Home » Blog » Holiday Method Part 2

Holiday Method Part 2

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Hello from sunny Florida!  Or actually just Florida as the sunny seems to have ducked out for my three days in the state. I’m a little miffed I don’t mind telling you – part of the reason for this trip happening in November was to catch a few rays that are few and far between in Seattle this time of year. Maybe the sun decided that I’d deliver a more authentic Holiday Checklist if the skies were appropriately gloomy…

At any rate, here we are on our way to organized linens, prepped guest rooms and a plan for the Thanksgiving feast.  Part 1 of my checklist focused on getting ready for house guests, Part 2 is focused on laying out a fabulous table that your guests will remember for years to come.

Serving the big fancy meal at a beautifully laid table full of people I love is something I look forward to all year. I was first inspired while studying abroad at Regents College in London during my junior year in college. One of the courses I took was called English Palaces and Country Houses (such fun!) and we took field trips to visit several of the Great Estates. Most of them were very impressive and it was fun to wander through and imagine what it must have been like to live surrounded by such grandeur.  I have a very specific memory of visiting Chatsworth (you have seen it if you’ve ever seen Pride and Prejudice with Kiera Knightly, it was used to represent Mr. Darcy’s estate of Pemberley.)   Chatsworth was the grandest of any of the houses we toured and the grounds were equally stunning.  My friend Kristen and I were entranced, especially when we came to the dining room which was set as if a dinner party (or likely just ‘dinner’!) were happening that evening.  Kristen and I marveled at the table and immediately began a discussion involving our ambitions when it came to someday entertaining at tables of our own. It was such fun.

Fast forward 22 years. I had been married for 12 but until that point still attended the big holiday meals at my parents’ house. In those years my mom put on a beautiful spread and our own dining room was too small for a big feast. But in 2012 we were in a new house with a beautiful remodeled kitchen that we had just moved into 3 days before the feast. Since that first meal my serving ware collection has grown and my tablescapes have gotten more elaborate. It’s certainly not at the scale of the dining hall at Chatsworth and more modern in its execution but it feels fancy enough and I always text Kristen a picture!


There isn’t usually a lot of prep needed for the serving ware, but I follow 3 important steps every year to ensure things go smoothly on the big day.

1.       Assign the dish to the serving ware.   At a normal meal this wouldn’t qualify as a step but at Thanksgiving there are SO many sides, it’s worth it to decide ahead of time which dish will be served in which piece.   Thanksgiving also should be an occasion when you are perhaps using the ‘fancy’ plates that you received as a wedding gift or inherited from a parent or grandparent. Another consideration is what will be served in the dish it was baked in vs. moved to a more elegant serving piece.  My point is to take the time before hand (once you have planned your meal) to assign a piece for each dish, it will save you time (especially if you use post-its to designate) on the day of and make it easier for anyone helping you assemble prior to serving

2.        Polish the Silver. Thanksgiving and Christmas are when the silver should come out. Depending on where you store it, it may need a polish. I find that my serving pieces that stay tucked away in drawers do well, but the tea set that was my grandmother’s gets fairly tarnished as it sits out on a credenza, exposed to the air.  Like any transformational effort, I find pleasure in polishing silver.  I like to plop myself in front of the TV with a movie and have at it. If you are up to doing it yourself below is a list of must-have products.  If you don’t want to bother you can take your silver somewhere to have it polished.  In Seattle two of the most reputable service providers are Zapffe Silversmiths and Herman Silver Restoration & Conservation.  

Silver Polishing Must-Haves:

Polish – I prefer the cream that comes in a pot

Cloths – you’ll need polishing cloths for finishing but for the actual polishing you can use any rags you have around

Glove – I love the gloves for finishing, you are literally just rubbing your hands on the piece, I find it to be kind of soothing!

Bath – for large items like platters you can just give them a bath in the sink!

3. Select your place settings. Here is where I go for the hard sell on the china – if you have it USE IT, now is the time! Of course if you don’t have china it’s totally fine, you can still dress your table to the nines. My point is if you are keeping your china around you should use it, otherwise it is just taking up precious space in your house. At my Thanksgiving table the guests are often wearing flannel and denim and I think it is a fantastic and very modern contrast with my fancy china, crystal and silver! Do however, wait to select your napkins until you have planned out your tablescape…


And we have now arrived at my favorite part of Holiday – planning the tablescape! I think technically Table Scape should be two words but I think it deserves to be its own word so I’m going with it. The Thanksgiving table should be generating ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaaahs’ before you even get to the food. There are 4 main elements to consider for your design:

  1. Linens. There are all different sizes of Thanksgiving tables. If you have a smaller party a set of placemats and complementary table runner will make a great canvas to paint on but if you are hosting a larger group then I highly recommend a tablecloth instead; it provides flexibility to accommodate more seats at the table and also fades into the background to more easily highlight the beauty of your tablescape.

  2. Lighting. Candle light is the obvious choice and whichever form you provide will be the backbone of your tablescape. I follow 2 guiding principles for candle light: slim and/or low. The reason for this is that you want to encourage conversation and if you have huge candelabra-type candlesticks they will block the view from across the table. You can have some tall candlesticks in there if you like but just make sure they are skinny. I occasionally mix in tall sticks but my primary source for candlelight is Glassybaby votives, which are low and provide beautiful color in addition to light so I can get creative with my color story for the table.

  3. Anchoring Elements. These should be large enough to be noticeable and stand out as the primary element that anchors the tablescape. Pumpkins are an excellent choice, there are so many different colors to choose from these days, you can really get creative. This year I have selected pomegranates and oranges for something new and different – I’ll let you know how it turns out! Flowers are another excellent option as long as you keep the arrangements low. Note that you may have something already in your home that can be used for an anchoring element such as wooden turkeys, glass fruit or other pieces of art. Thanksgiving is an excellent time to #displaywhatyoulove !

  4. Foliage. I guess branches are not actually foliage but they could be used as well. In my opinion that table really benefits from a bit of green and it really fills out the tablescape. I usually just go out to the yard with clippers and find something that works – sometimes it’s evergreen and sometimes it’s something else but it always provides a fresh, natural feeling to the table which I love.

So once you’ve mapped out all of your elements you can pick out some appropriate napkins and if you are really going for it you can add napkin rings as well. Also, place cards are a nice touch plus I like to be intentional with the seating arrangement and it eliminates a last-minute scramble for seating. I derive such pleasure from my table, it’s a little silly but such fun to see it and compare to the Chatsworth table that inspired me 30 years ago! Have fun planning and tablescaping – I hope it adds a bit of calm and creative energy to your holiday as it has to mine!

Similar Posts