Set things out ahead of time, keep things casual, and other Thanksgiving table setting tips

Hosting Thanksgiving this year? Get ahead of the holiday by setting the table a day or two early to allow time for important food preparations.

And maybe give yourself a break by putting the table decorations back a little.

“Ease and simplicity is one of the things I enjoy seeing” for entertaining, says Betsy Cribb Watson, senior home and features editor at Southern Living magazine.

Get rid of formalities

“People are increasingly using it The pieces they have and love“And finding fall ways to use them…that make them feel fun for the season,” she says. “This relieves the pressure immediately.”

She recommends pulling out grandma’s blue china or setting the table with hot pink and red dishes over a brown tablecloth. Or use your usual dishes but change up the paper napkins — anything with a pattern will hide stains and spills. Less expensive: Incorporate paper cocktail napkins into drink cups.

Erica Finamore, director of Real Simple magazine, also recommends cutting back on the formality and decorating the table with what’s on hand, even if that’s a pretty tablecloth from the linen closet.

“Setting a beautiful table has become a bit of a party trick,” she says. “Now we do it casually but we want it to feel special. …

“Take a walk around your house to see what you have to work with,” she suggests.

Comb through bookcases for small decorative items, such as brass objects, holiday gifts, and small food-safe baskets.

“They make it interesting and are a conversation starter,” Finamore says. “It’s nice to have a lot of actors at the table.”

Mix and match

Don’t have matching place settings? Get more crafty by mixing linens and dish patterns. Use glassware in different shapes and colors (70s-colored glassware is very popular right now, according to Finamore).

“It still makes guests feel special,” she says.

A rule for incorporating many colors and patterns: Stick to three or four colors, plus neutrals, varying the pattern size of each element. For example, if the tablecloth has a subtle print, the napkins should have a larger, chunkier print, with plates served in a different-sized pattern (or off-white — food looks better on white plates, Finamore says).

Encourage conversation

As for the centerpiece, both editors advise against placing a large bouquet — it’ll be hard to see around it. Alternatively, place a few small pots of healthy herbs or bud vases with a stem or two in the middle of the table. Or use squash and baby squash individually or in a shallow bread basket. Mix a few candlesticks or votives on the table.

“It’s zero effort, and the whole point of Thanksgiving is to get it Good conversation“You don’t want to get in the way of that,” says Cribb-Watson.

She suggests displaying a colorful “mini-garden” to enhance color and interest. Use purple cabbage – the ornamental type – with small bunches of cabbage, herbs, and even radishes for a red color. Add baby eggplants, baby squash, and various succulents, such as purple sedum and hardy hens and chicks.

More decor ideas

— The golden touch: elegant and reflects the colors of autumn. “Gold makes the table look less rustic,” says Cribb-Watson.

– Take inspiration from the outdoors: If you live on the coast, incorporate river blues and greens. If you live near the mountains, work in greens, warm browns and woody colors.

-Align inexpensive tiles in the center of the table to serve as a runner where hot dishes are placed, or use them as coasters, Finamore says.

Place folded napkins and silverware on top of the dinner plate. “It makes it seem a little more formal,” Finamore says.

– Use place cards, advises Cribb Watson. “It’s another way to make everyone who comes to the table feel special, and know they have a place to belong.”

Finamore’s No. 1 stress-reducing tip: Take care of all that decorating a day — or days — in advance. Besides, you will learn what you might be missing.

“Do everything you can ahead of time to make the vacation more relaxing,” she says.

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