A Young Wife's Guide to Thanksgiving: Tablescapes and Other House Prep

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Let's take a quick break from the kitchen and talk about the other ways that you'll prepare your home for Thanksgiving guests. Something I've noticed is that a ton of the feedback I've gotten from this series includes comments about how homes are too small to host, or the person is single and could never host, etc. Those thoughts can seem like such real reasons.. and maybe they're a great reason to keep you from hosting a large family gathering, but hosting in any space is going to be wonderful and sweet. It doesn't have to look like photos in magazines. Throw up a card table in the living room, cover it with a cheap tablecloth, and scatter greens from the garden in the center with a few candles on top. Gorgeous, and can take place anywhere. All of that being said, I'd feel like a failure if what you got from reading my posts is that you could never host.. because anyone can pull off a memorable friendsgiving. :)

I think what's important to keep in mind about tablescapes is to meet yourself where you're at. If you're in a season where putting a ton of effort into your tablescape (me the past two years) is something you'd love to do.. then go for it! But this year, to minimize prep (with baby coming we have a lot of other projects brewing!) I'm strongly considering leaving my cloth linens in the cabinet with the china (hurts my heart to think of no china!) and going more casual. Especially as our gathering has grown, I'm having to borrow lots of china (which is fine and fun!) but this year.. I'm loving the idea of tossing all the plates in the trash and calling it good. :) We'll see! Another different thing for us this year is that our Christmas decorations will already be up. We're decorating early for a fun Christmas shoot that I'm so excited to share more details about soon.

Y'all... I'm never lacking words. Haha. Anyways. Onto tablescapes.

This photo inspired my first Thanksgiving tablescape, pictured below. I love magnolia leaves, and the simplicity of this look really appealed to me. My father in law picked me a bunch of magnolia branches off a tree at church, and I bought white pillar candles from WalMart. (People of Wal Mart is a real thing!)

I remember being SO, SO proud of this table and all the work that went into it. If you look carefully I actually printed up little menus for each place setting. This scape taught me something important, too. Gathering free greenery and placing it down the center of your table will almost always look chic, especially with a lot of the trends in design right now. I'd highly recommend this look or something similar. 

Another great idea, whether you're using paper and plastic or not, is to preassemble bundles for your guests, with their napkin and silverware. Tying twine or ribbon (crushed velvet ribbon would be gorgeous if you're feeling fancy!) around the bundle looks thoughtful and sweet... as well as being extremely practical. Your guests know where all of their things are, whether they're grabbing a bundle at the end of a buffet line or if the bundle is placed on their plate at the table. 


This image shows a combination of several inexpensive, cute ideas. Brown butcher paper is covering the table, with names written at each setting. So cute, so cheap, and keeps your table clean, or covers a table that isn't your ideal look. You can also see that greenery spans the middle of the table, with just a few roses placed down the middle. I know one of our local grocery stores has $1 rose tuesday.. it would be great to just grab a few to place down the table like in the image above. 

Hope that has your creative juices flowing! :) My best advice is to search pinterest for tablescapes and find something you find inspirational. I have a board of tablescapes that can be found here.

Some other home prep tips: 
  • I've found that the sweet spot time to deep clean the house is 2 days before an event, and then to just stay extra tidy leading up to it. 
  • Also notable is that as long as your home is clean enough to only be looking lived in (I'm not talking like trash on surfaces, layers of visible dust everywhere) your guests will not notice a thing and feel at home
  • I never light a candle in the kitchen unless it's unscented.. let the food smells shine! One in the living room is cozy and great though, I'll often light once the crew settles in on the couches for some dessert. 
  • Don't become overwhelmed thinking that you need tons of supplies to host. Serving off of disposables is more than honorable. 
  • Another great option is borrowing from friends and relatives who may have more serve ware than you do
Hope this helps! I think tablescapes are one of the most fun things about the holidays.. making a normal place feel a little extra special! :) 


  1. I have so many comments on this, excuse me for being long-winded, it's one of my best traits ;)

    I was really looking forward to this post when you listed on Monday which day it would be! We are having friendsgiving this Saturday and I have been feeling extra overwhelmed with the tablescape, I just couldn't put my finger on exactly what I had in mind or what my vision was.

    We don't have a formal dining room and our dining space off of our kitchen is relatively small. It's also pub height, therefore making our chairs taller. SO, we have a six foot folding table that I thought we could put in our living room to transform into the "dining room" for the evening. That being said, I knew our chairs wouldn't work, so I called my mom and asked if I could come get all of her dining room chairs :) haha! You're so right when you say don't hesitate to borrow from family or friends.

    I realized that I certainly could get chairs from mom and dad's house, BUT that was going to be a lot of leg work. So I had the brilliant idea of purchasing bed risers to put under the legs of our table, and wouldn't you know, it works perfectly and our dining room chairs fit right under. Now, are the bed risers under the legs the prettiest thing you've ever seen, no way. But, I figure a beautifully set table and friends that really don't care anyway, won't mind a bit :)

    As for our dishes, we have a great set from our wedding, but it's only four place settings and we'll have six guests. So again, I call mom and ask for her china haha! Knowing that would also be a lot of leg work to dig it out from her cabinets, I went to our local Dollar Tree where I purchased these beautiful white plates with delicate detailing and gold chargers last year, and bought 4 more to finish our table for this year. I was really happy when I saw that they had the same ones out again this year. You would NEVER know they are from Dollar Tree, I spent minimal money and now we have a set of 6 for dinner parties to come. Don't tell, but that's also where I got our drinking glasses! Seriously, if you're on a budget, Dollar Tree really does have awesome options for glasses and plates! I got our table cloth and burlap runner at Wal Mart, and the turkey pan and baster.

    As for the tablescape, once I set up the table to make sure the table cloth was long enough, the runner worked, etc. I started to poke around the house to see if I could gather up any inspiration for the tablescape and I had hydrangeas on our coffee table in beautiful reds, oranges and browns, so I took them out of their round vase and put them in a short, long rectangular one. Then I have two glass pumpkins on the coffee table, I put those on each side of the flower arrangement and put two candles on each side and bam! I had my tablescape, loved the way it looked and didn't have to buy a thing! I'm pretty sure my husband was happy dancing :)

    Anyway, all of that to say, I really like that you touched on that everything doesn't have to be perfect to open your home to friends and family. As much I do try to make it perfect, I think putting a personal spin on everything will definitely show to your guests and they will likely love it as much as you do! Also, I totally with you on the deep clean two days before, then keep it tidy leading up to dinner. Helps so much to keep the stress of things to do at bay as you're trying to prepare everything else. Thank you so much for sharing this series!

    One question and then I'll quit rambling on :) At the table, if you're husband is at the head, do you sit next to him, or at the opposite end (other head) of the table?

  2. How did you make your greenery on the table with the magnolia leaves? Did you use twine of just lay them on the table? it is beautiful!


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