, and twigs! If you have children, this can also be a fun craft project to do together that will make them feel more involved in the Thanksgiving celebration.
One of the challenges of creating an elegant Thanksgiving table is to allow for enough space for different dishes and platters. We also often need to squeeze an extra person or two at the table. One of the best ways to save space on the table is by placing the silverware and napkins on top of the plates instead of to the side. You can add more height to each place setting by giving each guest a charger, plate, cloth napkin and dessert or bread plate all stacked together. It looks effortlessly stylish and is practical too! You don’t even have to have matching china. In fact, it can be fun to mix and match heirloom dishes with festive and colorful paper plates and napkins. For the final touch, add in something small for guests to enjoy at the very top of the stack. For example, a tiny pumpkin, a tree ornament, or a personalized greeting card. You can finish it all off with a cute ribbon or yarn that ties into your color palette. Make sure that anything tall is thin, so as not to block your guests’ views of one another. Or, for something that will really make an impact, you could create a hanging centerpiece using flowers, foliage, and branches.
Fire is a primal element, providing warmth, coziness, and a sense of intimacy. Sparkly or shiny elements will reflect any candles you put on your table and also add a touch of glamour. To add this most basic of decorations, choose a variety of candles housed in gold, crystal, or bronze holders. Molded candles help enhance your theme and can also be used all over the home. Taper candles are wonderful for a more formal table, and can be found in a wide variety of colors. Votive candles provide just the right amount of light and can be whimsical when grouped in small clusters. For a romantic table, candle lamps are a joyous choice. The height of the flame stays constant and you can change the color of the shade to match your desired atmosphere. But be careful to avoid scented candles as you’ll want the delicious scent of the food to be the star of the show.
Create a Thanksgiving Sideboard
When serving large groups of people, I prefer to use the sideboard as a buffet to hold food that's too hot to pass around and let my guests serve themselves. Designate a separate area for extra glasses, silverware, dessert plates, bottles of wine, and so on. This will allow your guests easy access to anything they may need. It’s also an additional place to carry on the theme of your Thanksgiving decor. If you don’t need the extra space for food, you could also style a drinks trolley or bar so guests can help themselves. Be sure to suggest a themed cocktail or mocktail!
Don’t Forget About the Little Ones
Holidays are all about children, so be sure to think about them when creating your Thanksgiving table! Look for fun wearables such as pilgrim hats, to add an extra bit of whimsy. If you have a separate kids’ table, turn it into a fun dinner/craft station. Start by using plain white butcher paper as a table cloth. Supply the table with plenty of crayons for your young guests to put their personal spin on. Instead of a formal centerpiece, provide a basket with inexpensive craft supplies; scissors, toilet paper rolls, construction paper, scotch tape, etc. They’ll be occupied for hours and allow the adults to linger over a longer dinner.
Once your perfect table is pulled together, give some thought to the rest of the house! Leaf garlands, colored ribbons, grouped heirlooms and molded candles will spread holiday spirit throughout your entire home. But remember the purpose of the holiday and give yourself permission to savor these precious moments. Plan for plenty of time to prep ahead and then let it go and have fun!