thanksgiving table

How Do You Set Up A Thanksgiving Buffet Table?

For many of us, the fourth Thursday of November is a day we look forward to each year. It is one of our most special holidays, and often, we spend time preparing to make our Thanksgiving gathering special.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to spend quality time with friends and family. It’s no wonder that so many people want to host Thanksgiving dinner at home every year. For friends, this can be celebrated in the form of Friendsgiving.

Whether it is your first time to host Thanksgiving, or you are looking to spice things up for Thanksgiving dinner this year, a few decor pieces and a little creativity will make your Thanksgiving dinner extra special.

What are Types of Thanksgiving Dinner Styles?

thanksgiving buffet
traditional dinner

Just like other gatherings, there are many ways to serve Thanksgiving dinner to your guests. You may either choose a casual buffet style or a family sit-down style. You may also serve plated meals in several courses if you plan to have a more formal Thanksgiving dinner.


Sit-down meals with families or friends work best for smaller family gatherings. Food is served on the table, and thus, there is only a need for minimal table styling. Check out this video on how to style a boho chic Thanksgiving dinner table for friends and family.


More formal Thanksgiving dinners are an elegant affair, with plated meals served in several courses, like at sponsored charity events or corporate gatherings. This usually entails more intricate event styling, where Thanksgiving themes and colors are incorporated into the tablescape, as well as curtain styling and other venue decorations.

However, if you want a more laid-back, easy to set-up serving style for your Thanksgiving dinner, you can never go wrong with buffet style dinners, which work well for larger gatherings of family and friends, or even for corporate events.

With a buffet-style set-up, food can be set up on kitchen islands or folding tables instead of taking room on the dining table. This means you can get more creative with the styling and you get to showcase your Thanksgiving tablescape decor. Moreover, guests can serve themselves faster with the right amount of food, avoiding unnecessary food wastes during your celebration.

How do you serve a thanksgiving buffet?

thanksgiving dinner

Setting up a Thanksgiving buffet is an art in itself — one that requires careful planning, attention to detail and thoughtful decoration. The key to creating the perfect Thanksgiving table is to keep it simple and elegant with some festive touches that complement your meal.

The buffet table set up should be along the walls to avoid crowding. You may use dressed-up folding banquet tables with spandex tablecloths or event table skirts. Get inspired with these buffet food table decor ideas for your Thanksgiving dinner.

Food can also be set on the kitchen island. Dress up your kitchen island with colorful table overlays or a rectangular tablecloth. Map out the buffet table by setting out empty serving dishes with food labels. This helps ensure there will be enough room for all the food dishes.

Another quick decor idea is to use name cards as food labels. You may also place your Thanksgiving food on assorted display stands and dishware to add height and visual interest to the space.

When using chafing dishes, use napkins tied to the handle to prevent burns. This will protect your guests hands from tiny kitchen accidents, and the tied napkins add a little touch of color to the buffet line. 

Also make sure to add serving utensils for each dish. To avoid spills and stains, place a small plate under serving utensils. Don't worry if spills happen because CV Linens' tablecloths are machine washable making them easy to clean for your next event.

Use elegant disposable dinnerware for easy clean-up. Place plates on one end of the buffet table and cutlery at the end to free up hands while serving food. Add seasonal vegetables and fall foliage as part of the decor to fill empty spaces.

Last, but definitely not the least, glam up your Thanksgiving Dessert Table with eye-catching decors to match your delectable dessert menu. The dessert table should be separate from the food table. Pro tip: Place hot desserts on one side of the table and cold desserts on the other. For drinks, place them in a separate area as well to avoid traffic jams. 

How do you decorate a table for Thanksgiving?

thanksgiving dinner plates
thanksgiving table decor

To add depth and color to your table, place a table runner on top of your white tablecloths. It can be as simple as a red and white checkered one, or it can be an elaborate runner with autumn leaves, acorns and acorn caps. Stretch spandex tablecloths are perfect for indoor or outdoor dinners because they fit perfectly well, and they are durable and easy to clean.

If you want to go for something more traditional to match your Thanksgiving decorations, try using a burlap table runner over an orange or tan tablecloth. This will give you a beautiful country look that makes your table pop without being too overbearing.

For buffet-style dinners, set up each place setting casual style with a placemat, charger plate, plates, and drinkware. Instead of placing cutlery on the buffet table, set it on the dinner table for a more elegant setting.

Elevate your place setting with these elegant napkins. Check out our video on how to create easy napkin folds for the holiday season.

While serving a filling Thanksgiving dinner to your guests is already the best way to spend the holiday, having to go or take out boxes for thanksgiving leftovers will make your gathering even more memorable. 

Setting up a Thanksgiving table is a fun and creative way to express your personality. If you want to take things up a notch, why not agree on dressing up for Thanksgiving! Celebrate the holidays with matching festive Thanksgiving outfits because why not? 

Check out our YouTube and Pinterest for more Thanksgiving decor inspo!

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