Easy Savvy And Fun Thanksgiving Ideas- The Ultimate Guide

Get tons of Thanksgiving ideas for setting a table, easy and smart planning for hosting Thanksgiving dinner and, ideas for being a helpful guest if you are not hosting. Even ideas for thoughtful hostess gifts. Also ideas for fun things to do on Thanksgiving weekends to make memories with family and friends.
THANKSGIVING IDEAS- OUTDOOR TABLESCAPE WITH WHITE PUMPKINS AND BEAUTIFUL LEAVES

Let’s talk about Thanksgiving ideas for an easy, savvy, fun and meaningful holiday! The big day is coming fast!

I love love love Thanksgiving! And that means lots of family, celebrating, food, and fun for most of us! It’s that All-American holiday that comes along in late fall every year drawing us together in a collective spirit of gratitude!

Let’s be truthful, along with all the fun comes lots and lots of work! This entire post is dedicated to creating the best Thanksgiving you can for your friends and family! It’s loaded with tons of tips and Thanksgiving ideas for the hostess and the guest alike! Here’s how to celebrate Thanksgiving in style and ease! 

Hey friends, there are a ton of savvy and easy-to-do Thanksgiving ideas and tips in this post. Think of it as an Ultimate Guide To Thanksgiving! I reprised the images of one of my very favorite Thanksgiving tablescapes on the patio at StoneGable. I thought you might like to revisit this pretty table but with lots of tips to help you pull off a fabulous Thanksgiving without wearing yourself out!

This Thanksgiving I’m recreating this beloved table at our Tanglewood House!

Today’s post is full of tablescape ideas and a big mish-mosh of other tips and traditions!

THANKSGIVING IDEAS FOR YOUR TABLE

Plan out your Thanksgiving table early! Actually, plan every part of Thanksgiving early. Even if you are not hosting Thanksgiving this year plan on calling your host and asking how you can help!

But if you are hosting Thanksgiving, one of my best tips is to plan your table and menu early. Actually, right now!

Let’s talk about your table…

THE THANKSGIVING TABLE

Set your Thanksgiving table, take pictures of every detail and deconstruct it. Put all the tableware from plates to flatware to glasses in dish pans and stash them in your laundry room, garage, or even under your bed. Just think how easy it will be to pull everything out and set your Thanksgiving table!

Believe me, this is a genius Thanksgiving idea!

Thanksgiving is a very beautiful All-American holiday but a very work-intensive holiday! And setting a table and stashing everything away will make your life so much easier when Thanksgiving rolls around and you are ready to set your table!

SET YOUR TABLE EARLY

Here’s another Thanksgiving idea for your table. Set your table several days before Thanksgiving! There’s enough to do on Turkey day!

THANKSGIVING IDEAS- OUTDOOR TABLESCAPE WITH WHITE PUMPKINS AND BEAUTIFUL LEAVES

If you are using real leaves, cut them on Thanksgiving morning and put them in a big bucket of water in your garage or outside near your home. Keep them cool and submerged in water! 

Cut branches will last several hours on your table before they begin to curl. But they look so so glorious!

THANKSGIVING IDEAS- OUTDOOR TABLESCAPE WITH WHITE PUMPKINS AND BEAUTIFUL LEAVES

THE BEST THANKSGIVING TIP YOU WILL GET

If someone asks to help… SAY YES!!!!!

Many hands make light work! Take that to the bank! Work and chat and nibble and have fun! Crank up the music and dance!

And if you are going to someone’s home for Thanksgiving, lend a hand. My mother’s gift to all of us is to wash dishes. No one is more in charge of a sink full of bubbles than her! And we are so thankful for her dishwashing talents!

If you let someone help others will want to join in too! In our home, we love putting everyone to work!

I’m usually so busy with dinner, that when someone asks me if they can help it is often hard to think what job to give them so I make a list up ahead of time, like a cheat sheet, so it makes it easy for me to let people know how they can help.

