Easy Thanksgiving: 12-Minute Table

It’s hard to believe, but the holidays are officially here. As much as we try to fight the onslaught of Christmas in October, the season is undeniably in full force. The frost is on the ground, and Thanksgiving is only two weeks away! 

As usual, I’m trying to think of ways to mark the occasions in life and make them feel special, without driving myself crazy with extra work and tons of DIYs. I challenged myself to come up with a Thanksgiving table that would require as little time as possible.

I grabbed my stopwatch and went to work. Here’s the table when I started:

Step One: Remove remnants from last night’s game night, Cheerios box from breakfast, and stuffed cat. Then wipe that thing down. Two minutes down.

Step Two: Gather fallen leaves. I threw on some boots and ran to the yard and gathered a handful of magnolia leaves. (PSA: If you plant one thing in your yard, I would highly recommend a Jane Magnolia. Gorgeous purple blossoms in spring, shiny green leaves in summer, bright yellow in fall, and in winter the branches are sooo sculptural—with buds! It’s the perfect tree.)

Scatter leaves down the center of the table like a runner.

Step Three: Add white pillar candles down the length of the table. I keep a horde of these on hand, both real and LED. At Costco you can buy a 5-pack that comes with a remote, and it’s one of the best party investments I’ve ever made.

Nestle the candles, of varying heights, among the leaves.

Step Four: White plates. I’ve plugged these before and I’ll plug them again. They go with everything! They are sturdy for everyday, and lovely for an occasion. Mine are the Aspen plate from Crate & Barrel. They’re over ten years old and still look terrific, and best of all they’re within easy reach in the kitchen cabinets because we use them every day.

Step Five: Layer. Add napkins, silverware, and a low soup bowl if you have it (and if that would make sense with your menu). Layering extra dishes and silverware, like a salad fork, fills out your tablescape visually without costing you extra money. As for napkins, if you have a favorite cloth napkin in your stash, feel free to use it. In my entire married life, I’ve never found a cloth napkin pattern that I could commit to, so I still use paper. Fold them nicely and no one will care. Less clean up at the end!

Step Six: Glasses. For height and sparkle, add your prettiest goblets. I have a set of melamine (pictured) because it allows the kids to drink out of a fancy cup, and I don’t have to worry about them breaking. When it’s just the five of us for Thanksgiving, we all use them. When a more grown-up crowd is here, I can mix and match with our real crystal so the kids still feel a part of things (and their primary colored plastic-ware isn’t bombing my table)!

And that’s it! Hit pause on the stopwatch and marvel at your mad decorating skills.

Now if your sanity can spare a few more minutes to play around, here are some ideas to top off your plates just so. (You can even turn these into place cards pretty easily).

Gold-sprayed leaves…

You can spray a large leaf with gold spray paint. The ONLY spray paint I would recommend is Rust-Oleum brand Metallic Gold. I’ve tried them all, and this is the only gold that actually looks good. That is obviously a little bit more of a time investment, and takes a lot of advance prep and planning. But isn’t it stunning??


I love the structure and intricacy of pinecones. A solitary cone atop a plate is a warm fall welcome all on its own, but it can also hold a slip of paper with a name for an easy place card.

Leaves, leaves, and more leaves…

If you are lucky enough to come across large and sturdy leaves with this much sculpture outside, scoop them up! Mine are actually the droppings of a houseplant called a rubber plant. The tropical foliage looks almost as lovely dried as it did alive. A sharpie marker could quickly turn leaves like this into name cards, or better yet, a gold paint pen!

And there’s your quick and easy Thanksgiving table. Unfortunately, I am no help with the food....

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted on November 11, 2015 and filed under Building Your Home.