<img src="https://d5nxst8fruw4z.cloudfront.net/atrk.gif?account=5C8hi1agq800qI" style="display:none" height="1" width="1" alt="">

    Simple and Inexpensive Thanksgiving Tablescaping Ideas

    So, you’ve decided to host Thanksgiving this year. Have you given any thought to your holiday tabletop décor? If you haven’t, it's time to learn about the art of tablescaping. Yes, tablescaping is a thing and is a very competitive hobby if you’re into festive dinner tables.  

    Tradition holds that the L.A. County Fair started the table decorating competitions in the 1930s. You’re probably not looking to enter your dinner table into any competition, but I bet the holiday spirit has you thinking about how to present your version of a perfect Thanksgiving table.

    There are plenty of options for Thanksgiving tablescaping, but choosing one of these five themes helps to narrow the choices. They are all easy DIY and inexpensive. Plus, we’ve added a little “how-to” help to incorporate popular tablescaping techniques.

    Simple and Inexpensive Thanksgiving Tablescaping Ideas

    1) Natural Elements

    leaves on butcher paper for Thanksgiving tablescapePhoto by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

    If you’re lucky enough to live in a region with pleasant weather, go big time and reposition your dining table al fresco, adding natural and festive tablescape elements from the list below. Your guests will be oh-so impressed. Don’t forget your landscaping also becomes a part of the ambiance, so boost the charm with outdoor lighting and comfortable seating. Later, light up a fire pit for a post-dinner cocktail or hot chocolate. 

    However, if you prefer the comforts of regulated heating and air conditioning inside, these are the easiest centerpieces to create. Use what you have on hand, because anything stemming from nature works, from vegetables to earth tone flowers. Creatively arrange the items and wow your guests. 

    • Fruits and vegetables like apples and artichokes work as candle holders after they’ve been cored.
    • Backyard finds are free and fast table embellishments. Fill glass jars or vases with colorful leaves, acorns, pine cones, or dried hydrangea blooms. The options are only limited to your fence line.
    • Gather a bunch of long twigs or corn husks and tie them in the middle with a velvet ribbon. Display in a vase or water pitcher as a standing centerpiece.
    • Small, sliced rounds of tree trunk wood transform into plate chargers, uplifting dinnerware to new heights.
    • Use a roll of brown craft paper as a table runner or cloth. Encourage guests to jot down what they’re thankful for. 

    Military Families Know Friendsgiving is The Best Part of Thanksgiving!

    2) Thrift Store Finds

    outdoor seating for Thanksgiving

    Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

    Shop early and peruse a rotation of stores often. Expert thrifters know the good stuff goes fast during the holiday season.

    • Spray paint is magic in a bottle for holiday decorating. It works on almost any finish and makes old stuff look trendy.
    • Any ceramic or plastic piece of turkey décor gets instantly upgraded with a coat of silver or white paint. A monochromatic collection of items sends a sophisticated vibe.
    • Shallow-painted bowls are perfect for flower arrangements. 
    • Metal or enameled roasting pans can either be filled with decorative items or turned upside down to create a base for height differential.
    • Buy all the wooden accessories you can find: bowls, candlesticks, platters, and cutting boards. Replicate a rustic, homey-like-the-Pilgrims feel for your table.

    Is it your first time hosting Thanksgiving? Here are 5 Do's and Don'ts for Hosting Holiday Parties

    3) Embrace the Kitsch

    Thanksgiving vintage cards

    Image by No-longer-here from Pixabay

    If you have the type of family and friends who can take a joke, a tacky Turkey Day table theme (think dogs playing poker) will keep them laughing!

    • Speaking of plastic—plastic turkeys and turkey-shaped salt and paper shakers are musts for a kitschy Thanksgiving table.
    • Leave the jellied cranberry log intact to highlight all its wiggly glory.
    • Hack into a 5-pound butter-shaped turkey for dinner rolls.
    • Artfully arrange food on platters to create turkeys out of cut-up vegetables or meat and cheese slices for appetizers,
    • Add some dignity to the table and show gratitude for Thanksgiving fowl. Frame a photo of the latest turkey to be pardoned by the president.