Things like…

  • chop vegetables
  • get things out of the frig
  • help set up the drink bar or coffee bar or dessert bar or appetizers
  • put ice and water in the glasses
  • light the candles
  • say grace
  • and tons of other small jobs
THANKSGIVING IDEAS- OUTDOOR TABLESCAPE WITH WHITE PUMPKINS AND BEAUTIFUL LEAVES

A SEASON TABLECLOTH

Here’s another Thanksgiving idea that is so smart and creative! Instead of a tablecloth think about using a blanket or throw on your Thanksgiving table. It is the perfect background for a warm, natural look! I have two Ancient Buchanan wool tartans to go on the table this year. Because they are so colorful, I’m keeping the rest of my table very simple!

THANKSGIVING IDEAS- OUTDOOR TABLESCAPE WITH WHITE PUMPKINS AND BEAUTIFUL LEAVES

DISHWARE

Let’s talk about dishes! This dish pattern in the images is very popular right now. I have collected 16 of these plates and use them often! They are sturdy and quite reasonably priced!

I just ordered 3 sets of 4 place settings of pretty white basketweave dishware for our Thanksgiving table. I was really in desperate need of new dishes!

Now is the perfect time to buy new dishes if you need them. Many times you will find them on sale before Thanksgiving!

White dishes are my first choice for tablescaping. They make food look the best!

However, I love to top them off with pretty salad plates, bowls, and napkins that work with the color palette of the tablescape.

I’ve had my everyday Mikasa dishes for well over two decades now and they have been the workhorses of my kitchen. But, they are showing their age so I am very excited to use my new dishes!

THANKSGIVING IDEAS- OUTDOOR TABLESCAPE WITH WHITE PUMPKINS AND BEAUTIFUL LEAVES

SERVING BUFFET STYLE OR AT THE TABLE

I usually serve Thanksgiving buffet style. That way, I can decorate my table without worrying about where platters and bowls will go. If you are serving a big meal with lots and lots of dishes think about buffet style! Coordinate your buffet with some of the same elements that are on your table. I’ll be adding lots of these saturated ash leaves in glass cylinders to the buffet!

I love stacking dishes at each place setting, but this outdoor Thanksgiving table is set with one dinner plate that can be taken from the table to the buffet line. If you need another plate for salad or dessert keep them at the buffet.

A SAVVY BUFFET IDEA

You know you don’t have to put all the food out on a buffet all at once. Consider serving the salad, bread, etc first on the buffet. And then the big meal and then follow it with dessert.

We often serve dessert much later in the evening with some great cocktails!

Dinner and lingering around the table for some good conversation and stories after our main meal is so important to us, then we all help to clean up the dinner and dishes. And we reset the dishes we need for dessert.

Dessert is served by candlelight and this is one of our favorite Thanksgiving traditions.

A SMART WAY TO INCLUDE MORE PEOPLE IN YOUR THANKSGIVING DAY FESTIVITIES

Here’s another great idea for serving a big crowd. If you don’t have room to ask your friends and extended family over for the main Thanksgiving meal, have them over for Thanksgiving dessert later Thanksgiving evening!

We have done this in the past and it is so so much fun! Most of the time our friends offer to bring a dessert and we end up with the most scrumptious selections of goodies! And we often party late into the night!

SET UP FOOD AND DRINK STATIONS IF YOU ARE SERVING A CROWD.

And speaking of dessert, I usually have dessert set up in my dining area. I add a bar cart to the corner and put all the desserts on it.

Drinks are usually set up on the far end of our extended countertop in the kitchen and the Thanksgiving buffet is in the kitchen. Use your house to set up different stations! This works amazingly well!

And if someone asks to help, manning the drink or dessert station is an easy job to give them and it’s fun! They will probably be the most popular person at Thanksgiving dinner!

SPEND TIME AROUND THE TABLE

I’m not a fan of doing so much work to prepare a meal and everyone gobbling it up and leaving the table! I love to sit and talk and laugh and linger over a meal and good libations! Thanksgiving is a meal to linger over!

THANKSGIVING IDEAS- OUTDOOR TABLESCAPE WITH WHITE PUMPKINS AND BEAUTIFUL LEAVES

We love Table Topics, a box of questions with fun and interesting questions for guests around your table to ask and answer.

This meal is also a good time to go around the table and talk about all the things we are Thankful for. We quite often use the legend of the five kernels of corn to give us a visual reminder of our blessings. You might want to see how to use this at your home too. See it HERE. The Five Kernels Of Corn post is a very old, I’ll be updating it in a week or so.

