a guide to the Thanksgiving table

a guide to the thanksgiving table

There are so many moving parts to the Thanksgiving table, from the menu to the guest list, to the table setting and more. Hopefully this guide can help demystify the process if you will be hosting Thanksgiving for your loved ones. We have hosted many Thanksgiving gatherings from 20 plus people to simply 6. Either way the steps you take are pretty much the same. I love a big, bustly mixer as well as a small, intimate gathering.

thanksgiving welcome

Today I am joined by some blogging friends to share all things Thanksgiving. Thank you to our host Carol from Bluesky at Home for bringing us together around a virtual table. If you’re coming here from visiting Wendy @ WM Design House, welcome. You can find all the other bloggers at the bottom of this post to get more Thanksgiving goodness.

*Affiliate links included for your convenience.

prep & organization for Thanksgiving

The trick to an enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday as a host, is to prepare and organize yourself ahead of time. Entertaining family and friends can be stressful if you are not prepared and organized.

a guide to the thanksgiving table

Let me show you how to ease the stress and enjoy yourself thoroughly as you open your doors wide, welcoming guests into your home. If the host is relaxed and comfortable, it puts the guests at ease and provides a festive environment.

Thanksgiving welcome

There are many tasks you can start now to get ahead of the game. It’s important to prep your home and the kitchen in particular. Here are some of the tasks I start early.

  • Organize and clean out pantry, refrigerator and bar
  • Sharpen kitchen knives and scissors
  • Declutter areas where you will be gathering in your home
  • Make sure all kitchen appliances and tools are functioning properly
  • Stock up on candles for ambience (votives, tapers, pillars, scented, seasonal, etc.)
  • Create playlists to have ready to play in the background
a guide to the thanksgiving table

Be mindful of folks who might have a special need. Account for baby strollers or high chairs, also walkers and wheel chairs. This might not apply to everyone, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind. At the moment I don’t have to worry about any of these, but in the past we have accommodated all of these at one time or another and we probably will again some day.

Prepping for the Thanksgiving menu

Like I said before the meal is the main event for Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday. And although some folks roast their turkeys, while others grill them and let’s not forget about the deep fryer method, the steps to prepare for the meal remain the same. Regardless of what sides you choose or what desserts you prepare, the key is to stay ahead of the game.

thanksgiving menu

Start early, make lists and avoid the hectic days at store level leading up to Thanksgiving Thursday. The grocery stores become crowded and crazy the weeks leading to Thanksgiving. Buy as much as you can weeks and even a month ahead to avoid getting caught in the chaos. Non perishables and beverages are great candidates for this.

a guide to the thanksgiving table
thanksgiving prep
  • Plan menu, including appetizers, desserts and left-overs
  • Assemble and review all recipes
  • Make lists of ingredients
  • Shop early for non-perishables, beverages, etc.
  • Prep Thanksgiving specific tools like basters, twine, roasting pan, thermometer, etc.
a guide to the thanksgiving table

I was lucky my MIL gifted me with some essentials as a newlywed when we hosted our first Thanksgiving. We use these same items to this day over two decades later. I also keep an entertaining | holiday journal, which keeps me organized from year to year.

a guide to the thanksgiving table

Thanksgiving table stylings

Just like everything else, start prepping your table top items early. Some of you uber organized folks might do some of these tasks on a regular basis, but some of us need reminding.

sterling silver
  • Make sure table linens are clean and pressed
  • Polish Silver
  • Access oversized serving pieces
  • Prep dishes, glassware, plate chargers, etc.
  • Purchase or borrow any pieces you don’t have
  • Plan table styling
a guide to the thanksgiving table

I enjoy setting a pretty table and on big holidays like this I set it a couple of days in advance so I am not stressed on time and can enjoy the process.

a guide to the thanksgiving table
grateful tidings at a Thanksgiving table

Although I do not necessarily set a “theme”, I do use an inspirational thought to guide my table design, which can be anything from rustic vibes to metallic tones to feathery details.

a guide to the thanksgiving table
rustic Thanksgiving tablescape

Also traditions are super important for family and legacy so I do have some things that are pretty much standard year after year. The Johnson Brothers Barnyard King Turkey plates are a must at our Thanksgiving table. This set of dishes was my parents, which I believe they received as a wedding gift. Unfortunately my parents are no longer with us, so this is a way for me to have them at the table with us.

a guide to the thanksgiving table
thanksgiving tablescape

Also we started the tradition to write our grateful thoughts at the table when the Masterpiece kiddos were younger and then share with everyone. These thoughts are sometimes funny, sometimes sentimental but always great conversation starters.

