15-Minute Thanksgiving Table Settings That Prove Less Is More

So you can focus on spending time with family—and the bird, of course.

August 27, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten

Yeah yeah, we know it’s early to talk about Thanksgiving, but here in the food and home world, we’re always thinking one step ahead to the next gathering! And since fall is peeking around the corner at us (apple cider donuts, hayrides, pumpkins!), so too, is Thanksgiving.

After the (somewhat) normal summer we’ve had, it’s likely that we’ll all be fatigued come time for the holidays, which means we’re once again interested in low maintenance entertaining. Below, we’ve rounded up 15 straightforward place-setting ideas, so you can spend less time worrying about setting the table, and more time feeling grateful for those around you.

1. Individual & Compostable—A Perfect match

What’s sanitary, breaks down in two months, and still looks upscale? Dinnerware made from fallen leaves, that’s what. You can feel better about single-use this year knowing your dishes won’t sit in a landfill for years—and you won’t spend hours washing up. Now that’s something to be thankful for.

2. Four “Ingredient” Setting

Only four simple parts make up this setting, and the colors can be endlessly riffed on. A plate, cloth napkin, printed menu (which you could swap for a place card), and a branch of grapes or berries pulls this together in an almost professional-looking way.

3. Mismatched Ceramic

Probably the most-loved aspect of handmade dinnerware is the variation between pieces. Some speckled, some swirled, some just barely dotted with color—and that’s what makes this pared-down table so chic. All that’s required are some basic glasses and flatware.

4. Bring Outside Branches In

Pop out to the backyard and grab a branch off your tree before it sheds all its leaves, toss it in a jug, and set it down as a show-stopping centerpiece. Place settings get a leaf each, and this pulled-together table is done in record time.

5. A Color for Everyone

Do not, we repeat: do not, waste any time looking for matching linens, when the mismatched ones look lovely as is. The trick to this table looking super polished is the coordinated glassware and utensils, but you’re totally not required to stick to any rules.

6. Blue Linen & Brown Leaves

Similar to the green leaves scheme, this setting employs uncomplicated linens, dishes, and flatware, but looks intentional with a fallen leaf at the center. Bonus points if you write the guest’s name out in black ink.

7. Dried Grasses & Matte Black

Dried grasses are still all the rage, and feel especially relevant during this harvest period. Paired with matte black and brass flatware, it’s an ultra-elegant setup.

8. Twine & Eucalyptus

There’s no need for napkin rings when you can just tie napkins up with a bit of twine. Slip a stem of eucalyptus in, and it’s an adorable little “package” for someone to open.

9. Centerpiece Takes... Centerstage

The reason this slightly plain place-setting looks so special is because the delicate florals of the centerpiece peek in. It’s easy to arrange one yourself with some Trader Joe’s stems—or you can outsource this one bit of prep to a florist to ensure the table lives up to your hopes.

10. The Most Edible Decor

The cheeseboard on this table acts as a centerpiece (genius), so artichokes as place card holders feel right at home. When dinner’s over, cook them with confidence for your next meal.

11. Pretty Pear Place Settings

These pears have adorable little name markers, but simply a pear on each plate would serve multiple purposes: harvest-seasonal decor, and a perfectly packaged appetizer or dessert.

12. Bring Out the Blue & White China

If you’re lucky enough to have inherited a collection of blue and white dishes, they’re beyond just summer or dinner parties, they fit right in for fall as well. Paired with coordinating little pumpkins and seagrass placemats, they make an unconventional Thanksgiving table.

13. Gold, Black & Green

Is there anything more classic than gold, black, and a few touches of greenery? We certainly don’t think so. This table setting is traditionally chic, but actually easy breezy to put together. Simple black plates, gold flatware, and gold-rimmed glasses set the stage, while gold candlesticks and small jars of cut greens pull the whole thing together.

13. Freshly Harvested

Thanksgiving is synonymous with harvest time, and so are fluffy stalks of dried wheat or grass. Instead of using a green sprig as an accent, a dried stem is way more fall-themed.

15. Linen on Linen

Sometimes a gorgeous table is as simple as putting a tablecloth down on the one you already have. Tablecloths can instantly make a dining experience feel luxe, and all you did was fluff it out onto the table.

How are you setting the table this year? Let us know your ideas below!

This article was updated in August 2021 to help you prep all your Thanksgiving table ideas.

Your Everything Guide to Thanksgiving
Check It Out
Your Everything Guide to Thanksgiving

Top-notch recipes, expert tips, and more—it's all right this way.

Check It Out

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

When I'm not writing & editing for Home52, I'm likely to be found DIY-ing a new piece of furniture (or restoring an old one), hanging things on the wall in my apartment, or watching hours of vintage RHONY.