LENDING YOUR DISHES

If you are a guest for Thanksgiving dinner, it might be nice to check with the hostess and see if she could use some of your dishes or serving pieces.

We do this in our family when we all get together!  Collectively we have a gorgeous and amazing stash!!!!!

MIXING AND MATCHING DISHES

If you don’t have enough of one kind of dishes for your Thanksgiving table mix and match what you have. Setting a table with a few different dish patterns that work well together is always gorgeous!!!!!! This is my favorite way to set a table!

A MOST THOUGHTFUL HOSTESS GIFT

If you are a guest this year, why not send your hostess a set of eight pretty dessert plates? Send them now so she can use them on Thanksgiving day!

THANKSGIVING IDEAS- OUTDOOR TABLESCAPE WITH WHITE PUMPKINS AND BEAUTIFUL LEAVES

PAPER PRODUCTS AT THANKSGIVING

Sometimes we need permission to use paper products. So here it is… YOU HAVE PERMISSION TO USE PAPER PRODUCTS.

There are so many fabulous styles and motifs! If it makes your life easier… DO IT!

Last year I used paper everything from Sophistaplates. My table was seriously beautiful! And clean up was so so easy! We just threw all the tableware (except the flatware) away. I even had plates for the grandkids for breakfast all weekend. They love the different styles I chose!

This year I’m going back to the real thing. I happen to like cloth napkins, but I’m also using some pretty paper products for appetizers or drinks, or desserts.

Do what YOU like and what works best for YOU! Don’t stress yourself out over the little details! Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks… not to have your last nerve plucked! 

Here’s another idea if you are a guest… send some gorgeous matching paper products to your hostess! She will be thrilled!

THANKSGIVING IDEAS- OUTDOOR TABLESCAPE WITH WHITE PUMPKINS AND BEAUTIFUL LEAVES

SIMPLE IS BEST AT THANKSGIVING

When decorating your Thanksgiving table think “simple”! I love to set very elaborate tables, but I think easy is best for Thanksgiving!

Shop your home and garden first and use what you have! If you need to get something new make sure it will work for other get-togethers too. 

I cut these brilliant golden branches from the ash tree in StoneGable’s front yard. Only leaves and pumpkins for this table. So easy to put together! I scattered some leaves on the table and added some to different glass cylinders to make a bountiful centerpiece!

I collected the white pumpkins I’d used for fall decorating from around StoneGable and concentrated them on the table! Like I said… EASY!

THANKSGIVING IDEAS- OUTDOOR TABLESCAPE WITH WHITE PUMPKINS AND BEAUTIFUL LEAVES

STYLING A THANKSGIVING CENTERPIECE

Keep a centerpiece low enough so your guests can see over it to talk. There is one tall glass cylinder with a few ash branches on the table, but it is wispy enough to see through it.

THANKSGIVING IDEAS- OUTDOOR TABLESCAPE WITH WHITE PUMPKINS AND BEAUTIFUL LEAVES

GOOD FOOD AND GOOD CONVERSATION

Let everyone at your table have time to talk.  It’s fun to ask a question and let everyone answer it.  

The Thanksgiving table is a wonderful place to learn the history of your family. Let the older generations tell stories and answer questions. It was at a Thanksgiving table long ago I learned that I come from the royal line of Gypsies! We have murderers and horse thieves in our family! And as my Nani told it that is what made us royalty! We are no longer a practicing branch of gypsy royalty!

It’s important to engage everyone around your Thanksgiving table! A good hostess draws out the more quiet guests and gives the attention grabbing one a job to do so he/she does not steal the spotlight all dinner long!

One year, everyone at the table wrote on a card  3 things we would like someone to pray for on our behalf during the year and three things we are thankful for. Everyone picked one card and prayed for those specific prayer requests and thanked God for those things we are grateful for. Just before Thanksgiving the next year I got a beautiful note from one of the guests at our table saying he was blessed to pray for me all year long. What a treasure!!!!!

If you are a guest this year, think about giving your hostess a set of Table Topics. We love to use these fun conversation starters! It’s amazing what you will learn. 

