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You’re hosting a special event, and you want it to be special .. just not especially difficult. These experts have tips for easy Thanksgiving hosting ideas.
Hosting a formal dinner might not be a common occurrence for you — or maybe it is, but you want to make it easier this time around. We gathered tips on how to host Thanksgiving from entertaining experts so by the end of the day you can actually be grateful you agreed to host Thanksgiving.
Make Decorations Work For Multiple Events
Anna Bond from Rifle Paper Co. skipped traditional holiday decorations and made her tablescape theme florals instead. We love the use of floral fabric as an effortless table runner and festive party popper favors.
Anna topped off her table by using a mix of artificial and real flowers to make a gorgeous centerpiece. Did you even notice the flowers tucked into the fresh holiday greenery are actually tissue paper? You can make your own tissue paper flowers to use in the centerpiece, to decorate a wreath, even on your dessert! It’s creative and is easy to create ahead of time.
Formal Doesn’t Have to Mean Difficult
How often do you really have the opportunity to host a formal dinner? Bring out the good china and brush up on table-setting traditions. You’re allowed to break some rules, so make it only as fancy or fancy-free as you like. Good food always tastes better with quality presentation.
If It Breaks, It’s OK
Don’t stress over what to do with broken china. Use replacements.com to replace broken dishes. They stock nearly half a million patterns, so you can find a replacement, something similar, or start a collection of mismatched plates. If you like the idea of mismatched dishes, Rosanna Bowles, president and art director of Rosanna Inc., recommends borrowing a mix of dishes from family and friends to set your table. “I do this all the time,” Rosanna says. Matching napkins on the plates can tie the setting together.
Skip Extra Dishes
Tara Guérard, a Charleston, South Carolina-based party planner, says bread plates are totally unnecessary — and we agree. Try to make dishes work for multiple courses, or plan on removing dishes as you eat. Instead of placing dessert silverware on the table at the start of dinner, wait to bring them out with dessert.
Skip the Tablecloth
Aimee Olexy, owner of Talula’s Table in Kennett Square, says if a tablecloth is too prim for you (or if you’re worried about stains, because come on, we’re all worried about stains) use colorful place mats instead for a more free-spirited table setting. Place mats also allow you to incorporate multiple colors and textures into your tablescape, which makes you look like you put in way more effort than you did. You can even amaze your guests by making your own.
Keep It Simple with Centerpieces
No need to blow your budget on an elaborate centerpiece. “Use bud vases and lots of candles for a fabulous centerpiece that feels a bit more like a landscape,” New York-based event planner Matthew Robbins says. Throw in pine boughs, a garland of greenery, or string lights as easy Thanksgiving centerpiece alternatives.
Common no-nos include scented candles, highly fragrant flowers, and anything that obstructs guests from making eye contact across the table. Georgia-based event designer Kelly Revels recommends hosts sit with their elbows on the table and hands in the air. “The centerpiece should not go above your wrist — 9 to 10″ tall is a good rule of thumb,” Revels says.
Tara Guérard adds to only light candles just before guests sit down, and only after 6 p.m. “You shouldn’t really light candles during daylight,” Guérard says.
Keep Conversation Flowing
Be specific with seating. There’s something fun about finding your name on a place setting, and it will allow you to sponsor conversation. You can make your own pilgrim place cards or pumpkin place cards and have guests take them home as personalized party favors.
“Seat each guest next to someone you think they’d have things in common with,” says Myka Meier. “The most VIP person should be seated to the right of the host.” And her final tip? Seat couples separately. They talk to each other enough, so make sure they converse with others at the table. If young children are present, keep them next to one parent per child if possible to help with food serving and preparation.
Make It a Multi-Room Affair
Don’t start your guests in the dining room. Serve drinks and hors d’oeuvres in another room so your guests get the full effect when they see your beautifully set table, Meier suggests. This also allows guests to be comfortable and socialize in their own groups before moving to their structured seats — and gives you more time to make the final touches.
Use a Ruler — Yes, Really
“Measure using a ruler so it looks like there’s a mirror from one setting to the next,” says Myka Meier. Use the ruler as a an edge to line up silverware with the bottom of the charger, the base plate under the eating plates. These small touches and exact placements can make even a regular set of dishes look professionally set.
Find the Perfect Napkins
Napkins can tie your tablescape together visually and are one of the things guests can’t do without. Be sure to pre-wash new napkins so they don’t feel stiff. Can’t find (or afford) the perfect napkins? Aimee Olexy recommends you buy a beautiful fabric and cut your own! 20″x20″ and 22″x22″ are the common suggested napkin sizes to fully cover a lap.
Don’t stress about the napkin rings, too. Kelly Revels used twisted ferns plucked right from her garden as napkin rings. Choose what is easiest for you — or simply fold!