Thanksgiving, and Canadian Thanksgiving in particular, is just around the corner, and if you’re playing host this year, you may be wondering how to set a Thanksgiving table. Thanksgiving is my absolute favourite holiday! It happens during fall, my favourite time of year, and there’s just something about the combination of good food (and dessert), fall vibes and family that makes it unlike any other holiday. 

Hosting Thanksgiving is more than making delicious food, it’s about creating a cozy atmosphere for people to enjoy. Thanksgiving dinners have become quite casual over the years, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there’s something so beautiful about setting up a gorgeous tablescape for the wonderful holiday. How you set up your tableware, glasses, napkins and place settings can set the stage for a truly celebratory event. 

Thanksgiving is the one holiday where we really celebrate each other. We give thanks for one another and all that we have, and it doesn’t get any better than that. Take a look at how to set a Thanksgiving table and 4 beautiful Thanksgiving table settings for inspiration!

how to set a thanksgiving table

How to Set a Thanksgiving Table

1. Choose Your Table Covers 

Tablecloths and placemats are both perfectly suitable for Thanksgiving table covers. If you have a beautiful wooden table, you probably don’t want to cover it up with a tablecloth. You can find gorgeous placemats these days, from woven placemats to placemats that are plain or patterned. Make sure they’re heatproof so you don’t do any damage to your table.

If you’d rather use a tablecloth, find one that encapsulates the Thanksgiving vibe. It can be patterned, but make sure it’s not too busy as it will take away from the rest of the tablescape. It can end up looking really cluttered if you use a patterned tablecloth when the rest of the table is set, decorated and the food is out. A simple tartan tablecloth is always a good bet!

2. Thanksgiving Table Decor

There’s no need to go overboard with Thanksgiving table decor, but you should put some thought into it! Small pumpkins, gourds and (unscented) candles add a festive touch, just make sure not to over-decorate. It will make your table look overwhelmed and crowded. Other beautiful options for decor are greenery, fall flowers, pinecones and a table runner. Choose a few of these options that look best together and suit your table. 

how to set a thanksgiving table

3. Cutlery and Napkins 

For a Thanksgiving table, gold or vintage cutlery is a beautiful addition. In terms of placement, forks go on the left (the salad fork farthest out) and spoons and knives go on the right, with the knife closest to the plate. This is due to the order in which they’ll be used. Knife blades should always be turned toward the plate. Dessert forks can go at the top of the plates.

In terms of napkins, you’ll have to decide whether you want the dishes to be the focal point or the napkins themselves to make a statement. If you have beautiful dishes you want to show off, you can place your napkins to the side of the plate. However, if you’re going with simple dishes and more decorative napkins, fold or tie the napkins and place them on the entrée plate. 

4. Place Cards 

While some hosts like to set up name place cards at the table (to make choosing seats less awkward), others would rather let their guests choose where to sit. You can make or buy gorgeous place cards with each of your guests names on them. Or you can also use more general place cards, such as ones that say something like “Give Thanks” or “Happy Thanksgiving”. It’s a nice touch that everyone will appreciate!

how to set a thanksgiving table


5. Serve Dinner Buffet Style 

Thanksgiving dinners typically seat a lot of people. Having all the food on the table will make the table much too crowded. Instead, place all the dishes on the counter or another surface and people can serve themselves and head back to the dinner table. It will make eating dinner much more pleasant. You can place things like gravy and cranberry sauce at the table since people will likely need to refill on these more often. 

6. Wine Options 

Every adult should have a wine glass for Thanksgiving dinner. Wine glasses should be placed to the top right of the plates. Wine is the perfect pairing with so many Thanksgiving foods. From appetizers to mains and desserts, wine can really bring the whole meal together! Popular Thanksgiving wines for red wine lovers are Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel, and for those who prefer white wine, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling are a safe bet.

how to set a thanksgiving table

4 Beautiful Thanksgiving Table Settings to Inspire You

1. Subtle Yet Intricate

This festive table setting is so simple, yet really catches the eye. The colours complement each other perfectly and I love the tiny pumpkins. The line of tall candles gives the table warmth, and the subtle yet intricate pumpkin designs on the plates give the whole table the Thanksgiving feel!

2. Beautiful Blues 

I love the idea of a pop of blue for Thanksgiving. From the napkins to the cutlery handles, the denim blue shade fits perfectly with this Thanksgiving table setting. The white and green florals are simple and elegant, and the tea light candles are absolutely stunning. Don’t forget the twine wrapped around the napkin and flower- the perfect fall detail for any tablescape.

There are so many things I love about this Thanksgiving table setting. The woven placemats add gorgeous texture and I love the green tartan cloth napkins. The crisp white dishes are subtle yet striking, and the salad plates inscribed with the words ‘Give Thanks’ are the perfect way to top it all off. 

If you were wondering how to set a Thanksgiving table, I hope this post has helped and that these beautiful Thanksgiving table settings have given you inspiration! And for those of you who have set Thanksgiving tables before, let us know if you have any more tips in the comments!

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