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How to Set a Thanksgiving Table

By: Kaylin Johnson, Editor, AllFreeHolidayCrafts.com
Updated October 29, 2021
How to Set a Thanksgiving Table

Every holiday crafter knows that during November, there's nothing more important than designing your Thanksgiving dinner table. This holiday planning checklist is made specifically to guide you through the process. Learn how to easily set a Thanksgiving table with the helpful tips and tricks included below.

Overall, planning your DIY Thanksgiving table setting is as easy as one, two, three!

1. Determine the Aesthetic
2. Choose Decorations
3. Set the Tableware

Be sure to read to the end for a selection of our favorite Thanksgiving table ideas. From the place settings to the napkin rings to the centerpiece, this collection of Thanksgiving tablescapes will have you covered for the entire event.

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Make a Guest List and Plan Seating

Make a Guest List and Plan Seating

Before you begin planning your Thanksgiving tablescape, you'll want to ensure everyone has a place at the table. The best way to do this is to create a guest list. Write down the names of your guests and arrange them around the table. If you cannot fit everyone comfortably, it may be smart to pull out the old card table.

But don't worry; we can make that table look fabulous, too!

Planning seating doesn't need to be an exact science, but you may want to seat Grandma and Grandpa together or have the kids seated at a separate table. For these reasons, it's good to have a general idea of where people may be sitting. 

Determine the Aesthetic

Determine the Aesthetic

Deciding on the proper mood of your table setting can be a big decision. Do you want to create an elegant Thanksgiving table setting or as you aiming for a more rustic tablescape? What colors are you going to feature? Do you want to go casual or formal?

All of these are questions that need answers.

A good place to begin is learning how to set a casual Thanksgiving table. From there, you can add more specific elements to fit your chosen aesthetic. One simple Thanksgiving theme is the classic fall color scheme. Neutrals and warm tones are perfect for bringing out the joy and coziness of the season. 

If you're looking for something a little more trendy, try pairing navy blue with a copper-leaning gold. For rustic vibes, make use of recycled materials like mason jars and burlap!

Choose the Decorations

Choose the Decorations

Now it's time for the fun part: choosing your decorations! Once you have chosen the perfect aesthetic, you can start searching for decorations that match.

The base, and possibly the most important detail, is the table linens. You need a good foundation to build off of, so don't skip over this step! Whether you go with a full table cloth or a simple table runner, don't forget about the placemats. Placemats can really take a table setting from drab to fab! They pull the whole look together and make for a cohesive tablescape.

You will also need a centerpiece. A centerpiece can be a bold accent or a simple compliment to the rest of your table. When picking your centerpiece, you will want to think of the size of your table. If your centerpiece is too large, you may not be able to fit serving ware and dinnerware. If it is too tall, you may not be able to enjoy the company of your guests. Remember that a tablescape needs to be functional as well as pretty. 

Classic Thanksgiving centerpieces include pumpkins, cornucopias, and (of course) turkeys! Stick with these tried-and-true options or get creative. Making your centerpiece is half the fun! 
 

Set the Table

Set the Table

Setting the table is obviously important for functionality, but it can also play a huge part in the looks of your table setting.

If you have room at your table, you may want to set out your serving ware family style. This can be a good way to display the dishes you've worked so hard on, but it's not necessary. Many beautiful tablescapes do not include serving ware, and it can often be faster to present food buffet style in the kitchen. 

Once you have decided whether or not to include your dishes in the table setting, you can move on to plates. With plates, remember to create layers. Consider adding a charger beneath the main dinner plate and a smaller appetizer or dessert plate on top. This stacked effect adds a more professional decor look to your table. 

If you're creating a formal table setting, you may want to know the ins and outs of proper cutlery placement. The main rule to remember here is to start at the outside and work your way in. You will want to place the cutlery in the order it will be used. Therefore, a salad fork should be on the outside of the dinner fork. In general, the knife and spoon should be on the right of the plate while the fork should be placed on the left. 

For napkins, there are many lovely options. Learn to fold your napkin into a fun shape or use it to frame your cutlery. A classic napkin placement is on the right side of the table with the spoon and knife. A folded napkin on the plate can also help add to the layered look. 

Finally, we come to drinkware. Generally, each place setting should feature a water glass in addition to the main drinkware. Remember that different drinks are served in different glass types. If you are serving a red wine, you will want a broad wine glass, but for brandy, the glass is a bit more bulbous with a shorter stem.

To make things easier, you may want to set the table with just water glasses. If you are only serving one drink option, place your main drinkware above and to the right of each plate and line up the water glass diagonally below the main glass. 
 

Add the Final Touches

Add the Final Touches

At this point, your tablescape is nearing completion, but you can still include a few finishing touches to tie the whole thing together. If you have decided to create a seating arrangement, place cards can be a fun additional decor piece for your table. 

You may also want to dress up your plates a bit more, especially if you chose to place the napkin beside the plate. A few good options for this are small pumpkins, pinecones, or acorns. Base these added decorations off of your centerpiece for a fully cohesive and simple Thanksgiving table setting.

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