Thanksgiving is a holiday that evokes nostalgia and warmth. We gather with family and friends to celebrate: each other, good times even among bad, and our own unique experience of a bountiful harvest. Representing all of this, the center of it all, is the Thanksgiving table. Thanksgiving tablescapes enhance this holiday, setting the mood and providing delight long before the feast is served.

Tablescaping in the art of decorating a dining table in a way that creates ambience, creates an emotional response in guests, and welcomes people to the experience of the meal. For many, tablescaping is fun and makes Thanksgiving even more memorable.

Why Tablescape?

It’s true indeed that a tablescape will draw your guest not just away from the cold November air but fully into your inviting home. Thanksgiving tablescapes beckon people in and welcome them warmly. Your table makes an incredible first impression before any food is even served.

Tablescaping is tantalizing. According to Elle Décor, “A beautiful presentation gives everything a little extra flavor, and your Thanksgiving dinner is no exception.”

It works this way because a tablescape stimulates multiple senses: The eyes take in beautiful elements spread across the table, touch is activated by all of the different textures of items on the table, and of course smells become stronger when they’re reinforced by the place settings promising a feast to come.

Another reason to create a tablescape for your Thanksgiving dinner is to let your personality shine. Of course the day is about gratitude, family, friends, and food, but it’s also about the host or hostess. A way to give your dinner a personal touch and a piece of you is to create a tablescape that fits your personality.

How to Tablescape for Thanksgiving

Looking at photographs of elaborate Thanksgiving tablescapes can be overwhelming. Rather than thinking about the final product, start at the very beginning. Your table is a blank slate.

Your first decision should focus on the ambience you want to create. How do you want your Thanksgiving celebration to feel? For example, are you looking for a dining experience that is

  • Elegant
  • Sleek and modern
  • Vintage
  • Traditional
  • Rustic
  • Simple
  • Charming
  • Relaxed
  • Glitzy and fun
  • Sophisticated and dark
  • Abundant
  • A mix of some of these elements, traditional and rustic or even modern and vintage

Once you know the feel of your tablescape, you can begin to decide how you want to accomplish it. Think in terms of

  • Textures
  • Colors and hues
  • Elements to incorporate/items to use

Textures enhance your look. Smooth surfaces, ribbons, and more lend a modern feel to your tablescape, while rough materials like burlap, twine, and textured stemware add to a traditional theme. Think of all of your elements when it comes to texture. Pumpkins and gourds have texture while pears and plums do not.

Thanksgiving tablescapes aren’t limited to oranges, reds, golds, and browns—unless you love a traditional Thanksgiving scene. If you’re going for an atmosphere that is more modern, sophisticated, or vintage, you can expand your hues.

Blue, green, and other rich, dark colors look elegant on a Thanksgiving table. Pink and silver add a classy, vintage feel that is different yet somehow very complementary to Thanksgiving. Gold and white or copper and white are sophisticated and don’t take away attention from the delicious food.

If you can’t find decorative elements in the color you want, feel free to break out the spray paint. Give new color to anything from pumpkins and gourds to faux berries to strands of twine and more.

Tablescapes are about transforming your table, and the items on them, into a centerpiece that attracts your guests and invites them to linger. You know where to begin and some basics about how to do it. Let’s look at what tablescapes are made of.

Putting it Together: What to Include on Your Tablescape

A tablescape refers not just to the centerpiece but to every element on the table:

  • Tablecloth and/or runner
  • placemats
  • dinnerware
  • silverware
  • stem ware and glasses
  • napkins
  • place cards
  • centerpiece
  • decorative items placed among and around everything

The Tablecloth

Thanksgiving tablecloths are the foundation of the tablescape. Depending on the theme and color scheme you are using, these can be traditional or non-traditional. Use fabric paint and the right sponges or stencils to add the right colors and patterns for your look.

Place Mats

Use place mats that complement your theme. Linen of various colors, burlap, or suggests HGTV, even sheet music or kraft paper painted with accents are a few ways you can use placemats for your guests.


Thanksgiving dinnerware can be dishes with turkeys or harvest scenes to enhance the feeling of the day. Alternately, you can serve the meal on white dishes that complement any accent color, or you can use your own every day dinnerware and weave in seasonal accents.

Place Cards

The place cards are little signs letting your guests know they have a special place at your Thanksgiving table. Hand-write name cards and insert them, with the help of toothpicks, clothespins, pins, or other items, into pears, mini pumpkins, paper Mayflower ships, wine corks, and more.

You can also write names on leaves (real, silk, or paper), and place them by the guests’ plates alongside a handful of acorns.


Until the turkey arrives at the table, the centerpiece is the focal point of your tablescape. They can be floral, with seasonal or traditional flowers like roses and ornamental cabbages. Centerpieces can have multiple levels and be topped with different decorative items or even pies and other desserts.

A gratitude tree makes a great addition to the Thanksgiving tablescape. Guests write messages of gratitude on blank paper leaves to express the meaning of the season.

As you have fun completing your tablescape, think of adding festive touches to every element on the table. Tuck silverware in to burlap pouches, and tie napkins with twine. You can tuck objects such as small stalks of wheat, wishbone charms, twigs, rosemary or other herbs, or whatever matches your theme, between the twine and napkin.

Thanksgiving tablescaping is a way of expanding the Thanksgiving holiday and creating an experience for your guests that shows them how grateful you are to feast with them.

Image Source: Adobe Stock

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