How to Set a Beautiful Dining Table for the Holidays

how to set a beautiful holiday table

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This year we hosted a record number of Thanksgiving dinner in our London flat — 22 adults and 18 children! My head spins at how we actually pulled it off, but my heart is oh-so-full. This life that the hubby and I have created together with our beautiful, healthy children is really special, and I am so grateful for the friends and family we have that lift us up and bring joy to our lives.


Cooking Thanksgiving dinner is like my Super Bowl. I love the challenge of turning out a massive meal filled with traditional Thanksgiving recipes. I also love setting a beautiful table and making sure that everyone has a place at the table. That’s why today I’m sharing photos of our table setting and how to make your own beautiful yet affordable holiday setting.

how to set a beautiful holiday table
Knit Pumpkins, $32 (cheaper here || Artificial Vines, $14 || Wood Slices, $21 and Battery Tea Lights, $12 for 12 || Rustic Linen Napkins, $37 for 12 || Bud Vases, $22 for 6
Tip #1: Start Early

Set a beautiful holiday table by planning ahead. The devil really is in the details when it comes to the holidays. Two weeks beforehand, finalize your guest list (and chase after those stragglers who haven’t RSVP’ed yet with gentle follow-up e-mails). I also refer back to this helpful New York Times article on planning what to make in advance. Spending just a half hour or so planning out how you’ll cook and entertain through your holidays will pay off in the long run when you’re less stressed in the hours counting down to the big event (or events, if you’re entertaining house guests).

how to set a beautiful holiday table

Tip #2: Gather the Basics

If your table isn’t big enough to seat everyone, consider investing in a folding table or two.  We own two of the 6-foot folding tables that fold in half, which makes them easy to store underneath our living room sofa. The folding tables have come in handy more than just for parties, like when the kids want to do messy crafts while I’m cooking dinner. For folding chairs, grab a few of the IKEA Gunde folding chairs for just $8 a piece. You’ll use them ALL the time for board game nights, impromptu jamon iberico parties, and the basis for makeshift rainy-day blanket forts.

how to set a beautiful holiday table

Also consider investing in enough basic white dinner plates and simple cutlery to set a beautiful holiday table. A ceramic plate (as opposed to paper) brings a sense of occasion and formality to your holiday dinner, and you can still revert to paper plates for dessert, minimizing your need for multiple dishwasher runs. I have these dinner plates from Amazon Basics (a very affordable $14 for 6), which blend right in with our nicer Apilco dishes. For cutlery, this 20-piece set is an affordable $17.

Tip #2: Layer in Accents

The next step in how to set a beautiful holiday table is to focus on the accents you add to create a warm and lively atmosphere. This year, I went with a rustic table theme for our Thanksgiving, layering in artificial garland, wood slices with LED tea lights (safety first, kids), knit pumpkins and simple bud vases with fresh flowers for an understated look. Picking simple, inexpensive items to layer is easy when your plates are white and basic. Because I don’t own 22 of any single type of charger plate or fabric napkin (who does?), I alternated the two sets we have — one beige, one blue — to create one cohesive, unified look.

how to set a beautiful holiday table

Now that our Thanksgiving is over, I’ve moved on … to Christmas!  With family and friends buzzing in throughout the holidays, I’m already in planning mode for the dinners we’ll be having. Mmm, goose…

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About me

I’m Ann, a mom / wife / lawyer / certified culinary enthusiast. I share recipes, travel guides and home life tips while living overseas. Currently based in São Paulo, Brazil.

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