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Natural Awakenings Sarasota / Manatee / Charlotte

How to Create a Festive Thanksgiving Tablescape on a Budget

Oct 31, 2014 11:53PM ● By Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

A traditional Thanksgiving feast is about more than just cranberry sauce, green bean casserole and, yes, even pumpkin pie. Your dinner guests should sit down to a meal that is as much a treat for their eyes as it is for their appetites.

This visual appeal begins with the table setting. Assembling décor for your Turkey Day spread has become both an art form and mode of self-expression; however, it can also be expensive. From the linens and dishware to the centerpiece and finishing touches, purchasing all these items quickly adds up.

As a result, holiday gatherings often lack inspired, eye-catching decorations – with the exception of that thrift store cornucopia, plopped down by the buffet station, as an afterthought.

But, please don’t be that hostess-without-the-mostest!

Fortunately, it is entirely possible to create a budget-friendly, deceptively simple and, of course, festive tablescape. Follow these cost effective tips for a Home and Garden-approved holiday dinner, that’s worth giving thanks over.    

  1. Avoid overtly autumn-themed linens, as this will significantly limit the amount of use you’ll get out of them. Invest in a solid-colored tablecloth and napkin set that you can reuse year-round, and make sure the material is high quality in order to ensure maximum mileage without premature wear and tear. Classic eggshell white is ideal for understated yet timeless elegance, or you can also choose earth tones – such as rich brown, burnt orange or muted gold – for a more seasonal look.
  2. Instead of discarding the twigs strewn around your yard, construct a unique and organic DIY table runner from them. This craft project, courtesy of, is easy to make, durable enough to store for multiple uses, and adds natural character to your spread. Start with a handful of straight branches, neutral-colored ribbon, wire cutters, scissors, a ruler and a hot glue gun. Then, follow the tutorial below:
    • Measure and cut the branches into several 12-inch pieces. Then, measure your table’s length and cut two strips of ribbon, long enough to stretch across the table.
    • Lay the twigs vertically across the two ribbons, so that the top end of each twig is touching one ribbon strip, and the bottom end is touching the other strip.
    • Hot glue the twig ends, one at a time, to each ribbon strip and allow them to dry for approximately 5 minutes. Then, pick away the extra glue residue before placing it along the middle of your table.   
  3. Department stores, like Target, sell plates, utensils and glassware in various styles, colors, patterns and shapes for about $15. Purchase an eclectic assortment of these inexpensive pieces, then mix-and-match your place settings for an individualistic design. Contrast the colors against those in your linens; for example, if you’ve selected a brown tablecloth, offset this deep shade with complementary olive green dishes. Remember to keep this dishware on-hand for future entertaining, as well.
  4. Rather than splurging on a costly, impractical centerpiece that – chances are – you’ll only use once a year, fashion your own statement display. Candles are economical and add vibrant warmth to your décor, so select various sizes, colors and fall scents, then artfully arrange them around the table. As guests chat over the soft glow of these flickering lights, your gathering will feel punctuated by intimacy, hominess and familiarity.  
  5. Draw inspiration from nature by bringing the great outdoors to your inside get-together. Gather multi-colored leaves, acorns, sticks and pinecones from your backyard, then scatter them in a seemingly random fashion along the table runner. You could also stop by the grocery store and pick up seasonal produce to include in your centerpiece, such as pumpkins, gourds, butternut squash, apples and pears. These rustic embellishments will look appealing enough to eat. (If you use candles and foliage, place the candles inside votive glasses, which cost $5-$10 at home good stores). 
  6. Incorporate a touch of cutesy, personalized charm into your tablescape by making DIY turkey place cards for each guest. This craft project, courtesy of AlmostMakesPerfect. com, is the ideal way to get your kids involved with Thanksgiving dinner prep, as well. Start with a wine cork for each place setting, printer paper, index cards, markers, toothpicks, scissors, tape, a knife and a pen. Then, follow the tutorial below:
    • On the sheet of paper, draw a circle, then sketch tail feathers in an arch around the circle. Fill in the feathers with multi-colored markers, then cut them out, making sure to snip the space between each feather.
    • Using the knife, carve a groove into the wine cork top, then insert the feathers into this opening, one by one, until they are fanned out like a turkey’s tail.
    • Write a guest’s name on the blank side of an index card, then tape a toothpick to the back of it. Stick the toothpick securely into the wine cork top. 

Voila! You now have the necessary resources and tricks-of-the trade at your disposal to turn a mediocre annual meal into a fabulous Thanksgiving feast for all five senses, which your friends and family won’t soon forget. 

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