Our Favorite Thanksgiving Table Setting Ideas

A beautifully set table makes any meal a special occasion — and what dinner could be more important than Thanksgiving? Pull out all the stops and set a table that's dressed to impress.

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November 15, 2018

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Jason Kisner © 2013, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Jalynn Baker

Photo By: Marian Parsons, Mustard Seed Interiors

Photo By: Hortus Ltd.

Photo By: Mark Fonville/Hortus Ltd.

©Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Stacey Brandford Photography

Photo By: HGTV Fan chasingpaige

Photo By: HGTV fan patrick

Go Mad for Plaid

Fall's favorite fabric is an easy way to cozy up your Thanksgiving table. No need to buy a new tablecloth — wardrobe essentials like a plaid blanket scarf or even a throw are perfect stand-ins for more traditional table linens.

Put Fall's Bounty on Display

Fall is traditionally synonymous with the harvest. For a show-stopping table setting that honors tradition, fill the center of your table with a colorful display of pumpkins, gourds, nuts, fruits, veggies and seasonal blooms. Carry the bountiful theme to each place setting with an artichoke place card holder. Get more tips for setting a harvest-inspired table

Always Include a Centerpiece

What would a beautifully set table be without the star of the show — a centerpiece?! Crafting one doesn't have to be hard or expensive; check out our 50+ Thanksgiving centerpieces for DIY tips and inspo.

Kick Up the Drama

Designer Erinn Valencich sets the stage for an oh-so-chic fall get-together by layering rustic elements with glamorous touches like gold-rimmed crystal plates, gilt-lined votives and an antique French settee. Low centerpieces of tightly bunched burgundy and chartreuse flowers pop against the room's rich aubergine palette.

Dress Up Everyday Essentials

Elevate your everyday white china by topping it with your favorite family hand-me-down (or thrifted) bread plates or berry bowls. And, no need to stick to just one pattern, set the table with a mix of your favorite pieces for a colorful, collected-over-time look.

Don't Forget the Kids' Table

Almost as necessary as the turkey itself, giving your littlest guests a space of their own to catch up with cousins and friends at a separate kids' table has become a favorite Thanksgiving tradition. Set up a crafty kids' table that encourages fun and festivites with our tips.

Silhouette Marks the Spot

Personalize your table with DIY place cards that feature guests' silhouettes instead of their names. To create them, find photos that feature a strong head-and-shoulder outline of your guests. Print the photos onto regular printer paper, cut around their outline then use a black permanent marker to completely color over the photo. Glue the silhouette onto white card stock and place in a small gold mat. Design by Camille Styles; photography by She-n-He

Mix Fresh With Faux

Manufacturers have gotten so good at making realistic-looking silk blooms and faux gourds that it's difficult to tell the difference between fresh and faux. Combine the best of both worlds to create a table setting and natural table runner that looks lush and — best of all — incorporates a few faux elements that can be used year after year.

Place Setting 101

Setting an impressive table for guests is easier than you may think. Start with the dinner plate, top it with a folded napkin and the salad plate. The knife and spoon go to the right of the plate, the fork on the left. Above the plate, wine and water glasses go on the right, a bread plate on the left with the dessert fork and spoon directly above the plate. Design by Manvi Drona-Hidalgo, photography by Lawrence Luk

Keep It Farm(house) Fresh

Homey and relaxed, farmhouse-style is a natural fit for Thanksgiving celebrations. To create the look, mix rustic surfaces, like wood slices and birch vases, with vintage finds, like the old enamelware pitcher on the mantel.

Go Fuss-Free With a Buffet

While no get-together is completely worry free for the host, serving buffet style certainly makes things easier. Just place a stack of plates, utensils and napkins at the start of the spread, then let guests help themselves. Get more tips for planning a Thanksgiving dinner that'll let you stress less this year.

Pair High With Low

Take a cue from designer Sarah Richardson and pair high and low elements — the brass candlesticks are thrifty finds and the china is vintage Royal Doulton — to create a table setting that is beautiful, balanced and not-too-fussy.

Make It Easy to Munch

Small dishes filled with fresh fruit or nuts-in-shell not only add an organic accent to each place setting, they're also a healthy snack for Thanksgiving guests while they wait for dinner to begin. Tip: Keep a nutcracker and bowl for cracked shells handy.

