How Home Experts Set the Perfect Thanksgiving Table With Just a Few Key Items

floral thanksgiving table

Madeline Harper for Anastasia Casey

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and we're greatly looking forward to this much-needed time to catch up with and celebrate our gratitude for friends and family. However, as those who host the holiday at their own homes know, there's more to prepping a Thanksgiving celebration than simply perfecting the menu. Creating a beautiful, festive dining setup for guests to admire and enjoy is also a key component of the holiday. The good news is that designing a fabulous tablescape—without shelling out hard-earned cash for endless pieces of decor—is more than possible. We spoke with four experts who shared their tips for arranging a stunning setup with just a few simple items.

Meet the Expert

Go Natural

Anastasia Casey is the founder and CEO of The Identite Collective and frequently chronicles her own home design and upgrades on Instagram. Reflecting on past Thanksgiving setups, she shared, "My favorite tablescape was actually our moss covered table! We rolled out a kraft paper runner, used spray glue and dried moss." Best of all, Casey was able to handle all of the prep work ahead of time, "We set this out five days before and it looked perfect the day of," she noted.

moss thanksgiving tablescape

Madeline Harper for Anastasia Casey

Designer and former event planner Emily Starr Alfano agreed that turning to the outdoors is key. "Forage florals and/or greenery—and dry them for the following year—if you can," she suggested. "Otherwise, grocery store florals do the trick! And incorporate herbs and edibles such as fruit." Last but not least, don't forget about candles for ambiance. Think pillar candles will stand out and add a moody touch. "Candlelight makes everything better," Alfano commented.

Implement This Three-Holiday Garland Trick

Like Alfano, Amanda Gluck, blogger at The Fashionable Hostess, is also a fan of using greenery on the Thanksgiving table. She offered advice for those looking to make a garland shine the entire winter season. "Garlands and/or faux greenery fill the center of your table and can easily transition from holiday to holiday," she noted. "For Thanksgiving, add pumpkins and pinecones. For Christmas use the same greenery but layer in candles and ornaments. And for the new year, intertwine with twinkle lights." Talk about a sustainable pick!

garland with fall accents

Amanda Gluck

Try This Table-Setting Trick

Let's face it, you don't want to spend Thanksgiving day neglecting your loved ones who came into town to celebrate. Thanksgiving "should be a stress free day where you put all your energy into cooking and spending time with friends and family," Casey commented. So in order to feel prepared on the table-setting front, she likes to experiment with styling earlier in the week. "I always set my table two days before to do a dry run, then move everything to a box in the garage," she explained. "It makes it easy for guests to help 'set the table' while you’re in the kitchen, while ensuring it turns out just the way you want it."

tablescape with herbs

Emily Starr Alfano

Master Your Place Settings

Our experts also offered ideas for when it comes to selecting non-decorative items from the tabletop. "Get creative with your place settings, mixing and matching materials and unexpected placements for a personalized and layered look," Alfano shared.

Not sure how to set the table just so? Kaitlin Moss, blogger at The Every Hostess, shared a helpful refresher. "When setting the table, place each plate directly across from the other," she said. "Make sure the chairs line up, too! Set the forks to the left, and knives, with the blade facing the plate, on the right side. Set out water and wine cups by placing the water cup to the top left of the plate and wine glass to the right just below the water glass."

thanksgiving table with place cards

Madeline Harper for Anastasia Casey

And when it comes to napkins, Casey is a big fan of those made from linen. "I love using linen napkins because they look perfect when they are wrinkles and tossed on a plate," she shared. "It saves you so much time ironing!" And don't forget to fold your napkins just right. "There are many ways to fold napkins, but my favorite fold to do is tying the napkin in a knot with the ends sticking out," Moss shared. "It's an easy way to dress up each plate so they aren't plain!"