5 Rules for Creating a Beautiful Thanksgiving Table

(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that, while lovely, can be pretty high-pressure if you’re the host — especially since your hosting duties don’t stop at the food.

If you are hosting Thanksgiving for the first time, or you’re a seasoned pro looking to up your table-setting game, we have some smart rules from three incredibly stylish ladies.

1. Focus on the flowers.

If you’re considering spending money on your table decor, put it to good use on the flowers and greens, says Emily Henderson, HGTV host and author of Styled: Secrets for Arranging Rooms from Tabletops to Bookshelves. “Rather than investing in service or dinnerware pieces that are holiday-themed, keep everything fresh with a simple arrangement that evokes the feeling of fall,” says Henderson.

We love this advice because it’s easier to store a few vases than it is to store a complete set of extra dishes.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

2. Use vertical space on a buffet table.

Take a cue from the caterers on this one and place different dishes at different heights to make them easier to reach. This is especially good advice if your buffet is one-sided. Anne Sage, author of the new book Sage Living: Decorate for the Life You Want, recommends using “cake plates, raised platters, and even boxes stacked under a tablecloth to provide raised display surfaces and make your buffet feel truly bountiful.” Anything that can add height can be repurposed on your table.

3. Keep it conversation-friendly.

The last thing you want is to have your guests struggling to talk to each other over a crowded table. That’s why Erin Loechner of Design for Mankind advises us not to forget about form over function. “I once created an immaculate spread with hand-crafted flower arrangements and gorgeous goblets, and there was little room left for the actual food! It was difficult to make eye contact with guests over the massive florals, and we kept knocking our drinks over. I’ve learned, since then, that simple is best. Food and friends — easy does it.” Thanksgiving is all about the people and the food, after all.

4. Shop your home.

You don’t need to go out and buy any new items — just look around your home and see what you can repurpose. “I love to pull favorite decor accents from around the house and incorporate them in my table design. A brass squirrel from my bookshelf or a geode paperweight from the office brings an unexpected personal touch to the table,” says Sage.

5. Skip the kitsch.

There are beautifully festive tables, and then there are tables decorated with every fall cliché. Henderson advises us to skip the kitsch and stay away from anything that is overly Thanksgiving-themed. “I once spent hours picking and flattening fall leaves, and while that can be fun to do with kids, it didn’t really create any impact. Plus, it ended up looking kind of silly and junky. Themed decorations go out of style fast, so I like to keep things simple when I’m buying anything new,” she says.

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