How To Set a Thanksgiving Table Based on Its Shape

Rectangular Table Centerpiece
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Size and shape matter when planning a beautifully laid Thanksgiving table. Our resident floral expert and craft guru Buffy Hargett Miller shares the best way to set three different shapes of tables: rectangular, square, and oval. Each set includes a palette, linen choice, setup style, and floral centerpiece to best match the shape of the table.

No matter what shape your table is, make sure your tablecloth hangs at the right height, 12 to 15 inches from the edge of the table's surface to the bottom of the draped cloth—not too short or long. Miller also shares step-by-step instructions for creating a beautiful floral centerpiece to serve as a focal point for the tablescape. Follow these simple tips and tricks, and your table will be ready for a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner.

01 of 06

If Your Table Is Rectangular

Rectangular Thanksgiving Table Setting
Laurey W. Glenn

The Palette: Crisp and classic—a blue-and-white color scheme sets the tone for this table, layered with rich autumnal shades and textures. The monogrammed silver goblets and flatware give a timeless touch to the overall look.

The Linens: Accentuate an attractive wood surface with layers. Inspired by the palette, we made a runner from a crafts store fabric. DIY TIP: Buy enough material so the runner will extend about 12 inches beyond both ends of your table.

The Setup Style: If your hosting philosophy is "the more, the merrier," your generous spirit will be grateful for the extra inches. A long table accommodates a crowd and can add formal china for a dressier arrangement, filled with family heirlooms and your best silver.

The Centerpiece: Setting a long table is a balancing act: The arrangement should run the length of the surface. We chose a collection of fresh fall veggies, fruits, flowers, and foliage for this twist on the traditional cornucopia.

02 of 06

Centerpiece How-To

Rectangular Table Centerpiece
Laurey W. Glenn

Materials: Rectangular galvanized-metal basket, florist foil, florist foam, aspidistra leaves, florist picks, "Fuji" apples, crabapples, acorn squash, radishes, golden beets, mini Callas, sorghum, fall foliage, and glass pumpkins

Step 1: Choose a sturdy container long enough to handle a sprawling bounty. This galvanized-metal basket is a modern choice and plays off the silver pieces on the table.

Step 2: Line the inside of the metal basket with florist foil, which will prevent any water from leaking onto the table. Create a base with blocks of soaked florist foam, covering as much surface area as possible.

Step 3: Cover the florist foam and foil with something natural, such as aspidistra leaves. Then secure with florist picks.

Step 4: Starting at the center of the basket, fill it with layers of fruits and vegetables. Work your way along the length of the table, inserting loose flowers, sorghum, and foliage, secured with florist picks. Sprinkle more produce and glass pumpkins around the edges of the container.

03 of 06

If Your Table Is Round

Round Thanksgiving Table Setting
Laurey W. Glenn

The Palette: Where you set your table will influence your style. The graphic two-tone rug in this space inspired the color scheme—golden yellow, teal, and copper—and earthy tabletop choices.

The Linens: For Thanksgiving, skip the everyday white tablecloth and pick a rich autumnal hue. Layering linens in contrasting colors, like teal and marigold, gives this table a warm and inviting appeal.

The Setup Style: A round table is the best choice for an intimate gathering centered around food and family. Gold-tone goblets, stemless wine glasses, and natural bone flatware feel festive but not too formal.

The Centerpiece: The center of a round table is where all your guest's eyes will focus. The goal is to create a pretty, low-profile arrangement that encourages dinner conversation.

04 of 06

Centerpiece How-To

Round Table Centerpiece
Laurey W. Glenn

Materials: Ceramic bowl, florist foam, green and purple cabbage, Brussels sprouts, purple onions, florist picks, antique hydrangeas, cranberry gerbera daisies, sedum, and yellow billy balls

Step 1: To create a cohesive look, choose a vessel that closely matches the color of the table linens. We chose a round ceramic bowl with golden undertones.

Step 2: Set a block of soaked florist foam inside the container to secure your flowers and keep them fresh longer.

Step 3: When filling a round bowl, group items similar to give order to the look. Add cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and onions starting in the center, securing with florist picks. Then insert blooms with large heads (hydrangeas), and add fillers such as daisies, sedum, and billy balls.

05 of 06

If Your Table Is Oval

Oval Thanksgiving Table Setting
Laurey W. Glenn

The Palette: Let the china pattern lead the table design. Here, we pulled the purple, red, and green color scheme from the place settings (Forest Walk by Juliska). Pops of lavender accent the table's deep brown wood, revealing its warm undertones.

The Linens: Placemats can feel casual, so if your undressed table is beautiful, build around the au naturel vibe. Small, vibrant accents—like these lavender napkins—provide sophisticated bursts of color.

The Setup Style: When you're working from a neutral wood base, the options are endless. First, decide on the formality of your occasion. Even elegant china needs an attention-getting accessory, such as the gilded flatware and gold napkin rings used here.

The Centerpiece: Rather than using a typical vase, choose a conversation piece such as a family heirloom. This silver bowl was filled with flowers of varying heights and placed diagonally for an unexpected touch.

06 of 06

Centerpiece How-To

Oval Table Centerpiece
Laurey W. Glenn

Materials: Oval silver bowl, florist foam, dark purple dahlias, pale purple mums, green and blush roses, hanging amaranthus, chartreuse pears on branches, scabiosa, and poppy pods

Step 1: A formal tablescape calls for something extra special, beginning with the base. The holidays are a good time to look in your mother's silver collection for something striking that tells a family story.

Step 2: Fill the vessel with water-soaked florist foam, which will extend the life of your flowers and serve as a great foundation for inserting, adjusting, and moving stems.

Step 3: Start in the center, and fill your arrangement with eye-catching blooms like dahlias, mums, and roses. Next, insert overflowing "spillers," such as hanging amaranthus and pears on branches. Fill empty spots with scabiosa, poppy pods, and different roses.

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