Tips for Setting Your Thanksgiving Dinner Table

Thanksgiving dinner table setting, above view

Setting the perfect Thanksgiving Dinner table takes a lot of work. It is quite possible that you have often wondered where to put everything on your dinner table.

A lot of the time you might do what I do and just put utensils, dinnerware, and glassware where it looks good and where there is space for it. After all, you want to include some decorations, napkins, place cards and of course-serving dishes with all the food!

Here is a chart for you to make it easy. I found that this is actually very helpful and uses table space effectively:

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Steps to Take:

  • Decide how many guests you will be serving
  • If you will have guests who don’t know each other, create table setting with name place cards
  • Arrange your guests logically: if you know that one person is shy, sit them next to a person who is easy going. Remember – the cook should sit closest to the kitchen
  • If you have young children attending your dinner, seat them next to their parents
  • Make sure you know if any guests have dietary restrictions – i.e. allergy to nuts
  • After you have determined your menu, you will be able to figure out what dishes, glassware, utensils and serving dishes you will need.
  • Decide on your colour scheme.
    • This may start with picking your tablecloth and napkins. I usually pull out what I have and play it out on my dining room table. It might surprise you how many things you would see that will create an interesting colour match and give you more decorating ideas
  • Next – decide if you want a centrepiece.
    • The kind of centrepiece you will be looking for will be one that will least obstruct everything else you need to place on the table. It is much nicer if you can leave your selected centrepiece on your table during dinner – especially if it has candles. But sometimes you will need to move it to place your serving dishes on the table. But either way – it is a good idea to give this some thought ahead of time.
  • Give yourself enough time to decide on other table decoration – ones that will complement the overall table setting and your centrepiece.
  • If you have children, involve them in making the decorations or even participating in gathering materials and putting together the centrepiece. They will take pride in being helpful and their behaviour at the dinner will show it!

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  • It is really a good idea to set your table day before your dinner – it will give you a chance to take your time and make changes – plus – it will avoid any rush the day of your special dinner. And that means avoiding stress, which is always a good thing!
  • Place your selected tablecloth (or placemats if that is what you decided on) on the table.
    • If the tablecloth is thin, put a pad under to prevent damage from heat.
  • If you are serving a seated meal, the tablecloth should hang about a foot over the edge of the table. If you are setting up a buffet table, the tablecloth should hang to the floor.
  • Next – place dinner plates in front of each seat, about one inch from the edge of the table.
  • Start laying out your silverware. You can follow the chart provided for you above and remember that utensils should be positioned one-inch from the table edge, evenly spaced.
  • Determining how and where to place the napkin will depend on whether you will be using it as a part of your decor. If you will tie a decorative ribbon or use special napkin rings, you may want to lay the decorated napkin over the dinner plate on an effective angle.
  • Water glasses go about 2 inches above the knife to the right and to the right of them, you place your wine glasses.
  • If you are planning on serving coffee or tea, place the cup and saucer to the right of the setting. I find that it is easier and saves table space to have a separate table set for coffee, tea, dessert places and dessert serving platters. Again – this will largely depend on space you have available and on your choice.
  • Bread plate with the small butter knife should be set about 2 inches above the forks.
  • Any condiments you will need should be positioned where they can be easily reached

Easy centrepieces:

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You can purchase bouquets of fall flowers at your local market, or if you can’t get to one, silk flowers will do as well. Use a simple bowl to arrange them for an effective centrepiece (using florist foam to stick them in works the best.

If you choose to use fresh flowers like mums, soaking the foam with water will keep them fresh for days! Add small versions of your centrepiece on each place setting or a single flower with each napkin.

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This is very easy and totally effective centrepiece to make. Just put some cranberries into a nice glass dish, place tea lights in them-and there you go!

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A tall glass jar or hurricane lamp can become a great centrepiece by adding some fall leaves in it. If you can’t get nicely coloured leaves, get silk ones, only one stem of them will do wonders!

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Simple votive candles become beautiful parts of a centrepiece when wrapped in corn husks, tied with a ribbon or twine and to match. Corn husk wrapped short vase with flowers for the centre of the table. This looks awesome when the flowers are surrounded with lit up votives!

Creative Table Settings Ideas:

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Little Thanksgiving Thought:

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

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Hope these tips will help you with making your festive Thanksgiving Dinner to be a very special one – please send in your comments, suggestions and experiences – your input is always welcomed!

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About the author

Hanna Trafford

Hanna is the mother of two grown sons Dan and Dusan Nedelko, and is also the Grandmother to Jax, Cohen and Mila. She is the lead editor of Mama Knows and is hoping to create an exchange of communications with other grandmothers, mothers and daughters - giving everyone the opportunity to learn and share about everything that is "Mama"

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