THANKSGIVING IDEAS- OUTDOOR TABLESCAPE WITH WHITE PUMPKINS AND BEAUTIFUL LEAVES

Now for some very practical advice…

MAKE A LIST AND CHECK IT TWICE

Always start your Thanksgiving day planning early. Like right now! Use your mobile, laptop, or good old paper and pencil! I like to use graph paper to make a timeline, menu, shopping list, guest list, and anything else I need to remember!

There is just something so rewarding about ticking something off my list!

OVERNIGHT GUESTS AND OUT-OF TOWNER’S

Because we have out-of-town family I usually have a house of guests from the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving until the following Sunday or Monday. Here are some tips for hosting overnight guests…

If at all possible have someone come in and clean your home and guest rooms right before Thanksgiving! I know it’s an extra expense, but with all a hostess has to do it’s worth it! This keeps me sane! I have a friend who knows my home inside and out and she helps me!

SELF SERVE

Set up a self-serve continental breakfast and or coffee on Thanksgiving morning. Or better yet ask a family member or guest to do it for you!

THANKSGIVING IDEAS- OUTDOOR TABLESCAPE WITH WHITE PUMPKINS AND BEAUTIFUL LEAVES

If you are an overnight guest during Thanksgiving volunteer to bring in and set up breakfast. It would be such a help to your hostess. Just discuss this in advance! No surprises!

I like to bring a couple quiches and some sweet rolls. And we bring things in a cooler with ice so our hosts do not have to find room in their refrigerator. It’s those little things we think about that really help our hosts!

LEFTOVERS

Thanksgiving means leftovers! If you are having overnight or weekend guests make sure to make extra for leftovers! Everyone loves them! I usually make an additional small turkey a couple days before Thanksgiving to make sure I have enough turkey and stuffing for leftovers! I also like to send my guest home with a small bag of Thanksgiving leftovers! Chinese food containers work brilliantly for leftovers!

Don’t forget lots and lots of baggies and aluminum foil and plastic wrap and containers for leftovers! Add those to your grocery list… now!

THANKSGIVING IS THE TIME TO START FAMILY TRADITIONS

We have the most wonderful Black Friday tradition!

We don’t go shopping! Instead, we wake up and all the women in the house raid the frig and sit around in their jammies drinking coffee and eating our favorite leftovers for breakfast while we chat and read holiday magazines. It’s so so so much fun!

My breakfast always includes stuffing and gravy! YIKES! Breakfast usually goes on well past noon and then we all take a nap!

The boys take all the kids out for breakfast and then go hiking!

OTHER SMART THANKSGIVING IDEAS

Don’t cook every meal if you have overnight guests! Eat out at least once and get take-out for another meal. Thanksgiving is such a huge meal let some of the other meals be easy!

We start our Christmas season off the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving by doing something Christmassy that the whole family would love since we are all together! Decorate a tree, rent a Christmas video, take a Christmas photo, go see a Christmas show or musical. This is a Thanksgiving/Christmas tradition. We have decades of beautiful memories we have made!

One year when my sister was hosting Thanksgiving we all went on a Christmas candlelight tour of Mount Vernon. And another year we went to the Ford theater to see A Christmas Carol. It was spectacular! Big or small, the point is to be together and transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas!

And these memories are so extra special to me this year, as I lost my only sister and best friend to Cancer in August. I can’t tell you how thankful I am we made such efforts to make these times so very important and family oriented! I will miss my beautiful, funny younger sister so much this Thanksgiving!!!

Don’t forget to play some amazing Christmas music! 

THANKSGIVING IDEAS- OUTDOOR TABLESCAPE WITH WHITE PUMPKINS AND BEAUTIFUL LEAVES

Here are some nice things a guest can do if they are staying overnight:

  • Ask your hostess if you can strip the bed and take the bedding and towels down to the laundry room before leaving!
  • Leave a little Christmas gift in the room you stayed in for the hostess.
  • Empty the trash in the bathroom
  • If you have your own bathroom, give it a “swish and swipe” before you leave
  • Be the designated dishwasher for the Thanksgiving meal
  • Bring a beautiful live Christmas wreath for your host’s front door
  • Take your hosts out to dinner over the weekend and pick up the tab
  • Leave a beautiful Christmas book with a thank you note inside!
THANKSGIVING IDEAS- OUTDOOR TABLESCAPE WITH WHITE PUMPKINS AND BEAUTIFUL LEAVES

Just writing this post has me so excited and inspired for Thanksgiving! I wish you and all who grace your table a very very blessed and joyous Thanksgiving!