Go Au Naturel

Make Mother Nature the star of your Thanksgiving table with a centerpiece composed of pumpkins, gourds, acorns, nuts and potted succulents and herbs. A blue-and-white plaid tablecloth and unadorned white dishes are a perfect fit for the table's earthy theme. Get step-by-step instructions for crafting a succulent-topped pumpkin.  

Craft a (Cute!) Place Card

Not only is this clever place card adorable, it's also a party favor your guests can nibble on during the Thanksgiving celebrations and (if there are any treats left) take home with them. Get step-by-step instructions to craft your own.

Get Back to Nature

Weather permitting, take your Thanksgiving celebration outdoors. After all, everything tastes better when enjoyed alfresco — plus, fall's changing scenery can't be beat. When setting the table, go with a rustic theme to match the setting — fill hollowed-out butternut squash with fall blooms for a stunning centerpiece and top each plate with a tiny succulent-filled ghost pumpkin that does double-duty as a favor. Learn how to craft your own squash centerpiece.  

Pair Simple With Sophisticated

With a centerpiece this dramatic, keeping the rest of the table subdued was a no-brainer for designer Camille Styles. A found old board, instead of a traditional fabric runner, was her inspiration for the table's rustic theme. Beeswax candles, gourds and wheat sheath place cards keep with the theme while footed urns overflowing with blooms, linen tablecloth, vintage silver and gold-rimmed dishes add sophistication. Get more of Camille's tips for a simply stylish Thanksgiving.

Go for the Gold

Move over, stainless steel — it's gold's turn to shine. Gold has increasingly become designers' metal of choice for fancy flatware but, like anything that's trendy, new sets are pricey. Check estate sales, thrift stores and yard sales for vintage sets, many still in their original box, with the same golden gleam as new flatware but without the hefty price tag.

Opt for Organic Elegance

Rely on natural elements (and handy-dandy hot glue) to put the finishing touch on your fall table. Attach acorn caps to a basic napkin ring and disguise a past-its-prime charger with silk magnolia leaves. Get crafting with our step-by-step instructions.

Fancy for Free

For an easy update, take a cue from Fixer Upper's Joanna Gaines and add an organic touch to each place setting with a bundle of clipped backyard vines, branches or grasses. The bundled clippings lend a rustic, designer look without the designer cost.   

Go Crazy for Color

Instead of limiting your table's palette to traditional fall colors, go for happy hues and mix and match pieces in any colors or patterns you like. Image courtesy of Target. 
From: Target

Incorporate Unexpected Elements

Does the small plate that's part of this place setting look familiar? If you have a green thumb, it should — it's actually an inexpensive terra cotta saucer which lends this farmhouse-style setting a cheery bit of color contrast.

Tie the Look Together

Designer Marian Parsons put her prized vintage dough bowl to good use as a rustic Thanksgiving centerpiece. Filled with fall favorites — gourds, acorns, apples and sprigs of goldenrod and berries — the centerpiece inspired the rest of the table's decoration. For a consistent look, Marian used the same natural materials to create mini arrangements for the buffet and as candle rings and plate toppers. Get more of Marian's tips for recreating this look

Keep It Casual

Flannels are not only cozy to wear, they're also a trendy, laidback way to dress your fall table. Hit your local craft or fabric store and scour the remnants to find a large section of flannel fabric to use instead of a traditional tablecloth. Smaller flannel pieces work great as an extra cozy napkin. See more of this rustic-themed table setting

Pile on the Pumpkins

Assorted pumpkins in various shades lining the center of the table are an easy, earthy centerpiece. For added interest, gardening expert P. Allen Smith painted some of the pumpkins in metallic or matte pastel hues and topped each place setting with a diminutive ghost pumpkin. Get more of P. Allen's tips for setting your fall table

Light It Up

Adding a romantic vibe via candlelight makes any dinner feel more like a special occasion. Mix in a few glass votives, candlesticks or old lanterns to give your Thanksgiving table setting a little extra sparkle and a more intimate feel.

Incorporate a Little Character

Mark guests' places with this cute place card idea that doubles as a party favor. Make one for each place setting so guests can take the mini succulent gardens home and watch them grow thru the winter. Learn how to make your own.

