Thanksgiving is the start of the “holiday season” and is a fun opportunity to embrace fall. It also is the last chance to live it up before winter and all things winter-wonderland start invading every orifice of your existence. Even your morning cornflakes become winterized after Thanksgiving, which is just silly because who wants to eat breakfast cereal that’s either glittery, icy  or striped with green and red? Bleh!

What's that you say? It's almost time for Thanksgiving?

What’s that you say? It’s almost time for Thanksgiving?

As we prepare for Thanksgiving, since the primary activity is eating we naturally began to think about setting the table. My sister and I wanted to set a table that was:

  • welcoming and practical
  • beautiful
  • wouldn’t require us to purchase a whole new set of anything.

We’re big on using what you already have. Many times if you combine things with something different or in new ways, that’s all it takes. It can be helpful to have someone else look at what you have, since you’re used to it and might have a hard time envisioning it being used any other way.

Here’s a colorful first attempt that obviously DOES NOT work at all:

Thanksgiving Table Attempt 1

In this photo, some things to avoid are:

  • Overfilling the table
  • Centerpiece that’s too tall
  • Table cloth that’s too small for the table – commit to a table runner, a full table cloth, or even both but a too small table cloth looks like you threw it on the table at the last minute.
  • Turkey hunting decoy

Other things to avoid:

  • Flowers or candles with a strong (or any) scent
  • Too many colors all at once or just random extra stuff that doesn’t serve a purpose

In the next photo we’re making some progress…

Thanksgiving Table Attempt 2

Because we used a mix of glassware and ceramics, the result is disjointed and haphazard. Even though the flowers are pretty, they don’t really make sense just plopped on the table, and would be better used on a sideboard or hearth.

Things to go for:

  • Fresh flowers, even just a few
  • Low centerpiece so people can see one another across the table
  • Handmade items or items with significance
  • Candles are an inexpensive way to create a warm and welcoming glow
  • Varying heights as long as they’re not too tall.
  • Taller items should be narrow so they don’t obstruct people sight line.
  • Unified color scheme

Here’s our final attempt:

Thanksgiving Table Attempt 3

Again, we tried to use what we had already. We also wanted to leave room for plates of food to rest on the table (who wants to have to get up every time someone wants another roll?). Even though we really wanted to use the flowers, we had to find a home for them somewhere else. By removing those along with some of the extras, the pretty table cloth becomes the focal point. There’s room for people to be able to navigate their plates without knocking over decorations. When the candles are lit and the lights dimmed, the result is warm and festive. Imagine a platter on the table, and the seats filled with family and friends, and you’ve got yourself a beautiful Thanksgiving experience.

We hearby announce the table is ready.

We hearby announce the table is ready.

These are simple ideas we’ve figured out by trial and error. Do you have suggestions people should consider as they prepare to host a holiday event? Any real life lessons of what to avoid?