And if you are reading this you are on my list of “things to be thankful for” this year. I love you all and am deeply thankful for your loyalty to StoneGable and friendship to me!

THANKSGIVING IDEAS- OUTDOOR TABLESCAPE WITH WHITE PUMPKINS AND BEAUTIFUL LEAVES

32 Comments

  1. Wonderful and helpful prep ideas to insure a less stressful holiday. Thanks for sharing, Yvonne. Very sorry for your loss. May all the love and kindness you shared with your sister, throughout the years, bring comfort to you now. Sending hugs.

    1. That is my husband’s domain! We love anything with Bourbon! And Manhattans are a big favorite too. I like anything with lots of effervescence, like Dry Sack sherry and club soda. I’m not much of a drinker because booze makes me tired.

  2. This was one of the best posts of yours I’ve read. The emphasis on ease, family, snd traditions make for a great thanksgiving. Keeping things simple eases the pressure and enables everyone to enjoy the holiday snd each other. I especially like the Black Friday idea snd the year-long prayers.

  3. Would you be so kind to share your list of questions for conversation starters? Thank you! Everything is lovely as usual.

  4. Yvonne – A Thanksgiving (or any large gathering) tip you shared several years ago, is one of the best tips for the host/hostess, your soapy dishpan tip. I use this method each year I have hosted Thanksgiving. Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!!

  5. This post has so much good information–thank you! I’m sorry for the loss of your dear sister. I just said a little prayer for you.

  6. Loved everything about this post! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I love all these prompts and ideas to help get me in the planning mode. So very sorry to hear about your loss, happy to hear you have wonderful memories, but doesn’t take away from the sting of loss. Best wishes to you and your family for healing as you work through your grief.

  7. Just wanted to say that I’m so sorry to hear about your sister. I hope that you will be uplifted by the rest of your beautiful family, and your family traditions. This is a beautiful post. As always, thank you for sharing.

  8. Yvonne, I am so sorry to read about your dear sister. Sisters are so precious. I just stopped and prayed that God will wrap His arms of comfort around you and give you peace in knowing that you will see her again one day in heaven. May you be blessed with many precious memories.

    Thanks for all the great ideas you have given us. Our Thanksgiving is over but will put some of your great ideas in place for our Christmas.

    Have a blessed week.

    1. Thank you so much, Mary Ann! I still can’t believe she is gone. But I am greatly comforted that she claimed Jesus as her Lord and is with Him. You are so sweet to pray for me. Thank you, again!

  9. Thank you for all of the wonderful tips for both the hostess and as the guest. I want to extend my sincere sympathy in the passing of your only sister. I cannot imagine how painful this is. I only have one sister, and she experienced a heart attack a year ago-so time with her is even more precious now.

  10. Yvonne, thank you so much for this post. I love reading your ideas for thanksgiving what a blessing you are to all. I am so sorry to hear about your sisters passing you are on my prayers. Love and prayers for the holiday season!! 🙏❤️

  11. WONDERFUL POST! So many great ideas. Second year in a row I am hosting Thanksgiving, and there is so much valuable information to use. Thank you!

  12. This was a fun and suggestion filled piece to read. Many families have Thanksgiving weekend traditions and ours was started long ago by my mother( since passed ❤️). The grands 3 come the morning after Thanksgiving and put up and decorate our Christmas tree. It is a fun day filled with laughter, love, much chatter and is topped off with dinner with our leftovers with more laughter, fun and love served along with the yummy leftovers from our Thanksgiving meal. Gives daughter & son-in-law the day for themselves. Grands are now 20,16,12 but still they tell me the best day of the year that look forward to no matter their age. I then take photos and choose my fav for my Christmas cards. My cards are titled “Mimi’s Elves”. Family is precious and I am thankful mine are nearby for moments like these.

  13. Thank you for your post….getting me in the mood for my favorite holiday! I love your table. Here in Phoenix we always have outdoor TG, but no deciduous trees, so I had to buy fake leaves and branches! I am so sorry for your your loss. That sister bond is so powerful. I hope your happy memories bring you comfort this season.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *