How To Set A Table For Thanksgiving

How To Set A Table For Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is centered on the idea of gratitude and family. It’s with this in mind that we gather together every fourth Thursday in November to reunite with family and share memories and food with those we love. As you reflect on the days of Thanksgiving, the first thing that may come to mind is the delicious food like the golden roasted turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, yams, mashed potatoes and gravy, and of course, all the delicious pies!

Thanksgiving table with golden roasted turkey.

Since the meal is the heart of the Thanksgiving holiday, you'll want your Thanksgiving dinner table to reflect the beauty and bounty of the season. From dinnerware and decor to your theme and how you plan to serve the food, there are several key elements to pull off a memorable holiday.

Whether it's your first time to host Thanksgiving or you're a seasoned pro, you know creating an appealing holiday tablescape is as important as the food. To help you achieve a Pinterest worthy Thanksgiving dinner table, we’ve gathered helpful tips for each dinner style as well as decor aesthetic! 

Thanksgiving Dinner Serving Styles

While you embark on your mission to bring the Thanksgiving spirit to your table, there are two main choices of how to serve the food for Thanksgiving dinner, buffet style, or sit-down family-style. So what is the difference between buffet style and sit down dinner? Let’s find out! 

Buffet Style 

Thanksgiving buffet table.
Thanksgiving buffet table with green tablecloth.
Thanksgiving table with wooden charger plates.

A buffet-style meal is a great choice for large gatherings as it’s the most effective strategy for feeding a large crowd. With a spread of your famous dishes displayed separately from the dinner table, guests are free to serve themselves the dishes which they've been looking forward to all year long. It also creates a relaxed mood as it allows guests to move at their own pace.

To keep things running smoothly organize hot and cold foods in their own sections and label each dish to avoid any confusion. Pro tip: Place drinks on a separate table/area to prevent crowding at the food line.

For a buffet spread, your decor presentation shouldn’t shy away from the buffet table. Tablecloths and table skirts are a great way to easily enhance the food table! With the addition of pumpkins and other Thanksgiving decor pieces, you’ll be able to create a cohesive look between the food area and the dinner table.

Thanksgiving table setup in blue and green shades.

Sit-Down Family Style

A sit-down family-style meal is the best setup for smaller gatherings to create an intimate family dinner. A sit-down Thanksgiving dinner has smaller food dishes, which allows you more area on the table to create a collection of foods that are easier to pass around the table. 

Thanksgiving sit-down family-style meal.

Because the dishes being served will be presented along with your place settings, it’s best to keep centerpiece decor at a minimum. The height of your decor should also be kept to below eye level so it won't interfere with conversations among your guests.

Whichever serving style you chose, since holidays come around only once a year, it's the perfect time to go all in to create a welcoming table!

Thanksgiving Table Setting Decor

Whether you're hosting a large gathering or having a small dinner with your immediate family, a well-decorated table will set the stage for a festive occasion. To help you get started on your Thanksgiving fall tablescape, we'll cover a few key features about traditional, rustic, or glamorous styles!


If your holiday style is timeless and traditional, a classic color palette of red, orange, yellow, and gold will be perfect for your Thanksgiving table. These tried-and-true hues create the perfect fall harvest festival aesthetic whether you incorporate them in linens or centerpiece accents!

Traditional thanksgiving table in traditional fall season colors.
Traditional thanksgiving table with season's harvest centerpiece.
Thanksgiving table in orange, yellow, and green colors.

Polyester or burlap table coverings are a perennial look that truly captures the spirit of the season. To make each place setting a welcoming destination, use burlap chargers or placemats as a foundation for your plates and silverware. Complete this iconic tablescape with centerpiece decor that can include real or faux fall foliage, pumpkin and gourds, seasonal fruits and veggies, cornucopias, and/or birchwood decor pieces. 

 You will likely want to keep after-dinner cleanup to a minimum so that you can spend the day reminiscing or creating new memories with your guests. With all the delicious food being consumed, the best way to cut down on cleanup is by using beautiful disposable utensils and plates.


If you are a fan of Joanna Gaines' intentionally casual, rustic touch, you can channel your own interior designer maven by introducing a palette of black, gray, white, and a variety of greens. If you plan on including prints, you can't go wrong with black and white gingham check linens!

Rustic thanksgiving table with black and white gingham check linens.
Rustic Thanksgiving table.
Rustic Thanksgiving table with pumpkin centerpiece.

To coordinate the elegant simplicity of this color scheme, you can top off this look with white or black charger plates. For a natural contrast, use burlap or butcher paper as a table runner to make a unique statement and really bring home that farmhouse aesthetic. 

This organic ambiance can continue with mini pumpkins or fall foliage as place holders. And when it comes to your Thanksgiving centerpiece decor, display a little enchantment with mason jars, galvanized metal accessories, wood candle holders, or small branches for a touch of rustic, woodland charm.


Bring on the bling with a glam Thanksgiving table! Think crisp whites with metallic gold or silver and an accent color of your choice!

Textured linens like velvet, crushed, or crinkle give a rich and sumptuous dimension that really elevates the appeal of the table as a whole. Pair this look with silver or gold glass twig trim charger plates for built-in nature inspiration.

Don’t forget to include crystal or glass candle holders as part of the centerpiece main center point, velvet pumpkins. Altogether, this collection will glimmer eloquently under ambient lighting.

Tips For Perfect Holiday Table Setting

Thanksgiving table in white linens and orange napkins.

Setting a pretty holiday table doesn't have to be difficult. It’s little details like adding layers that will bring visual intrigue to your Thanksgiving table settings and make it oh-so inviting. To achieve this multi-dimensional look, you will want to start with your linens.

Whether using a tablecloth or letting a fancy dinner table go bare, a table runner will bring a festive air to the scene. From here, consider placemats or reef charger plates as a foundation in which to build upon for each place setting. Your dinnerware can be as plain or colorful as the occasion calls and will include plates, cutlery, napkins, glassware - everything your guests will need to enjoy the meal. Following proper place setting etiquette will ensure the meals goes as smoothly as possible!

Thanksgiving table with black and white gingham table runner.
Thanksgiving table in yellow and green theme.
Rustic thanksgiving table with fancy dinnerware.

Once you've accounted for all of the necessities, you can play around with decorative elements like napkin rings and centerpieces. You can take the look a step further with fancy napkin folds to continue the theme. Even your chairs can benefit from a makeover. A simple sash accented with coordinating centerpiece accents will tie the look together!

Kids Fall Table Decor Ideas

If you have a designated table for the younger members of the group, pay special attention to their corner of the dining room as well. You can go as creative as you like by laying out crafts for the kids to make their own centerpieces, or simply setting out child-friendly accents like a paper turkey. Activities like coloring pages or word search printables will help little hands stay busy while waiting for the meal to begin or for after dinner while the adults sip on cider and chat.

Kids thanksgiving table.

Eat, drink, and be thankful!

Whether you prefer a buffet or family serving style, traditional, rustic, or glam table setting, your thanksgiving decor should fit in effortlessly.  However you choose to decorate your table, our #1 tip is to set up your table a few days ahead of Thanksgiving.  Setting the table ahead of time will free up valuable time you can spend with your family as well as prevent stress! 

This way after Thanksgiving is over and you have a belly full of delicious Thanksgiving food and a heart full of new family memories, you’ll be ready to start getting ready for Christmas by changing over to a Christmas Table Setting.

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