Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Dan starts cooking the turkey early while I set the table for 27. At dinnertime, our large but intimate party of family and friends packs around the table to raise a toast, share what we are most thankful for and dig into some great food. Our daughter calls us the Loud Family because the volume gets high as we all share stories, catch up on each other's news and roar with laughter.
If you are entertaining this Thanksgiving, I want to encourage you to make the setting for your feast as special as the people who will ring your table. Here are some steps I follow when creating a dramatic and memorable Thanksgiving table.
STEP 1: Aim to awe
It's sometimes hard to find the time to spoil the people we love most. Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to do just that by taking extra time to set a table that is so lavish and lovely it lets guests know how very important they are to you. The time you invest in creating a dramatic tablescape pays off when you see the surprised and delighted faces of guests as they take in your dining room.
A powerful centerpiece is the key to creating a table that wows guests. I have designed some centerpieces that are intricate and complex, and I've fashioned some that are powerful in their subtle simplicity.
Consider using matching garden urns to anchor your centerpiece, or even tall, beefy vases or cake plates or hurricanes - anything that gives you some nice height and allows you to embellish with seasonal decor. Incorporate moss, straw and fall foliage. If you want to go bigger and wilder, use longer tendrils of fall foliage and fallen sticks in your centerpiece.
Lushly layered place settings that weave together different colors, textures and heights are among my very favorites. Maybe start with simple orange table runners, which provide a pop of bright fall color, to break up the wood of a table top and serve as placemats. Look in your china cabinet and see what dishes you could mix up to give your table a blend of patterns and colors. You'll be surprised by the diverse pieces you can weave together to create a charming place setting.
STEP 2: Zero in on details
Use personalization to make each place setting that much more special. Perhaps go with a menu card, a name card so everyone knows where to sit and a conversation prompt: "I am thankful for … " There is something special about seeing your name at your place setting, isn't there? It makes you feel like a treasured addition to the party.
Make sure to add in a few other touches that applaud the season, such as fall-themed dishes and table linens.
Page 2 of 2 - STEP 3: Don't forget the backdrop
While the dining table is the undisputed star of the show at Thanksgiving, don't forget to add some decorative touches to the rest of your dining room. If your table is loaded with drama, you won't need much. One of the spots I like to dress up for holiday entertaining is my buffet. Many of the pieces on my buffet remain in place year-round, like the matching lamps and the platter. I just poke in a few seasonal motifs, like a scale holding a fall figurine, a pumpkin and a tiny bouquet of orange roses.
This column has been adapted from Mary Carol Garrity's blog at www.nellhills.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.