Thanksgiving may be a national holiday, but it’s especially dear to those of us who live in New England, given our proximity to the earliest Pilgrim settlements and our rich culinary traditions. To kick off this year’s holiday season, we welcomed a group of special guests from the New England Instagram community to a Friendsgiving Feast, held in partnership with Bell’s Seasoning and hosted by the Inn at Hastings Park in Lexington, Massachusetts.
In addition to Yankee senior food editor Amy Traverso, we were delighted to have Yankee contributing editor and stylist Krissy O’Shea on hand to make our Thanksgiving table look its best, with a little help from the great outdoors and the folks at PEAK Event Services. Here, we’ve asked Krissy to share some of her favorite Thanksgiving table style tips and entertaining advice alongside images from the Friendsgiving Feast that feature her work.
Thanksgiving Table Style Tips From Krissy O’Shea
1. Choose a Color Palette
When putting together a tablescape for any meal or holiday, I find it helpful to start by picking a color palette. Three colors is a great starting point and will help give depth and layers to the table. I choose complimentary colors in a light and middle color shade. Then I layer on a darker, grounding color to accentuate the others. I also love to add a bit of sparkle with metallic flatware or candle holders.
2. Keep the Menu Simple
I try to keep the menu simple, because it lets me enjoy the day with friends and family even more. It helps to prepare as many things in advance as possible. Having soup on the menu is always a great idea: Since it can be made a day or two ahead (it usually tastes better that way, too), all you need to do is reheat just before serving and add a few pretty garnishes.
3. Accent with Nature
I like to think a little outside the box when it comes to table decor. It doesn’t always have to be flowers taking center stage. With so many beautiful textures and colors in the autumn and winter palettes, there are infinite sources for inspiration. Humble materials right from the back yard or produce section of the market can come together as a remarkable centerpiece. Celebrate the season with fresh gourds, grapes, apples, pears, leaves, and nuts. Arm yourself with a good pair of scissors and walk around the yard. There are lots of pretty seed pods, nuts, and grasses this time of year that make great accents on the table. I especially love using eggs, such as quail eggs. Don’t be afraid to have fun!
4. Add Candlelight
Use lots and lots of candlelight, especially during the fall and winter, when the days are shorter. Natural candlelight adds layers to the table and an intimate warmth to the setting. Pillars, tapers, or tea lights (or a mixture of different shapes and types) are all great on the table, and each flame makes for a lovely little point of interest for the eye. I recommend keeping the color palette uniform and staying away from scented candles, as they can overpower the flavors of the meal.
5. Insert Personal Touches
Personalizing your table makes the meal more intimate and can make guests feel special. Add a little handwritten place card or menu, or supply guests with their own salt dish or small gravy boat. This is also a great opportunity to incorporate a family heirloom.
6. Consider Renting
Holiday tables often adhere to the old adage “the more the merrier,” but that can also mean loads of dishes and glassware. Using a party rental company can be a helpful option. Just rinse and pack used dishes, glasses, and linens, and schedule their pickup with the rental company for the following day. It can also be an exercise in creativity, because the endless options available with renting lets you think about using space in your home in a different way.
7. Don’t Forget the Napkins!
When it comes to linens for the table, it’s all about the napkins. Napkins are the things your guests interact with the most over the course of the meal, so don’t overlook them in your planning. Add a little elegance and luxury to your table with a beautiful natural-textile napkin.
Ready to host your own Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving? We encourage you to add your favorite Thanksgiving table style tips or advice in the comments below.
And happy Thanksgiving!
This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated.