16 Thanksgiving Table Settings Sure to Wow Your Guests

blue dining table for Thanksgiving
Photo: Johnny Miller

What makes a Thanksgiving table stand out to the guests? You might think it's the turkey or other holiday fixings, but it is all in the atmosphere that you create. Despite what you remember from helping your mom set the table when you were a child, Thanksgiving doesn't have to be a formal affair, with each plate flanked by a platoon of flatware. Instead, your table can highlight your personal style. Choose colors, textures, and patterns to set the scene in a welcoming homecoming for family and friends.

It's important to have a plan in place for a common Thanksgiving conundrum: You have more guests coming than matching china or linens, or your inherited pieces feel too old-fashioned. To make your table setting work for you, take another look at what you have, then take a new approach. Combine patterns and colors. Pair modern with traditional. Supplement store-bought with some handmade—and add autumnal flower arrangements, of course. Tablesetting problems solved, beautifully.

01 of 16

Botanical Pots

terracotta pot centerpieces
Nico Schinco

To deck out your table for Turkey Day, add botanical accents to plain terra-cotta pots, and they'll blossom into an elegant, one-of-a-kind display. All you need is silicone baking molds (designed to make fondant details on cakes), white air-dry clay, and craft glue—here's the full how-to.

02 of 16

Indigo Table Setting

Johnny Miller

Take a break from fussing with formal floral centerpieces and display wispy dried branch stalks in different vases instead. For a snow-kissed look, lay them on paper and spray them with white floral paint before arranging. Block-printed linens are costly to buy but surprisingly simple to make using little more than textile paint, muslin fabric, and woodblock stamps.

When block-printing napkins, mix colors and patterns to add to your table's eclectic vibe. A unique combo of colors and a loose mix of materials make a dining table feel relaxed and inviting but still celebratory. Here, vintage yellowware pie dishes serve as unconventional dinner plates, and individual cutting boards hold bread and salt dishes; for a stylish touch, wind ribbon around their handles. Vintage and reproduction Dutch tiles offer personality—and cover lots of bases. Arrange them in clusters, or in a band down the center of the table, and use them as trivets, or place them individually as coasters.

03 of 16

Dried Flowers Table Setting

fall tablescape decorated with dried flowers
Ryan Liebe

If you didn't have time to traipse through a meadow to forage fodder for your tabletop, this setup is the next best thing. The key to its breezy but modern feel is to stick mostly to one variety per vase (the mashup of white stoneware also stands out nicely on a rust tablecloth), and line them up loosely. The spare palette will work all winter; for a change of scenery, just swap out the vessels.

04 of 16

Fall Harvest Table Setting

table decorated with candles in glass lamp chimneys and fruit
Alpha Smoot

Many people say grace at dinner, but you'll feel thankful well before if you prep an easy yet eye-catching, wilt-proof centerpiece. Simply place candles on small glass dishes and cover them with curvy lamp chimneys (which you can find for dollars at hardware or antiques stores). Fill in spare spaces with fruit and foliage, and when guests arrive, light the wicks and bask in the glow.

05 of 16

Cozy Rustic Table Setting

leather-trimmed lanterns
Lennart Weibull

Feelings of gratitude come naturally in autumn, peak season for ethereal light, rich colors, and happy homecomings. This Thanksgiving, play up those elements with a simple yet special table that celebrates great food and close-knit company. Pull up a cushioned bench to a spread of easy earthly delights.

Our take on a pared down Scandinavian scene (no flowers necessary) gets its warmth from raw linen and the glow of beeswax candles. An informal arrangement of mottled gourds, leather-trimmed hurricane lanterns, and whole nuts ready for the cracking makes a casually gorgeous centerpiece.

06 of 16

Soft Metallics Table Setting

Thanksgiving table
Martyn Thompson

Glints of gold and silver play off soft pinks and yellows at this inviting table. Positioned on and around the mantel, arrangements of carnations, mums, scabiosa seed heads, and grasses bring natural beauty to the setting—without crowding the table.

07 of 16

Barn Table Setting

Nordt family Thanksgiving table
Anna Williams

The Nordt family of Charles City, Virginia, host their Thanksgiving feast in the barn. In lieu of 20 chairs, the Nordts arrange bales of hay along their table and drape them with handwoven blankets, which offer warmth and softness. The main table is set with various candles and glasses and antique 1920s Theodore Haviland china that Dianne Nordt, matriarch of the family, has collected for years. Nut wreaths (made by drilling holes in pecans and sweet-gum seeds and stringing them onto wire rings) adorn a reclaimed barn door. Above the buffet, there's a leaf-threaded magnolia wreath that hangs on the wall.

