10 Easy Ways to Elevate Your Thanksgiving

One of the things that we love about Thanksgiving is that it’s a big meal with a big table.

Something you may not know about us is that we did floral design for weddings - which has contributed to our love of setting a table and throwing events.

While we admit that we like to go a bit over the top for Thanksgiving to make a beautiful tablescape and create an amazing experience for our guests, there are a lot of easy and beautiful ways to create an elegant atmosphere for your guests. Here are some of our favorite tips:

1. Ditch the paper plates - use real china and silverware

Truth be told, I used paper plates back when I was in grad school. Partially because I liked the holiday motif, partially because it was easier to clean up. However, it wasn’t long before I was able to get my hands on some plain white china, and got rid of the paper plates.

White china is the way to go - it’s decently priced, goes with pretty much everything, and it’s easy to mix and match white china of different styles and have it all feel like it it goes together. You don’t have to break the bank on china either - I had a friend who was able to put together twenty place settings from Goodwill for under a hundred dollars by mixing and matching.

2. Having glassware - but not the super expensive stuff

Here’s the problem when you’re using fancy glassware that is $25 a piece. You shelled out $100 for four glasses, and then one of them gets broken. Now you only have 3 glasses, and you’re going to be reluctant to replace it at $25 a piece.

Instead, we recommend going with very standard glassware that you’re not going to freak out if one gets broken. And standard glassware is usually also the line that isn’t going to be discontinued anytime soon, so you’ll be able to easily replace them or add to them as needed.

3. Matching serving dishes

I remember being in college and just having a random collection of serving dishes - all different colors, makes and patterns. And it looked random, kind of like a potluck, but where the dishes were all cooked by one person.

Instead, aim for having matching serving dishes. They don’t all have to be the same, but they should all go together. You can go for a color scheme, or you can do what you did with the dishes and pick white - it’s always available and always easy.

If you’re having a potluck, feel free to ask your guests if they would be okay with you transferring their dish to a serving dish - that way we can wash their dish in the dishwasher so they can take home a clean item, and we can just clean our dishes later. It’s a small courtesy we like to do when we can.

4. Make name cards for your guests

Nothing makes you feel more welcome than a hand-lettered name card for your place at the table. Think about it - someone took the time to sit down and write your name down on a card and then made you a place at the table. Doesn’t that feel amazing?

Show your guests the red carpet treatment with these name tags. It doesn’t even have to be anything too complicated - a simple bit of brown kraft paper with a paint marker makes it look like you’re Martha Stewart. And that’s a good thing.

5. Set up a dessert bar

While in the past we’ve served up dessert and brought it out to the guests, we really like having a dessert bar. While serving up pie and bringing it to people is good, letting people serve themselves is even better. No one is compelled to eat dessert, no one feels awkward refusing or choosing their type of pie, and they’re allowed to go for seconds as much as they would like.

Stock your dessert bar with plenty of plates and dessert forks to ensure that people are able to grab as much dessert as they need. We also include a coffee/tea bar complete with sugar and honey and cream for the perfect companion to dessert.

6. Fresh Flowers

We always enjoy having fresh flowers on the table but especially so on Thanksgiving.

While we love to create an arrangement, you can also purchase a standard mixed bouquet and fluff it up into a vase. Or take a potted mum and place it into an ornamental pot or container. Even arranging some pumpkins and Indian corn can make for a very pretty touch to the table - so long as there’s a bit of nature to soften the scene.

7. Light some candles

Lighting is very important when it comes to setting the mood, and Thanksgiving is no exception. Even if you’re having the meal during daylight hours, there’s something very romantic and welcome about candlelight.

It doesn’t even have to be any sort of big display - a few tealights will suffice if you don’t have room on your table. We prefer large hurricanes and pillar candles, (although we had a big thing for silver candlestick holders and tapers previously) but feel free to use whatever you feel comfortable with.

8. Cloth napkins are essential

Look, paper napkins are all fine and good, but they feel cheap to me. I associate them with company picnics, graduation parties, and children’s birthday parties. I always feel awkward when I’m trying to be discreet wiping my face, but I’m also trying to avoid crumpling the paper napkin up to hide the fact. Paper napkins also have the habit of traveling unexpectedly and getting dragged into gravies and soups, so we don’t use them anymore.

Some simple cloth napkins are all you need. Get them in a neutral color like beige or white or grey, and you can use them literally all year round. Or, if you are in a festive mood, choose some pumpkin-orange or burgundy if you want to add some color.

Get them ready beforehand by washing them and then pressing them. Really, it only takes about thirty seconds to iron each napkin once you get going, and they’re so small it isn’t hard to get them pressed in a jiffy. I usually iron them the day of, but you can even do it beforehand to save yourself some stress.

9. Carve the bird - before you bring it to the table

Although the tradition in my family usually had been to carve the turkey at the table, it soon fell out of favor due to the fact that a bird big enough to feed a family is usually big enough to hog almost a sixth of the table. It’s awkward, unwieldy, and just doesn’t make sense to bring it out, and it’s a chore for whomever sits in front of the bird to parcel out the parts requested from everybody else at the table.

Instead, you can carve the bird first - in the kitchen. This way you can fill the serving plate with white meat, dark meat, drumsticks and pieces with skin to satisfy pretty much everybody and just pass the plate around. No wrestling with the bird, no awkward moments trying to get a good hand rest, no juices splashing - it’s all done in the kitchen and is absolutely perfectly plated and ready for the meal.

10. Play some music

There was a very awkward Thanksgiving a couple years ago we attended. We didn’t really know too many people, and it was a very uncomfortable experience - mostly because there was no music in the background.

Music sets the scene, creates the ambiance - without it, there’s mostly awkward silence and pauses in the conversation. Play something cheery or soothing - we like Billie Holiday or Frank Sinatra or even acoustic guitar covers - something that will just fade into the background.