A 3-Step, No-Fail Thanksgiving Centerpiece

November 18, 2016

Assembling the perfect Thanksgiving centerpiece should not be so taxing, nor so dramatic, that it takes away from the main event (turkey, or sides, or pies, depending on where your loyalties lie). Follow this three-step game plan for a soft, all-natural arrangement that feels like it fell right off a tree.

How to build a no-fail Thanksgiving centerpiece:

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1. Set out some pastel gourds

Of course there's a place for bright orange pumpkins, but now that your Halloween jack-o'-lanterns has passed, it's probably time to toss those fellas before they grow mold (if they haven't already). Pick out some oddly shaped ones in less saturated colors: murky greens, dusty ochres, yolky yellows, and white.

Spread them across a linen runner or right on the table, in a not-too-orderly arrangement. Big ones first, little ones scattered around them.

2. Add dried hydrangea blossoms. 

Hydrangeas are so notorious for wilting—and yet so dang pretty—that my mom buys a whole plant of them when she wants to use some in an arrangement and cuts them right before guests arrive. This quick wilting happens because hydrangeas are moisture-loving, so if the air is too hot (especially during the summer), their petals will dehydrate faster than the stalk can rehydrate them. In cooler months, or in air-conditioned rooms, they'll meet a different and far more desirable demise: drying out.

hydrangeas  hydrangeas
Left, a fresh hydrangea; right, the same flower all dried out, about a whole month later (pretty similar, right?)

Whether you dry your own hydrangeas (upright, their stems in plenty of water, in a cold room) or buy them dried, as many flower shops sell them once fall arrives, they add just the right dose of softness to this centerpiece. Snip off the clusters with a few inches of stem remaining, and then tuck them between your gourds. They'll keep as long as you treat them gently. 

3. Candles!

Pick out a few condiment bowls or votive holders, top them with a little tea light, and nestle them between the flowers and gourds, taking care to keep some breathing room between so there's no chance this beaut becomes a fire hazard. Light them when the sun goes down—sadly, a whole hour earlier than usual these days—and serve dinner. 

GIF photos by Rocky Luten

This post originally ran last Thanksgiving, but we thought you might want to see it again for next week! 

How do you decorate the table for Thanksgiving dinner? Do you have a go-to centerpiece? Tell us in the comments!


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Amanda Sims

Written by: Amanda Sims

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Mary F. November 4, 2017
I think I'd cook those pumpkins before they go moldy, not dump them at all. Waste not, want not.
BerryBaby November 18, 2016
Baby pumpkins from my neighbors garden, aurumb leaves that i pressed years ago from our Red Leaf Maple that had to come down (I'm so happy i pressed massive amounts if leaves), greenery from the yard red bamboo stems, Laurel, Saracacocoa branches. If its in the yard, it will be on the table. Rustic but elegant.
Amanda S. November 19, 2016
"If its in the yard, it will be on the table" are words to live by!
Roxann B. December 7, 2015
Place those pretty little glass "button gems "(the ones used to keep floral arrangements straight in the bottom of vases), entwined with tiny Christmas lights in a clear bowl or other clear container as centerpiece or on the side table. So pretty, using either colored gems and white lights or the clear gems and colored lights.
702551 November 3, 2015
On a Thanksgiving dining room table? No way, there is no centerpiece. It's about the food. I am very happy to use brightly colored fall leaves or some candles, but no way am I going to put some centerpiece on the tiny dinner table in my puny condo.

Even if I had a massive dining room, I'd be tempted to leave the decorations for a side table or console, let the food reign on the dinner table.

If I had any extra space on my dinner table, the first thing I'd put out would be an ice bucket with a bottle of Champagne, not some centerpiece.

But that's just me...
AntoniaJames November 3, 2015
In pretty Heisey bowls: red beet pickles, golden beet pickles, "luminous" beet pickles (gold beets with a single piece of red beet in the bottom to tinge them a rich orange hue), cranberry mostarda (new, improved), pickled carrots.

In a shallow silver bowl (school prize vintage), 3 white hydrangeas with a few leaves.

We'll put low candles on the table if it will be dark out during the meal, which is nearly always the case, given that we will have hiked a mountain into the early afternoon. ;o)
Gigi November 6, 2015
I usually set my table a week or so before the holiday. That way we can all enjoy the centerpiece and then on the day of, I move it to the buffet. Simple.