If you're like me, the attention you give to your dining room table — you know, the formal one you swore you were going to eat decadent meals at but only ever use as a landing pad for your keys and mail — never goes beyond the basics. You lay down the necessary plates and forks, pull out a stack of napkins, and make sure all desired seasonings and sauces are well within reach. And violà! It's dinner time.
Most of us aren't breaking out chargers or tablecloths for our everyday dining. But come Thanksgiving, all bets are off. Suddenly, we're channeling our inner Martha Stewart and raising our table setting expectations sky high. The problem (of course) is that the internet is awash with expensive things you "need" and intricate designs that immediately zap the fun out of decorating.
But here's why you should ignore all of that: Table setting may give off the guise of being an art that's impossible to re-create. But in reality, it's a skill that can be learned — and easily replicated from those who have mastered it.
You don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on fancy decorations or hours upon hours perfecting elaborate centerpieces. With the right items, you can create a table that looks festive and inviting.
So, what do you need to transform your Thanksgiving table from "meh" to "Pinterest-worthy"? After doing a very deep dive into all things tablescape, I've narrowed down the top elements that'll make any Thanksgiving setup feel magical.
Dress Up the Table
Plain tabletops are fine for the other 364 days of the year. But on Thanksgiving, your dining room table should be anything but naked. Whether you opt for a neutral tablecloth, a plaid runner (such as the one above from Jenna Sue Design) or patterned placemats, adding a layer of material will instantly warm up the space.
If you love leaning into the turkey theme, go for it! But the more-sophisticated tablescapes tend to use more-subtle seasonal elements such as neutrals or fall-esque colors. Burnt oranges, forest greens and warm browns will all lend an inviting element to your table.
Center Your Decor
When we think of the word "centerpiece," we tend to conjure up images of intricate floral arrangements or elaborate sculptures. While that's cool and all, your table decor doesn't have to be elaborate to make an impact — so long as you keep it contained to the center of the table.
That could be a traditional centerpiece such as a vase with flowers or a bowl filled with gourds, or you could thin out and lengthen your centerpiece along the table like a runner. Simply arranging a mix of candles, pumpkins and/or greenery lengthwise down the table brings everything together with minimal effort. How Blesser House arranged their table above is a great example.
I love a good bouquet, but flowers can be expensive and difficult to arrange. Greenery — be it the faux stuff from the store, a bundle of eucalyptus, or even the leaves from your backyard — is a great way to add natural elements to the table without it looking too busy.
You can lay them down as part of the runner (as Andee Layne does above), have them peeking out from the centerpieces, or put a bundle at each place setting. Greenery brings life and dimension to the table without being over the top (or overly expensive).
Play With Height
You don't want your guests craning their necks to see each other, but using a mix of short items such as votives and small pumpkins and tall items like candle sticks and vases is key for creating a dynamic tablescape. It's all about balance: Having too much of one height will make the table look off-kilter.
As you can see above, Modern Glam embraces the height trick with a mix of different-sized pumpkins and candles.
Add a Personal Touch
Tablescapes should be all about creating an inviting atmosphere for your guests to come together. So why not add something special that makes them feel welcome? Place cards are an easy and inexpensive way to add a personal touch to the table.
Get creative with them: Write your guests' names on mini pumpkins, tie cards around wooden utensils, or incorporate them into the runner. Personally, I love these DIY wishbone place cards from Celebrations at Home — such a fun twist on a classic Thanksgiving tradition.
Embrace Soft Lighting
Incorporating some type of soft lighting will take your tablescape from mundane to magical. Whether you opt for string lights, candlesticks or battery-operated candles, adding a warm glow to the table will help make it feel extra special — just like this table that Whispering Pines Homestead put together.
Keep It Simple
It's easy to go overboard with decor. But remember: The real star of the show is the food. You need to make sure there's more than enough space for all the platters and plates you'll be serving up. Limit yourself to just one to two decor items — see how Kim Power Style only has lighted greenery and candlesticks — and let the rest of the space be dictated by your menu.