Food, family and friends are always the foundations of a memorable Thanksgiving gathering, and creating an unforgettable experience starts with designing a warm and inviting space to enjoy the meal.
“To sit down at a beautiful table setting makes the anticipation for the meal that much more exciting and special,” says Heather Sewell Day, owner of The Red Cake, a Baton Rouge-based event-planning company. “Guests feel that they were thought of and that their presence at your table was deliberate. And if you start the night with a fabulous-looking table, the food tastes even better. It's the little details that people remember and talk about at the next gathering.”
Here are a few tips from experts on how to create a table that makes a lasting impression for one of the most important meals of the year.
Personalize Your Place Settings
Julia Usher, a pastry chef, food writer and author, says she creates custom, crafty place cards with the names of her guests for special-occasion meals, often incorporating objects such as small glass perfume bottles into the setting. She suggests affixing small name cards to the bottles with some colorful string to create a keepsake of the event that guests can take home.
“It just makes them feel special, because it’s clear you’ve tuned in to them and you’re thinking of them,” she says. “Just the very act of writing their name and making that setting unique says you care. I think that’s really important.”
To take the settings to the next level, she suggests adding a function to the bottles by filling them with salad dressing.
If bottles aren’t practical for you, don’t worry. For a one-of-a-kind look, Usher suggests starting with vintage menus or postcards that you can scan and update on a computer to incorporate guest names and information about the special day.
Don’t Be Afraid of Heights
Day suggests thinking vertically when constructing your Thanksgiving table design. Easy ways to add an element of height to your table include flowers and candles, but even your food offers an opportunity to stretch your tablescape upward.
“It’s always nice to not put everything in chafing dishes,” she says. “Stack things on cake platters and use height on your table to give yourself a really interesting tablescape.”
The technique works best with cold foods, so Day suggests incorporating more of those options into your Thanksgiving meal.
Mix and Match
If you’re having a large gathering for Thanksgiving and are worried that you don’t have enough of the same place settings for all of your guests, Usher suggests using the circumstance to your advantage.
“If you find you don’t have a full set of china, to me that’s not a big deal,” Usher says. “It’s actually a nice opportunity to pull out what you have and see what works together. As long as you stick to a reasonably tepid color palette, you can get away with lots of different patterns and textures in the settings, even if you’re mixing and matching.”
Usher says she likes to layer her table with richness and a diversity of styles, adding layers of detail that together make a unique impression. To achieve this, she says, she relies on a combination of vintage salvage and handmade items to create one-of-a-kind place settings.
For example, she says, she might create a charger for the place-setting out of a vintage tin roof tile, or take cheap plastic chargers and decoupage them with paper or fabric that matches the overall theme of the gathering.
Embrace Bold Colors
Fall and Thanksgiving are known for earthy tones, but adding an unexpected color like blue or even purple to your table will update your look and give it an unexpected twist, says Chris Nease, editor and stylist with Celebrations At Home.
“For example, blue pairs well with golden yellow, burnt orange or beige/brown,” she says. “Purple adds dimension to a mix of gold, orange and green. Incorporate the color through card stock place cards, napkins, glassware or flowers, and transform your traditional setting into something unique.”
Don’t Forget About the Coffee
One tried-and-true way to impress your guests is to offer them a special coffee after the meal. Community® Private Reserve® coffees, a collection of specialty-grade blends and single-origin coffees representing generations of coffee expertise, are a perfect finish to a Thanksgiving meal.
Try the Private Reserve® Founders Blend, skillfully created by our fourth-generation owner Matt Saurage in honor of his great-grandfather and Community founder Cap Saurage. This coffee blends flavors from four distinct South American and African growing regions, creating a deliciously complex cup.
Another crowd-pleasing option is Private Reserve® Evangeline Blend™, with 100 percent specialty-grade Arabica coffee beans roasted to create a deep, semisweet flavor to honor the Acadian culture that is important to Community.
These premium coffees are an excellent complement to a Thanksgiving meal designed to create warm feelings and a lasting impression.