Thanksgiving grateful thoughts

DIY projects for the Thanksgiving table

I love creating a personalized place card for everyone at the Thanksgiving table. The main reason explained above but I also enjoy that element of an unexpected, thoughtful detail for each guest.

thanksgiving place cards
3 creative Thanksgiving place cards

As a host, it’s an enjoyable task, and I hope my guests are made to feel special. These silhouette tags on pine cones are one of my absolute favorites.

a guide to the thanksgiving table

None of these are expensive to make, using large shipping tags or plain card stock to create. These wood pumpkins from the Dollar Tree with a bit of chalkboard paint are also super easy to make and use all season.

a guide to the thanksgiving table
chalkboard pumpkin tabletop DIY

I find all the printables throughout bogland. One of my favorite resources for projects like these is The Graphics Fairy. I actually have a post about Halloween free printables for DIY craft projects coming your way soon.

If you don’t want to miss out on any of the upcoming projects you can subscribe to receive all my new posts to your in-box.

wrapping up the Thanksgiving table

Don’t forget the aftermath of the Thanksgiving table and meal. Since we use all the fancy ware at our Thanksgiving table I like to get dishpans for items that cannot be placed in the dishwasher. This gives all the helpers a dedicated task rather than the host having to stop to help the helpers help.

Also there’s the subject of left overs. There’s always a ton of left overs from the Thanksgiving table so I have dedicated containers at the ready for guests to fill up and. take on the road.

Both the dish pans and the containers can be found at the Dollar Tree so it is not a big expense and it continues too keep everything tidy and organized until the end.

final thoughts on a guide to the thanksgiving table

I hope you found some tidbits of inspiration in this guide to the Thanksgiving table. Whether it’s a small detail or a huge help I hope it brings you joy when you open your home to your loved ones on Thanksgiving.

thanksgiving blessings
Thanksgiving tablescape with mixed metals

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, you will probably like this post as well {how to get ready for entertaining season and some tablescape ideas}.

a guide to the thanksgiving table
mercury glass Friendsgiving tablescape

Next on the blog hop is Kim from Perfecting Places, please stop by since she has a craft you don’t want to miss. Listed at the end are all the blogger participants full of Thanksgiving inspiration. Make sure to visit them all since there is a variety of Thanksgiving thoughts.

thanksgiving center piece
rustic Thanksgiving tablescape

get the thanksgiving table look

“I love Thanksgiving because it’s a holiday that is centered around food and family, two things that are of utmost importance to me.”

Marcus Samuelsson

sharing @ between naps on the porch

the thanksgiving – celebrate the holiday blog hop

simple Thanksgiving place setting with cream-colored pumpkin, wood slice, and herbs on brown placemat
Thanksgiving tablescape in rich fall colors
Thanksgiving tablescape with oranges and whites

Peacock Ridge Farm – Thanksgiving Tablescape for a Feast

Midwest Life and Style – Thanksgiving Table on a Budget

Thanksgiving table for kids with pumpkins and crayons

Hen and Horse Design – Thanksgiving Holiday Hash

Thanksgiving cornucopia with pumpkins
Thanksgiving table with creams and candlebra

WM Design House – Thanksgiving Cornucopia

Masterpieces of My Life – Guide to the Thanksgiving Table


  1. sonatahomedesign says:

    I love all of you planning ideas! This saves so much time and stress! And your Thanksgiving table looks beautiful!

    1. Thanks so much Missy! I’m glad you liked the post. Thanks for the visit! XO- MJ

  2. rbgranholm says:

    All super great ideas, MJ!! So organized and everything looks beautiful!!

    1. Thanks so much Rachel! I love Thanksgiving! Are you hosting this year? XO- MJ

  3. Kim says:

    MaryJo, what a beautiful and thoughtful Thanksgiving table! Thank you for sharing so many ideas to make the holiday special!

    1. Thanks so much Kim. I appreciate the visit & your sweet comment. XO- MJ

  4. So many great tips, Mary Jo. Some I’ve never thought of before. I look foward to using your post as a reference when we host my family this year for Thanksgiving@

  5. Mary Jo, this is an awesome post full of so many great suggestions. I am hosting this year, so I really appreciate all of the tips.

    1. I’m so glad you found this helpful Wendy. Good luck hosting. I love it actually. XO- MJ

  6. laura@everydayedits.co says:

    Hi MaryJo
    Great tips! Love your dinnerware!
    Pinning! laura

    1. Thanks so much Laura! XO- MJ

  7. Such a lovely post. You’ve covered all the aspects and ideas for a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner so beautifully!

  8. Mary Jo, great tips for hosting a Thanksgiving feast. Very detailed and helpful. Thank you for joining Celebrate the Holiday and sharing all your tips.

    1. Thanks so much Carol. I am happy to share and appreciate you bringing us together. XO- MJ

I love hearing from you!