Set The Right Mood With Proper Thanksgiving Table Setting

by mihgasper

Are you expecting guests for Thanksgiving dinner and would like to know how to set the table? Here are few hints and tips.

Thanksgiving dinner is much more than a mere date on a calendar. It is an opportunity to spend some precious time with your family and friends, to honor a respectful tradition, have an extra good meal (or several meals, it's a four day holiday after all) and think about things that really matter in one's life.

Of course it is also a chance to impress your guests, if you have enough inspiration. Thanks to the facts everything related to this prolonged weekend is focused on the feast, you have few pretty good starting points way before your first guest arrives.

Here is a list of reminders...

(all images in this article are in public domain or used by permission - see the end of the page)

How many guests do you expect for Thanksgiving dinner?

This obvious question is the most important of all. Average number of guests obviously vary from case to case, but if we use number ten for the sake of the article (ten actually is for some reason the most popular among official statistics), we are already bumping against very physical limitation: the table. Will we use one big table (most of us don't have it) or several tables? If we use several tables, will they be put together, or will we separate our guests into two or more groups? On what premises will we split our guests?

There are several traditions to be considered. One is definitely a separate table for children. This is of course applicable only if we have enough children among guests. How will we organize their table is entirely dependent on their number, age and maturity. In some cases kids will love a very special place, but in some they would rather be at the table with grown ups, sharing good time with them. It is up to you and their parents to assess the situation.

In all cases a nice themed table place card will not only help your guests to find their places, but will set the initial mood and improve the holiday spirit as well. Don't forget to assign a person who will be in charge for every table you are going to use.

How many people will come to your Thanksgiving party?
Decor is also important part of Thanksgiving dinners
Decor is also important part of Thank...

If you, for instance, use two tables, the most obvious solution would be to have a host at the head of one and the hostess at the head of the other table. If you opt for more tables, for additional ones you should put in charge people who are familiar with your place, because their main job will probably be to bring glasses, drink dishes, napkins and so on. With so many guest their will always be situations where some kind of intervention are expected, so think about people who are versatile and flexible.

Mothers or mothers-in-law can be best solution in most cases, but only you can estimate if there will be any obstacles to conquer. Think about heavy pans, bottles in the basement and similar stuff, before you make a final decision about the delegation.

With a table for kids this is even more true. The person in the role of their host should have the ability to entertain children who will very likely expect more than just a quality meal from Thanksgiving. By the way, don't forget to prepare enough chairs. In some cases, when your guest list is a bit longer, you will probably have to borrow few extra chairs, so be prepared and act in time. Think, for instance, about high chairs, if babies will be present.

This book can come handy in very different situations, but its main advantage is the universality - it is useful for entertaining kids of all ages.

Don't miss a chance to read the summary, because you may need an advantage if you will have to deal with smart youngsters. Well, aren't they all smart?

The basics of Thanksgiving dinner etiquette

  • Arrive on time. This means you should leave early enough, no accuses allowed.
  • Dress appropriately. This means nothing too casual, but not too fancy either. A nice dress and shoes will do the job. If in doubt, choose the more conservative version of the two.
  • Behave. This means moderate eating and drinking (!), not talking with full mouth, not starting quarrels ... But you already know all these rules, huh?
There is no Thanksgiving witout pumpkins
There is no Thanksgiving witout pumpkins

Let's go back to the table setting

If you lack experience at organizing so demanding events like Thanksgiving feast definitely is, maybe you can choose a theme which can help you to get in the good spirit.

You can go for something funny or cute or sentimental or religious or even educational... And don't forget all the possible combinations. Everything really depends on your character, your guest list and the effect you are trying to achieve.

Here are some of the most popular ideas for Thanksgiving dinner themes:
  • Pilgrims and Mayflower
  • Everything Turkey
  • Fall in Lively Colors
  • Harvest Time
  • All the Things We Are Thankful for
  • 99 Shades of Fall Leaves
  • Best Meals Around The World
  • Football Time!

... and so on!

When you have a theme, other elements will naturally follow. You can set the tone of your party with decorations, food, music, games and other activities, with enough time for preparation, you will be surprised how much can an inspired mind suggest.

How Professionals Prepare Thanksgiving Table?

Where should your guests sit at Thanksgiving dinner?

