Wow your guests this Thanksgiving! Come learn how to make a gorgeous Thanksgiving tablescape using what you already have on hand. Simple, affordable, and fabulous.
It’s that time of year again. Halloween has come and gone, and we’re now heading into the winter holidays. But we cannot forget the last fall holiday–Thanksgiving. The perfect way to set the tone for this beloved day with family is by creating a beautiful Thanksgiving tablescape to gather around.
Thanksgiving will already stress some of us out–between coordinating schedules, meal preparations, and cleaning. Learning how to make a Thanksgiving tablescape doesn’t need to be another thing to fuss over. Let’s do this the easy way!
Why Make a Thanksgiving Tablescape?
Creating your own Thanksgiving tablescape is a one-of-a-kind way to make your dinner table stand out. You will be known for your resourceful skills and eye for design. Your in-laws will love you. Your cats will bow down to your feet.
Okay, maybe that won’t happen exactly, but you get the point. You can feel proud over something you have handmade and your Thanksgiving dinner will be complemented by an attractive setting. All the photo ops will be perfect with your lovely table arrangement in sight.
What’s even better is that you may already have most of this stuff on hand, especially if you like to craft. Money saved is always a good thing!
Materials You May Need
• Vintage scale or other vintage table accessories
• Plants/pots/faux foliage
• China dishware
• Candles and candleholders
• Wood serving bowls/platters
• Mini figurines (e.g. animal, forest, or mystical creatures)
• Painted jars
• Mini pumpkins and gourds
• Wooden bead garlands
• Ironstone pitcher
• Dried flowers or herbs
How to Make a Thanksgiving Tablescape
First you’ll need to gather a few items that could potentially become part of your tablescape. This is the time to gather natural elements from outdoors, dried flowers and bouquets that you’ve used as decor before, seasonal fruits and vegetables, linens, vases and pitchers, lazy susans. Anything that inspires you and feels like it completes your space will be just fine.
Gather your items, along with anything else you could potentially use, and completely clear your table. Place your items nearby, within reaching distance, and begin to envision what you want your end product to look like. It’s nice to have a general idea to guide you, but don’t marry it. You may be surprised by trying something different and new.
Choose the base.
We have a 6-foot long, walnut-stained dining table with benches. I decided that since I have a dark table, I wanted a nice contrast with lighter colors and hues. For the base, I chose a warm-toned wooden serving tray because I knew I didn’t want to cover the whole table in a tablecloth. I then draped linens over this for a more feminine look. Your base can be super simple, so don’t stress too much over this. It can always be undone and changed.
I’d recommend choosing a table runner or a large serving tray like I did to use as a base. However, you can absolutely do without either of these. I hardly use linens on my tables for fear of staining them. But if you like this idea, don’t just drape your tablecloth on the table by laying it flat on the surface. Play around with it. Maybe you can ruffle up the table runner and create some texture to nestle things into. This look can actually look quite elegant when styled correctly. You can even get an extra long one cascading down the side of the table. Or fold it up and weave it around candles like I did for another simple yet refined look.
Use a color palette that blends in with everyday decor.
You probably aren’t decorating your entire kitchen/dining area for Thanksgiving. (If you are, bless your heart.) This is why you should not only consider the colors of autumn but also your everyday color scheme. You don’t want it to look like a display shelf at Hobby Lobby exploded on your table. Make it blend well.
Just like when you’re applying make-up, you aren’t going to just style your face. You want to pull an entire look together and have the presentation of your face go with your outfit and hair as well. This philosophy helps your tablescape look put together and more organic. The point is to make it look nice, but to also make it appear authentic and less staged.
Begin pulling things from your pile to add on.
Add in larger items first, things that you want to stand out and can work smaller items around. Maybe you have lots of faux foliage you want to drape across the table edge to edge, lengthwise. This can be a gorgeous all-natural look perfect for adding dried slices of oranges to or strung cranberries. Nestle candlesticks on brass candle holders inside the foliage for more elegance.