  • See More of This Virginia Family's Thanksgiving Menu
08 of 16

Gilded Table Setting

Aaron Dyer

Give your table the midas touch: With a little paint, fallen leaves become a rustic, elegant centerpiece. Find leaves and bare branches and make an arrangement. (There's no need to press the leaves; the beauty is in their natural form.) Spray the leaves all over with gold paint; let dry. Hot-glue them to the branches, then arrange in a vase. The rest of the table is resplendent in gold with modern flatware and dinner plates, along a fringed linen runner—plus, for each guest, Baby Boo pumpkins to mark their places.

09 of 16

Pattern Play Table Setting

fall centerpiece
Roland Bello

Botanical dinner plates were the starting point for this table. A fresh color palette pulled from the floral pattern—yellow, lavender, brown, and gray—ties everything together. Sleek gray side plates are a contemporary counterpoint to the vintage pattern on the dinner plates. Assorted napkins become a set with the addition of stitched-on crochet trim along one edge. Antique etched wine glasses, plain low tumblers, and purple pressed-glass tumblers round out the old-new theme, while flat place cards with single dried flowers reinforce the color scheme.

10 of 16

Richly Colored Table Setting

Johnny Miller

Sometimes, simplicity is key. This was the thematic vision from former Deputy Creative Director Ayesha Patel on this Thanksgiving table, which incorporates natural materials and textures: burlap for place mats, a leather tie for the carafe, and block-printed napkins.

11 of 16

Bright Yellow Table Setting

bright yellow Thanksgiving table
Johnny Miller

We worked with a golden yellow palette and anchored the look with a table runner made with metallic glazed linen. The old and new pieces of ceramic vintage dinnerware are all shades of creamy white, which makes them easy to mix. To add some more intense bursts of the golden color, a few spider mums and Craspedia globosa are placed in shallow bowls and porcelain cups.

12 of 16

Foraged Table Setting

table settings for holiday hosting
Johnny Miller

Look to earthy, natural, and plant-based elements for this holiday table such as a few of these lichen-covered blueberry branches and velvety red spikes of staghorn sumac. Forage for centerpiece materials in your own backyard. Sculptural twigs and branches provide a surprising alternative to flowers and convey a natural beauty that's in keeping with the season. An important occasion can be both chic and casual. It's perfectly okay, for instance, to use beautiful but everyday earthenware and forgo a tablecloth or place mats. Napkins don't even have to match—just use related colors or fabrics.

13 of 16

Silver Coated Table Setting

basket centerpiece
Don Freeman

Set a beautiful table with lustrous decorations in serene colors, all made with the simplest supplies. Dress up plain woven bread baskets by painting them a single, glistening shade and fitting colorful fabric inside. For a lush centerpiece, insert a plastic liner, and fill with a mix of neutral, silvery-leafed plants along with flowers in deep purples and soft magentas. Here, we used mums, dusty miller, viburnum, globe thistle, cabbage rosettes, and kale leaves—all inexpensive and readily available in fall.

14 of 16

Glittered Corn Table Setting

glittered corn centerpiece for a fall Thanksgiving table
Maria Robledo

A few organic elements, enlivened with a bit of gilding, evoke fall's abundance. It starts with the basics. The dishes, with their fluid forms, conjure up the natural world. The silverware is sturdy, and it shines; gold, silver, it doesn't matter, so long as there's a gleam. Stripes of glitter on the edge of a table runner add to the festive feel. For an eye-catching centerpiece, turn a glass compote into a horn of plenty with glittering Indian corn and squash. The trick is to vary the intensity of the sparkle by covering some ears completely and using the glitter sparingly on others. The squash needs nothing more than a glittered stem to shine.

15 of 16

Gold Table Setting

Thanksgiving gold table
Erin Kunkel

Any flower, no matter how basic or lowly, looks more beautiful when grouped. For this tablescape, we placed clusters of mums, carnations, amaranth, wheat, and grasses into fluted glasses and small vases. To keep the look uniform, we limited herself to amber hues— yellows, golds, rusts—for the flowers, the vessels, even the beeswax candles. We selected flowers like mums and carnations for their hardiness and availability. Just clip the stems, remove the foliage, and place the flowers in clean water.

16 of 16

Baskets Table Setting

baskets table setting for Thanksgiving
Linda Pugliese

When Thanksgiving rolls around and the harvest bounty is on our minds, baskets make a particularly lovely motif for the table. A centerpiece that's stylish, simple, and affordable? Check, check, and check. These baskets, filled with apples, pears, and walnuts, are reminiscent of an abundant cornucopia. You can use several to create a display that runs down the length of the table.

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