How to Set a Pretty Thanksgiving Table

It's the most wonderful time of the year. No, not Christmas. Thanksgiving! A day dedicated to food, family, and friends is always OK in my book. (I mean, not only do you get a delicious Thursday night dinner, but you get a weekend's worth of leftovers!) It's likely that the feast alone will impress whoever you've invited over for the afternoon, but don't let your Turkey Day festivities end there. Providing a beautiful Thanksgiving table setting is key to hosting this lovely November holiday. As they say, presentation is everything, so this year, hold nothing back. Go on girl — let's show 'em what you've got.

Forget the traditional dark runners and plastic fruit decor — you don't have to go over the top to make your dining table look lovely. In fact, I recommend doing just the opposite. Keep things bright, light, colorful, and modern instead. Looking kitsch is probably not what you're going for, and really, when it comes down to it, the feast is the highlight of everyone's night, not the table it's sitting on. So let your turkey take center stage, and let your table decorations exist to accentuate. Here are five easy but essential tips that will help you piece together the perfect holiday table. Remember, in most cases, less is more. (Except when it comes to leftovers.)

1. Lay Down a Pretty Table Cloth

There's going to be a lot of action happening on your dinner table during Thanksgiving, so make sure it's protected (and looking great) with a nice table cloth. I recommend going with something simple and bright. A white lace or lightly patterned tablecloth will be just enough without overpowering the dinnerware and centerpieces. Check out Etsy for some cool vintage tablecloths that you can order before the holiday. They're cheap, too, so even if you do end up spilling a little bit while passing the gravy bowl, it's NBD.

2. Mix and Match Your Flowers and Vases

Don't just put a giant flower vase in the center of the table. For this one day of the year, a cooked turkey is the star of the show, and besides, you're going to want to free up space to put all that glorious, glorious food. Instead, set out a few smaller vases spaced apart from each other down the table, or try mixing in a few rustic accessories as well (for inspiration, check out Julie Blanner of Coordinately Yours). If possible, try to mix and match your vases to add a little spunk. And when it comes to choosing flowers, think oranges, reds, and yellows. Looking for the perfect fall bouquet? Make one yourself — it's ridiculously easy. We show you just how to do it.

3. Take Out Your Best Dinnerware

If you have a china set, now's the time to use it. Yes, I know it's a pain in the butt to take out and wash (and eat on and wash) and put back, but if not now, then when!? If there's ever a day to use your best plates and utensils for eating, it's this beautiful day of turkey and stuffing. Oh and guys? You don't need to spend a fortune on fancy plates to make an impression. You can get all kinds of cute dinnerware sets in different colors and patterns for under $50, or hit up a thrift store and see if you can find some vintage plates with fun, retro designs for cheap. So if you were looking to for an excuse to do a little shopping in that department, here you have it.

4. Don't Skimp on Cloth Napkins

If there's one thing that will make your table setting look childish, it's paper napkins. I know, they're easier to use and dispose of, but unfortunately, that's also the problem. Take the time to clean and fold fresh cloth napkins for each guest. It's all in the details. JAQS Studio sells eco-friendly sets of four at a totally reasonable price — and they're so cute! Perfect for pulling out on Thanksgiving, or really anytime you're feeling fancy.

5. DIY Some Pretty Place Seating Tags

Whether you're assigning seats or letting your guests choose, you can still make some cute name tags for people to place on their plates before dinner. If you want to get really crafty, make everyone a seating tag that they'll want to keep. These leather stamped tags would make great gifts your friends could either hang as decoration, or use as luggage tags after the holiday. Luckily for you, the creative geniuses over at A Beautiful Mess show you how to make them yourself.

Images: Coordinately Yours (2); Vintamini Handmade; A Beautiful Mess; Neil Kronberg, patterned, Jack, Margaret Almon, Wendy Copley/Flickr