For most of us, the Thanksgiving meal is one of the best we’ll enjoy in any given year. Gathering with our family and friends around this iconic meal gives us the opportunity to use china, silverware, and tablecloths that we reserve for just such occasions.

Our guide to decorating your table for Thanksgiving will give you themes to follow as well as ideas to mix and match from. Our themes run the gamut from indulgent to crisp and simple, but there are a few guidelines that apply to all of them.

  1. Don’t set up a centerpiece that will obstruct your guests’ view. Connectedness and conversation are more beautiful than a tower of even the freshest blooms.
  2. If you include a pop of trendy color, choose just one. While earthy fall palettes can be mixed and matched to your heart’s content, layering bright hues is best reserved for spring and summer gatherings.
  3. Leave enough room for your guests to move their hands around their place setting. A crowded table might be beautiful, but your friends and family will probably resent it a bit if their presence at the table feels like something you’re cramming in as an afterthought.

Callback to the Cornucopia

This theme has been a Thanksgiving favorite for decades, and it’s easy to see why. For a modern take, arrange cascades of jewel-toned grapes as centerpieces, hollow out vibrant turnips to create unexpected votive holders, and stick with white pumpkins and gourds. Incorporate sprigs of wheat, pinecones, or scatterings of acorns and walnuts to invoke a breath of the outdoors and tie your guests’ names to the stem of a pear or apple in lieu of traditional place cards.

Plaids, Pumpkins, and Pies

For a down-home feel to your meal, set the table with a fall plaid tablecloth, add a generous dose of beautiful pumpkins and gourds in a range of colors, and incorporate touches of jute and burlap in either your placemats or candleholders. The overall feel is festive yet simple, and your guests are sure to feel warmly welcomed. If you have the option, hanging a rustic platform candelabra over your table in lieu of electric lights will complete the unplugged aesthetic.

Mainly Modern

Whether you’re matching your modern home or just choosing a sleek table for your own enjoyment, you can’t go wrong with setting your table with a crisp, heavy white tablecloth and a beautiful table runner. Alternatively, if you have a stunning wooden table, skip the tablecloth and set a table runner on its own. Choose a runner that is about a foot longer than your table so that it drapes gracefully over the sides.

The modern table looks stunning with a small pop of color. Choose bright succulents paired with white mini pumpkins to give a nod to the season without giving in to traditionalism.

Lux Metallic Glow

If your tastes run more toward full glam, choose one or two metallic tones and go wild. Copper and gold candlesticks, metallic accents on your plates, metallic pinecones, gleaming gold flatware, and spray-painted mini pumpkins are all traditional yet fun ways to make a statement.

Warm gold and copper work beautifully with the usual fall colors (brown, orange, red, forest green, and yellow) while silver and platinum look best with white and lighter greens, so take stock of your overall theme before you begin adding your metallic accents.

Fun with Fall Foliage

We love pumpkins and pinecones, but nothing says fall like the riotous hues of fall foliage. Bring this beauty into your Thanksgiving meal by adding sprigs of foliage along your table runner and wrapping the most vibrant leaves around glass candleholders. The light of the candle will project jewel tones and leaf outlines around the table, creating a warm, cozy glow. Cut out leaf shapes in thin cork for customized leaf trivets or use leaves to stamp patterns into your napkins or placemats.

If you want to go all out on this theme, gather leaves and create rubbings from them in fall colors. Frame these rubbings and hang them around the table, then gift them to your guests as they depart.

Elegant Florals

If you’re a bit tired of paper turkeys and pumpkins, you can create a festive fall table with flowers, instead. Create several small, matching arrangements, choosing colors like crimson, mango, peach, yellow, and oxblood. Roses and lilies interspersed with pops of seasonal berries (hypericum is fragile, but perfect for the day), wheat or millet sprigs to break up the rounded silhouette, and pops of bright seasonal blooms (miniature yellow button chrysanthemums are perfect both in color and scale) tied with a crimson ribbon around the vase would be a gorgeous addition to your simple, elegant table.

Simple, Natural, and Textural

The rustic trend is beginning to fade, so if you’ve been dying to create the perfect rustic Thanksgiving table, make this your year. Layer a light, open-weave cranberry red burlap runner over a linen tablecloth, tie leather or jute around napkins in place of a napkin ring and use local produce and plants to complete your table.

Thankful Tree

This special centerpiece is nothing more than a simple, small, leafless branch when the day begins. As guests arrive, hand out paper leaves cut from fall-colored papers with string loops attached. Guests can write down things they are thankful for and hang their leaf on the tree. At the end of the meal, guests can read the leaves and fill their hearts with warmth just as you’ve filled their bellies with the best meal of the year.

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