Thanksgiving Table Setting and Decorating Ideas

Giving thanks. Thanksgiving is a wonderful American holiday, one that I look forward to every year. Because I’m not much of a chef, setting and decorating the family table is typically the task delegated to me. Here are some festive table setting and decorating ideas for your turkey day table.

First, knowing how to set the table is essential. Here is a helpful diagram to follow and links to wonderful articles on setting the table at Laura Casey Interiors and Martha Stewart.

In my home like many others, there are dishes reserved for special occasions and Thanksgiving is one of those occasions. You are off to a good start by simply setting the table with fine dinnerware. Be sure to polish the silver and here’s a non-toxic DIY way to clean silver.

Selecting table linens is an important step in decorating your Thanksgiving table and a great way to introduce autumn colors. Bold reds and vivid oranges with a mix of neutral browns and creams can create a dramatic holiday table. For your table you may wish to cover with a tablecloth, runner or keep it bare. If you decide to have a tablecloth or runner, there are plenty of beautiful fall and holiday patterns available. Keeping it simple and versatile, like this two-toned Russian made Cornucopia Jacquard Tablecloth is best if you intend to decorate the rest of the table with lots of smaller items and want to use it through Christmas.

Table runners are also a great look. They give the table some festive color and at the same time show off it’s beautiful wood grain or shine. If you are the do-it-your type, check out this post by The Stories A to Z on how to make your own table runner. And remember to always coordinate the colors of your tablecloth to that of your placemats and napkins.

Thanksgiving table centerpieces can be as simple or complex as you’d like. Candles, floral arrangements, leaves, cornucopias, pumpkins, gourds and other seasonal fruit are all good options when it comes to creating a holiday centerpiece.

Filling vases with decorative autumn leaves, acorns or berries and a pillar candle in coordinating colors is a fast and easy way to warm up your table. For visual interest, place three vases in a row down a long table and small pumpkins in between.

These handcrafted grass and wood chip turkeys available at Williams Sonoma would be perfect additions to your Thanksgiving decorations and table setting. The smaller version – sold in pairs – can be used to hold place cards or menus on the holiday table. Regardless of setting – formal or informal – adding menus and place cards is always an elegant touch.

The adorable pinecone turkey place card or menu companion by Martha Stewart is a simple DIY project – here’s the how-to. They would make great hostess gifts too!

Naturally elegant. Place cards can be as simple as an autumn pear with guests’ names pinned on.

Creating your own place cards or menus with a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner motif is a breeze with this punch by Martha Stewart.

Create a custom napkin holder and place card by stamping a festive design and handwritten message on cardstock. Then punch holes on either side and thread with a decorative ribbon that coordinates with your table’s color scheme.

Here is an adorable turkey stamp from Paper Source that would be perfect for the DIY napkin holders above.

Running short on time? These ready-made sweet pilgrim turkey place cards only need you to add your guests’ names. Their rope legs are the best!

For more Thanksgiving Table Decorating Ideas {with or without kids!}, go here.

How will you decorate your Thanksgiving table this year?

*images from Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma, Paper Source {Simplified Bee affiliate}, Martha Stewart, Gumps, Simon Says Stamp!, Country Living, Hungry, Better Homes and Gardens

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21 Responses to Thanksgiving Table Setting and Decorating Ideas

  1. Alice November 18, 2009 at 2:56 am #

    What inspirational pictures! I agree – getting the Thanksgiving table just right is so rewarding! One of the things I like to do is use fall designs from directly on the table and cover with a beautiful lace tablecloth. It's quite elegant.

  2. Cristin November 12, 2009 at 1:21 am #

    The first photo is from Pottery Barn and the second is antique turkey-themed transferware found at Country Living:


  3. Homemaker, MD November 10, 2009 at 2:48 am #

    Hey I love your turkey and fall plates in those first photos. Where are they from? Great photos, will use the silver polishing method!

  4. pk November 5, 2009 at 1:24 am #

    Great post! The pear place card and the stamped napkin holder are my favorites.

    pk @ Room Remix

  5. Porch Days November 5, 2009 at 1:22 am #

    That turkey made from a pine cone is adorable! Also like the candles in the glass with acorns.

  6. Zuniga Interiors Design Studio November 4, 2009 at 5:42 pm #


    Great photos and tips for the holiday! Love the centerpiece!



  7. fourwallsandaroof November 4, 2009 at 4:59 pm #

    Great ideas. The simpler, the better in my opinion! I just did a table centerpiece for a party this weekend – glass cake stand piled with mini pumpkins and gourds, plus three little gold tea glasses, one with yellow flowers, one with orange and one with pinky-red. Took about 4 mins to assemble!

  8. Michael November 4, 2009 at 6:06 am #

    I love these berries as my thanksgiving fruit

  9. Kitty November 4, 2009 at 1:09 am #

    i love the turkey place cards and the place cards nestled in glasses with acorns and leaves! a visually exciting post! i just posted a bit about fancy napkin folding over on shindigs & soirees. wish i were planning a thanksgiving in san fran like yourself! xo kitty

  10. Just Breathe November 4, 2009 at 1:04 am #

    Thank you for the great ideas.

  11. sarah @ realestatestyle November 4, 2009 at 12:17 am #

    All such great ideas and so cute!

  12. Beth@The Stories of A to Z November 3, 2009 at 11:31 pm #

    Great inspiration photos! I never tire of seeing pears as placecards and cranberries as jar fillers. I love it.

  13. Petergaye S. Kisielewicz/ Yahgie November 3, 2009 at 10:14 pm #

    I love your formal table setting sheet. Great tips.

  14. Averill November 3, 2009 at 9:37 pm #

    These are some lovely ideas, Cristin. I particularly love the little pinecone turkeys!

    This year we're actually going with disposable plates instead of good china — there are just going to be too many people! That said though, I did manage to find some great paper versions of the Spode Woodland pattern. I'm hoping with nice silverware and crystal, they'll still look nice and festive.

  15. Laurel @ Ducks in a Row November 3, 2009 at 8:55 pm #

    I love these ideas. I get so caught up in making the dinner that the table doesn't get much attention. Not this year, though!

  16. Laura Trevey November 3, 2009 at 7:48 pm #

    I love cranberries in candles for the holidays.

    and I just LOVE the holidays 🙂
    xo Laura

  17. Karen@StrictlySimpleStyle November 3, 2009 at 7:21 pm #

    I love the simplicity of the cranberries and candle in the glass vessel. It would transition perfectly into Christmas decorating as well.

  18. Susan Lang November 3, 2009 at 7:00 pm #

    Cristin, great post with so many ideas and tips. thanks for leaving me a comment!

  19. Pink to Green November 3, 2009 at 6:56 pm #

    This is such a great post! I love your holiday ideas, especially excited to try the DIY non-toxic silver polish ideas. Thanks for you lovely comments today!!

  20. Lovely Scribbles November 3, 2009 at 6:38 pm #

    I absolutely love dressing up a table, and you have included so many fantastic tips! I think table runners are so stylish, and I love that you showcase such a wide variety of ideas. So fun!

  21. Laura Casey Interiors November 3, 2009 at 6:37 pm #

    All such great ideas. Thanks for referencing my post!