According to the tradition the host and the hostess sit at each end of the table. Couples are split and mixed to ignite generic conversation which will hopefully stay alive throughout the whole meal. And we all experienced how long can a Thanksgiving meal be, didn't we?

If we already know how shy are some of our guests and how talkative are others, we can break this tradition and sit the guests in other convenient arrangements. Although a Thanksgiving is a very traditional event, its essence is socializing, so you probably don't want to break the group into few smaller and closed ones.

On the other hand you should put apart people who might get into too heated debates or even fights. Be always ready to interfere if something like this is on the horizon and be prepared to intervene in nice yet efficient ways.

You can add a litle bit of extra with themed place cards
Thanksgiving place cards

Write a plan!

Best advice about Thanksgiving dinners is to write down a plan. When you have all the facts on paper you'll easily act one step at the time.

Even if you have some experience a s a host or hostess you would be surprised how much can a simple list of task help you.

Check your inventory!

Thanksgiving is an opportunity to show your best china, silver and crystal, but it is always good to check the whole inventory few days before you will need it. Some pieces could be lost or dirty or will need some kind of repairment and you certainly don't want to hassle with tiny yet unpleasant details when the big bird will be almost ready and guests will start calling to let you know about the traffic jams.

One more thing - don't throw away your list with a plan. You should re-check it after the Thanksgiving dinner is over, note some ideas for improvements and maybe add few names of your guest on the blacklist ...

Final thought...

Every dinner tastes better if it is served outside and in some cases can be life true savers. With all the work for preparation of the meal and entertaining guests, the cleaning part doesn't look particularly attractive.

So why not use disposable paper plates which can serve as a decoration throughout the event and a practical solution to the cleaning problem at the end?

Further resource and image credits

For in-depth info about Thanksgiving tradition, visit:

All presented images come from public domain sources (Pixabay) or are used by permission of the artist (

If you need more detailed information, please contact me through comment section.

Updated: 02/21/2017, mihgasper
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What is your experience with Thanksgiving table settings?

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DerdriuMarriner on 08/31/2023

Thank you! That's quite a subtly nice way of letting someone know that they can leave by offering coffee.

mihgasper on 08/31/2023

It's simple. If you want to leave, just do it. If a host want you to leave, he/she can ask you to leave in very nice way by offering you a coffee.

DerdriuMarriner on 06/20/2023

This coffee clue really interests me, partly because it isn't in my experience (so I guess I've never overstayed my welcome, right?;-D)

Let's suppose that the host or the hostess begins asking about coffee.

Might I -- as a hypothetical guest in this hypothetical situation -- wait to be asked, to which I say no and bid my good nights and thank yous or yes and bid them also?

Or would I look cooperative, prescient, proactive and thoughtful by taking leave before I get asked?

mihgasper on 06/17/2023

Nope, you got me wrong. When the host asks you if you are in the mood for coffee, gives you several options: a) you say yes, have a coffee, and go; b) you say no, thanks, and go; c) you don't get a clue and overstay one's welcome.

DerdriuMarriner on 06/17/2023

So it's most comfortable and convenient to leave before the coffee is being served. That's an easily observable clue.

But would it be better to leave once one suspects that the host is preparing the coffee -- because of coffee smells and kitchen sounds and movement back and forth with cups and saucers -- or when the host is at the coffee pot and pouring the first cup for the first coffee drinker?

How awful would it be to stay long enough to drink the coffee -- if it smells particularly inviting -- and then leave?

mihgasper on 06/17/2023

Good question, DerdruMarriner. My best guess is to see if the host is already offering coffee. This is a clear sign your welcome is over!

DerdriuMarriner on 12/21/2022

Thanksgiving etiquette indicates arriving on time.

What would the Thanksgiving etiquette be for departure times?

mihgasper on 10/13/2015

@WriterArtist: Fall colors are so popular for a very good reason. They are not only appropriate with the season, they stimulate appetite too! Maple leafs have one more association - they are symbol of Canada and Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October. I believe the main reason is the weather, which is much colder than in USA.

WriterArtist on 10/13/2015

I love the themes that you have listed for Thanksgiving. My favourite ones are related to Fall colors. Fall provides the most festive colors of all seasons. I love the decoration with maple leaves.

mihgasper on 10/12/2015

Glad you liked it, candy47!

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