Your guide to planning Thanksgiving table decor and setup

We all love Thanksgiving. It’s a chance to reconnect with loved ones, take stock of what we’re most thankful for and thoroughly stuff ourselves without remorse. Seriously, what’s not to love? Well, if you’re the one who is planning Thanksgiving, cooking the meal and entertaining guests, you might have an answer or two to that question. But don’t worry—planning Thanksgiving this year will be a breeze. Just follow these simple tips for an easy, stylish and stress-free Thanksgiving.
A thanksgiving buffet with food and decor to help with planning Thanksgiving

Serve buffet style

When we think of Turkey Day, we tend to imagine sitting around a big table with the bird in the middle, surrounded by steaming dishes of every Thanksgiving food imaginable. This works great if you’re in a Norman Rockwell painting, but in reality, all that food doesn’t leave much elbow room.

Save yourself some space and aggravation by setting up the meal buffet-style on a separate table or countertop. If nothing else, this will give you room to create a more interesting table setting (more on that in a minute). Consider a few ideas to craft a perfect Thanksgiving buffet:

  • Use levels: Setting up some dishes on raised surfaces makes everything easier to reach, while also creating an eye-catching table layout.
  • Place silverware last: Place cutlery and rolled-up napkins at the far end of the buffet. They’ll be easy to get to, and your guests won’t have to juggle them all the way down the line.
  • Separate drinks and desserts: Establish separate stations for drinks and desserts to reduce clutter. That way, everyone can fill their cups and sneak a slice of pie as needed, without disrupting the line.

Simple Thanksgiving table decor with plates, silverware, and a pumpkin

Use simple table settings

You’re putting a lot of work into planning Thanksgiving this year, so it’s probably wise not to stress out too much about the table settings. In fact, this is a good job to pass off to an eager helper. It’s easy to create table settings that are simple, eye-catching, and seasonally appropriate when you follow our basic guide for Thanksgiving table decor:

  • Start with the dinner plate. Then, top it with a folded napkin and place the salad plate on top.
  • The fork goes to the left of the plate, with the knife and spoon on the right.
  • Wine and water glasses go above the plate to the right.
  • If your setting includes a bread plate, this goes above the dinner plate to the left. The dessert fork and spoon should be directly above the dinner plate.

Within that basic framework, the options are endless. Why not choose a color scheme that pops? For example, try a natural wood table surface with plates and napkins in autumnal oranges and browns, or white plates and napkins on a rustic plaid tablecloth. Personalized place cards are also a nice touch.

Pumpkin filled with flowers as a centerpiece for Thanksgiving table decor

Create an elegant centerpiece

Since your delicious, cooked-to-perfection turkey is going to be over in the buffet area, you have room to create a beautiful centerpiece for your dining room table. This is your chance to show off your personality and display the colors of the season!

A woven cornucopia overflowing with colorful gourds and autumn squash is a classic choice. Give it some extra elegance by using monochromatic white pumpkins instead of the traditional gourds. You can also make a great centerpiece by hollowing out a pumpkin and using it as a vase for an autumn flower arrangement. Use your imagination, and let your inner DIY-er go wild!

Thanksgiving table decor doesn’t have to be a headache. As you’re planning Thanksgiving in your new home, remember to keep it simple, and don’t forget to enjoy all that amazing food you worked so hard to make! If you’re looking for more autumn inspiration, you’ll love this piece on autumn accents in the home.

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