Lay things out early, keep it casual, and other tips for setting a Thanksgiving table

Hosting Thanksgiving this year? Get ahead of the holiday by setting the table a day or two early to free up time for the all-important food preparations.

And maybe give yourself a break by stepping the table decorations back a bit.

“Easy and effortless is one thing I’m enjoying seeing” for entertaining, says Betsy Cribb Watson, senior home and features editor at Southern Living magazine.


“People are more and more using the pieces they have and love, and finding autumnal ways to use them… making it feel fun for the season,” she says. “That alleviates pressure right off the bat.”

She recommends pulling out Grandma’s blue china or setting the table with hot pink and red dishes atop a brown tablecloth. Or use your usual dishware but change the napkins — anything with a pattern will camouflage stains and spills. Less costly still: Incorporate paper cocktail napkins as drink coasters.

Erica Finamore, Real Simple magazine’s home director, also recommends easing up on formalities and decorating the table with what’s on hand, even if that’s a pretty sheet from the linen closet.

“Setting a beautiful table has become somewhat of a party trick,” she says. “Now we do it more casually but we want it to feel special. …

“Take a lap around your house to see what you’ve got to work with,” she suggests.

Comb bookcases for small decorative items, such as brass objects, vacation souvenirs and small food-safe baskets.

“They make it interesting and they’re conversation starters,” Finamore says. “It’s nice to have so much of yourself represented at the table.”


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