Craft an Earthy Charger

Instead of a placemat, add a bit of fall color to each place setting with an easy-to-craft charger created by gluing silk (or real, if you prefer) leaves to a round piece of card stock that's slightly smaller than your dinner plate. 

Rock a Collected-Over-Time Look

Designer Sarah Richardson makes setting a formal table look easy. For her signature collected-over-time look, she pulls together vintage china, silverware and linens. If you weren't lucky enough to inherit the makings of a stunning table, you can pick them up for bargain-basement prices at thrift stores, flea markets and estate sales.

Layer It On

Layering plates in different finishes, colors or textures is an easy trick for setting an elegant table. Start with a charger, followed by a dinner plate, topped by a folded cloth napkin and small bread or dessert plate. Finish each place setting with a small trinket your guests can take home as a favor. See more photos of this vintage-inspired table setting.

Make Your Mark

Our step-by-step instructions show you how to give inexpensive white plates a high-end, custom look with a stenciled design and ceramic paint.

Transform a Basic Tablecloth

Embellish a thrift store or hand-me-down tablecloth with strips of burlap or linen for a chic, budget-friendly update. Get started on your tablecloth transformation with our step-by-step instructions.

Play With Palettes

There are no hard-and-fast rules that mandate the use of traditional fall colors on your Thanksgiving table — mix it up and use whatever colors or patterns you like best. Design by Manvi Drona-Hidalgo, photography by Lawrence Luk.

Pick a Theme

A sunflower theme, warm autumnal colors and a dessert buffet (yum!) get this dining room ready for a family-friendly feast.

Bring the Outdoors In

Rustic, natural elements continue to be a popular choice for setting your table setting apart from the pack. Shop online for birch bark sheets to use as a charger and cut birch rounds to top plates — or scavenge your own backyard to see what freebies Mother Nature is offering up. See more of this woodsy table setting.

Craft a (Nearly) Free Twig Table Runner

Bring an organic touch to your Thanksgiving table by creating a beautiful runner made out of twigs. Kids will love scavenging for twigs in the yard, and assembly is easy enough that they can help craft it, too. Get started with our step-by-step instructions.

Add Some Sparkle

Designer Erinn Valencich relies on the shimmer of metallics for her Thanksgiving table. Bronze glass plates, golden glasses and beaded placemats bring on the glamour. See more photos of Erinn's glittering table. Photo courtesy of Bobbi Fabian.

Go With a Saturated Shade

Vibrant plum linens create a rich backdrop to this table setting by HGTV fan chasingpaige. Pumpkins, gourds, pinecones and mercury glass votives fill the center of the table for a casual, harvest-themed centerpiece.

Put the Rule of Three to Work

Designers have long relied on the rule of three when creating a balanced interior but this rule works just as well when setting the table — and best of all, it's easy to follow. Pick one element and repeat it three times. Here, the same amber color is used in the placemats, napkin and centerpiece, creating a sophisticated, pulled-together look.

Go Global

Gilt chargers and an exotic Kazakh tablecloth lend this table setting a sophisticated, globetrotting vibe. Design by Manvi Drona-Hidalgo, photography by Lawrence Luk

Print Pretty Place Cards

These oversized place cards look involved but our free printable templates make crafting them a snap. Just print out the flag and leaf templates, cut out, assemble and personalize.

Contrast Colors

HGTV fan Patrick gave the traditional yellow, orange and red Thanksgiving palette a contemporary twist by pairing it with icy blue placemats. Using contrasting cool and warm colors like this is a sure bet for an eye-catching table setting.

High-End Look, Low-Cost Place Cards

Coat silk leaves in budget-friendly plaster of Paris to create sleek, porcelain-look-alike place cards for your Thanksgiving table. Get crafting with our step-by-step instructions.

Proper Place Settings

Always be sure to equip guests with the right utensils — like a steak knife if you're serving any meats that will require cutting. Photo by Lawrence Luk.

Craft Easy Pomegrantate Place Card Holders

Avoid a game of Turkey Day musical chairs by setting out place cards for your guests. For a seasonal look, make these gilded place card holders by spraying pomegranates with metallic paint, then inserting a handwritten place card in the crown. Inexpensive and homemade, they're the perfect way to make your table feel extra special. Get crafting with our step-by-step instructions.

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