    4) Go Mad For Plaid Go mad for plaid this holiday season.

    Photo by Libby Penner on Unsplash

    This holiday season, plaid and all its variations of size and color are a big trend. Don’t worry; you can use it again next year because holiday plaid is always in style. 

    • If you like a neutral table but want a touch of color, add black and white Buffalo Check linens and ribbons for extra appeal.
    • Use a plaid blanket in fall colors to double as a tablecloth. 
    • A plaid scarf works perfectly as a table topper set on an angle or as a table runner, depending on the size and shape. 
    • If doing dishes after the Thanksgiving meal isn't your idea of a good time, choose a plaid color palette you love and search for quality paper products of matching yet different colors and patterns. Variations in size, color, and patterns add texture and visual interest.  

    5) Traditional Holiday Table

    china and table setting for Thanksgiving

    Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

    Traditions hold true for many reasons. Thank you, Norman Rockwell. If Thanksgiving doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving without a classic table setting, dig deep and pull out the good china.

    • Use heirlooms, either yours or borrowed from family. They’ll be delighted to share in a family tradition. If you’re too nervous to use the good stuff, display a few pieces on the sideboards or in the middle of the table.
    • Shop around; many home stores sell inexpensive knock-offs of classic turkey outdoor scenes on china.
    • Scour shops for vintage postcards or make color copies to use as place cards.  
    • Place a little turkey-shaped chocolate in the middle of each guest’s plate for a pre-dinner treat.
    • At home, dinner by candlelight is rare. Light tall candlesticks with long, slender tapers for a classic ambiance.

    Time for a Laugh! Ho-Ho-Ho! Holiday Mishaps We Can All Laugh About.

    Tablescaping 101

    Thanksgiving napkin and place setting

    Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

    To make these themes come together, use basic tablescaping techniques to pull off the best arrangement for your Thanksgiving table décor.

    • For easy conversation and an attractive table, vary the display heights by incorporating elevated items such as hidden cake plates (cover with table linens), candlesticks, or upside-down bowls or boxes.
    • Layers of fabrics, such as placemats over tablecloths with linen napkins on top add texture and interest.
    • Special touches like a pre-dinner icebreaker create feelings of warmth and hominess for your guests. 
    • Handwritten name cards with a special treat attached are always cherished. 
    • For a detailed twist on the seating arrangement, print pictures from the guest’s youth to serve as name cards. 
    • Depending on the style of dinner service, your guests should have the necessary utensils laid in the correct position. Even buffets and casual dinners need an intuitive place for silverware.

    Unless you’re a tablescaping purist, your Thanksgiving table will likely feature a few design elements, which is really the best option of all. It’s easy to combine natural and traditional elements, and even easier to mix thrift store finds with kitschy pieces. A customized setting turns the table into a personal gift of gratitude to your guests.

    Oh, holiday season! You are upon us again. Don’t get behind this year; use the MilitaryByOwner blog for creative inspiration. You’ll find holiday decorating and gift-giving suggestions for the hosts who are busy addressing the party invites as we speak! 

    Stay updated with more posts like this with our newsletter below. 

    Join Our Email List

    Dawn M. Smith


    Dawn M. Smith

    Dawn is a real estate and military life writer who has a serious HGTV habit. When she is not writing, her teen daughter, Army husband, and golden retriever keep her busy through chauffeur duties, travel planning, and long dog walks. Dawn is pleased to share her experiences with MilitaryByOwner readers who are hoping to simplify military family journeys of all kinds. Follow Dawn on Pinterest for more ideas and resources and visit her site at Dawn M. Smith Custom Content Creation.

    Popular Posts