In my tablescape, I decided to use mini white pumpkins, a wooden bead garland, a pine cone, faux wheatgrass, linens, and candles for my centerpiece. I made sure to try certain items and then pull those out and try others. Then I’d add in some unexpected accompaniments alongside other pieces to see how they’d complement one another.
Remember, it’s all about complementing, not matching. This is a common mistake some people make when styling a room or a table. The matchy-matchy look can end up looking cheap.
Once you think you have it, rearrange it again and then maybe again to see what you can come up with. Don’t settle for the first look you create.
Pro tip: Take a photo after each look you’ve created. If the rest end up being terrible you can easily go back by styling it just as you had before, using the photo as your example.
Don’t just add to the middle either.
Maybe people tend to sit and gravitate toward one end of the table. In this case, you can arrange items on the opposite end, facing toward guests for them to admire—but also out of the way. You can keep it really simple and place a few select items nearby and keep a clean look. Or you can be more extravagant and really have fun with layering lots of pieces.
Maybe you don’t actually want to style the actual dining table with too much decor because that’s where all the food is served. Then you could create a tablescape on a smaller table that is still within eyesight but not in the way of food and dining. Don’t be afraid to spice things up and go against tradition.
Personally, when creating a Thanksgiving tablescape I like to pick fall elements with other everyday pieces to pull it all together. Here I used a porcelain pitcher, a serving tray, and linens that could be used year round. I then spruced them up with fall and winter decor to give it a Thanksgiving flair.
Sprinkle some florals in, here and there.
Flowers can make or break a table setting. I’ve seen overwhelming arrangements filling entire tables. They can look so gaudy and overdone… And I’ve also seen the simplest, most elegant display of hand-picked wildflowers placed in jars for a put-together, organic look.
More isn’t always better.
That being said, don’t be afraid to experiment with different styles of flowers, contrasting colors, or adding a little pop of color here or there either. Even if you don’t consider yourself creative and decide to only add flowers and nothing else, you should put a lot of effort into finding the perfect flowers. One vase of flowers as a centerpiece can change a whole room. I once decorated my table for an intimate elopement celebration with minimal decor, but I was sure to use my favorite porcelain pitcher filled with gorgeous pink peonies and eucalyptus and that helped set the scene. Simple and still, they were nothing short of breathtaking.
Add unique, special touches.
Your home, your table. Maybe your great Aunt Hilda just loves, loves, loves pristine-white candles towering over everything, but you just can’t stand those big, gaudy logs. Let Aunt Hilda decorate her own table in her home that way. You put the eccentric autumnal fairy garden on yours.
You cannot please everyone. So you might as well decorate it to your taste!
Regardless of all the advice I, or anyone else, give you, it’s your darn table that you’ll be sitting down to. Considering you’ll likely keep the Thanksgiving tablescape together a little before and after Thanksgiving Day, you might as well keep it the way that pleases you.
Don’t forget about setting the table with plates and silverware.
Use plates and silverware that are special, or at least nicer than you normally use every day. Let’s face it, some families are too busy to worry about matching plates and glasses on a daily basis–they’re just trying to make sure little Bobby and Billy aren’t trying to kill each other with their steak knives during dinnertime. But for special events like Thanksgiving, take the time to use nicer plates, utensils, and glassware.
If you have a huge family and can’t be bothered with washing a million things after dinner, at least purchase nice disposable plates. If you’re going to go to the trouble of creating a tablescape, you can’t stop with the actual table setting. The cheap paper or plastic disposable plates usually just look tacky, so I recommend going a different route.
Purchase bamboo plates that are no-fuss, eco-friendly, and blend in well with any decor. Bamboo utensils could be purchased, too, but it doesn’t hurt to use real silverware for this. When I hosted our elopement party, we purchased bamboo plates but decided that utensils didn’t take up much sink space and required minimal effort to clean, so we just used those.
Glassware doesn’t have to be super fancy and expensive, but at least use real glassware to create a seamless, cohesive tablescape. Sometimes you can even mix and match these as long as they all look similar. Of course, if children are present they can be given paper cups that won’t break, but these can be kept off to the side so they don’t distract from the gorgeous table spread.