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3 Ways to Set a Holiday Table

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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: How to set your table for Thanksgiving, no matter how fancy the gathering.

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Thanksgiving is coming up, and you're likely already bookmarking pumpkin pie recipes. In all the flurry around the food, it's easy to forget about what you'll be serving it on. We suggest planning the table settings in advance, too, so you don't end up serving your relatives mashed potatoes on plastic plates. But a beautiful table doesn’t require extravagant, expensive china. You can (and should) work with what you have -- here are some useful guidelines on three different table setting themes:

1. Keep it neutral. Thanksgiving dinner is colorful: You’ve got your greens, your cranberry sauce, and your beautiful turkey. Brightly patterned china and napkins can grab attention and crowd the table, so use shades of tan and white instead to make the food stand out. If you’re worried the table settings will be too plain for a holiday meal, a little glitz goes a long way. For a more festive feeling, use gold-rimmed pinch bowls for salt and pepper or gold-trimmed ecru napkins. Or pop some Champagne -- your call.

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2. Fancy it up. If you appreciate a nice white tablecloth and plan to dress up for Thanksgiving dinner, you’ll want a more formal table setting. Don’t worry! That doesn’t have to mean heirloom serveware and $400 forks. Our best rule of thumb for formal dining is to match everything. Use the same plates, the same cutlery, and the same napkin rings at every setting -- the end result will look expensive even if it isn't. Another easy trick: Lay a linen runner over a tablecloth. It takes seconds but looks carefully planned and elegant.

3. Make it relaxed: Thanksgiving is about friends and family. And it’s about pie. So if your vibe is more “let’s drink wine and wear slippers," you’ll want a table that invites sharing and doesn’t feel stuffy. First, serve food buffet-style for a more casual feeling. Second, don’t feel wedded to china -- we like to use these Verterra plates for parties. As a nice bonus, they’re compostable -- so less clean-up!

Our last-minute extra-afforable trick? Decorative gourds as a centerpiece. You can really only get away with using them once a year, so seize the moment and get seasonal.  

How do you set your Thanksgiving table? Tell us!

Top photos by James Ransom; third photo by Mark Weinberg


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Tags: setting the table, thanksgiving, holiday